The Moustache of Wisdom is feeling “Homeless in America.” He says Americans’ feeling of having lost their community may explain Trump’s victory, but that victory now makes him feel lost. Mr. Cohen, in “President Donald Trump,” says he had an intuition about American anger, and the country’s liberal elites were too arrogant to take him seriously. Mr. Bruni considers “Donald Trump’s Shocking Success” and says there are crucial lessons in the 2016 race’s cruel turn. Here’s TMOW:
I began election night writing a column that started with words from an immigrant, my friend Lesley Goldwasser, who came to America from Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Surveying our political scene a few years ago, Lesley remarked to me: “You Americans kick around your country like it’s a football. But it’s not a football. It’s a Fabergé egg. You can break it.”
With Donald Trump now elected president, I have more fear than I’ve ever had in my 63 years that we could do just that — break our country, that we could become so irreparably divided that our national government will not function.
From the moment Trump emerged as a candidate, I’ve taken seriously the possibility that he could win; this column never predicted otherwise, although it certainly wished for it. That doesn’t mean the reality of it is not shocking to me.
As much as I knew that it was a possibility, the stark fact that a majority of Americans wanted radical, disruptive change so badly and simply did not care who the change agent was, what sort of role model he could be for our children, whether he really had any ability to execute on his plan — or even really had a plan to execute on — is profoundly disturbing.
Before I lay out all my fears, is there any silver lining to be found in this vote? I’ve been searching for hours, and the only one I can find is this: I don’t think Trump was truly committed to a single word or policy he offered during the campaign, except one phrase: “I want to win.”
But Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones.
I can only hope that he does. Because if he doesn’t, all of you who voted for him — overlooking all of his obvious flaws — because you wanted radical, disruptive change, well, you’re going to get it.
I assume that Trump will not want to go down as the worst president in history, let alone the one who presided over the deepest fracturing of our country since the Civil War. It would shake the whole world. Therefore, I can only hope that he will, as president, seek to surround himself with the best people he can, which surely doesn’t include the likes of Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich, let alone the alt-right extremists who energized his campaign.
But there is also a deeply worrying side to Trump’s obsession with “winning.” For him, life is always a zero-sum game: I win, you lose. But when you’re running the United States of America, everything can’t be a zero-sum game.
“The world only stays stable when countries are embedded in win-win relationships, in healthy interdependencies,” observed Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which advises companies on leadership, and the author of the book “How.”
For instance, America undertook the Marshall Plan after World War II — giving millions of dollars to Europe — to build it up into a trading partner and into a relationship that turned out to be of great mutual benefit. Does Trump understand that? Do those who voted for him understand how many of their jobs depend on America being embedded in healthy interdependencies around the world?
How do I explain Trump’s victory? Way too soon to say for sure, but my gut tells me that it has much less to do with trade or income gaps and much more to do with culture and many Americans’ feeling of “homelessness.”
There is nothing that can make people more angry or disoriented than feeling they have lost their home. For some it is because America is becoming a minority-majority country and this has threatened the sense of community of many middle-class whites, particularly those living outside the more cosmopolitan urban areas.
For others it is the dizzying whirlwind of technological change we’re now caught up in. It has either wiped out their job or transformed their workplace in ways they find disorienting — or has put stressful demands on them for lifelong learning. When the two most important things in your life are upended — the workplace and community that anchor you and give you identity — it’s not surprising that people are disoriented and reach for the simplistic solutions touted by a would-be strongman.
What I do know for certain is this: The Republican Party and Donald Trump will have control of all the levers of government, from the courts to the Congress to the White House. That is an awesome responsibility, and it is all going to be on them. Do they understand that?
Personally, I will not wish them ill. Too much is at stake for my country and my children. Unlike the Republican Party for the last eight years, I am not going to try to make my president fail. If he fails, we all fail. So yes, I will hope that a better man emerges than we saw in this campaign.
But at the moment I am in anguish, frightened for my country and for our unity. And for the first time, I feel homeless in America.
Next up we have Mr. Cohen:
President Donald Trump. Get used to it. The world as we knew it is no more.
To give Trump credit, he had a single formidable intuition: That American anger and uncertainty in the face of the inexorable march of globalization and technology had reached such a pitch that voters were ready for disruption at any cost.
Enough of elites; enough of experts; enough of the status quo; enough of the politically correct; enough of the liberal intelligentsia and cultural overlords with their predominant place in the media; enough of the financial wizards who brought the 2008 meltdown and stagnant incomes and jobs disappearing offshore. That, in essence, was Trump’s message. A New Yorker, he contrived to channel the frustrations of the heartland, a remarkable sleight of hand. Ohio and Wisconsin lurched into the Trump camp.
This upset victory over Hillary Clinton, the representative par excellence of the American political establishment, amounted to Brexit in American form. Ever since Britain’s perverse, self-defeating vote last June to leave the European Union, it seemed plausible that the same anti-globalization, often xenophobic forces could carry Trump to victory.
And so it proved. The disenfranchised, often living lives of great precariousness, arose and spoke. Clinton never quite seemed to understand their frustrations, as her challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, did.
I write in a New York stunned into silence. What a difference from the victories of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 when cheering crowds gathered in Times Square! The silence in this great city, a stronghold of Clinton and the Democratic Party, is revealing: The elites of the East and West coasts, betraying a dangerous arrogance, were dismissive and ignorant to the last of the heartland anger feeding Trump’s rise.
This is the revenge of Middle America, above all of a white working-class America troubled by changing social and cultural mores — not every American loves choose-your-gender bathrooms — and by the shifting demographics that will make minorities the majority by midcentury.
Barack Obama is popular, but racism did not die with America’s first black president. Sexism is also alive and well, as Trump’s misogyny-sullied road to victory illustrates. For some Americans – and this is painful to admit – a woman following a black man to the White House was simply too much to swallow.
This is a dangerous moment in world affairs, fraught with uncertainty. The institutions of American democracy are strong; the United States is not Weimar Germany. But Trump has shown a worrying contempt for core American values, including respect for diversity, inclusiveness, an independent judiciary, and, at one point, the democratic process itself.
With the Republican Party retaining control of the House and Senate, Trump will have enormous power, more than Obama who faced a hostile Congress. He is a man ill prepared for the highest office, without political experience beyond this bruising campaign. The past months have revealed a personality given to impetuous anger, meanness, mendacity and petulance. How far the people he chooses to place around him will be able to control these instincts will be of critical importance.
Leaders like President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran favored Trump for a reason: They believe he will make America weaker, the trans-Atlantic alliance weaker, and the American-buttressed post-1945 global order weaker. They could well be right.
Trump has spoken in ways that have undermined NATO and the American commitment to its allies in Europe and Asia. From Estonia to Japan, people wonder if Trump’s America will really defend them in the breach. This is a welcome development for all those, like Putin, who want nothing more than to probe American weakness, be it in Syria or the Baltics. Trump will have to work very hard to reassure the world.
His first words were encouraging: It was now time, he said in his acceptance speech, “for us to come together as one united people.” But then Trump has said everything and the contrary of everything. He has lied repeatedly. The divisions in this bruised America emerging from the most ugly of campaigns should not be underestimated.
Democracy is unpredictable but must be respected. It is, as Churchill noted, the worst system of government except for all others that have been tried. The country wanted change. Clinton could not embody that. People were tired of the Clinton machine, with its culture of secrecy and evasion, and its way of walking a fine line — too fine — between noble political causes and dubious personal enrichment. Bill Clinton entered the White House almost a quarter-century ago. America tends to want to roll the dice and move forward.
In this case, with Trump, it has taken an extraordinary risk.
I fear the worst. Trump intuited and revealed the worst traits of worried Americans — their search for scapegoats, their desire to prostrate themselves before an autocratic savior, their bigotry. If Trump governs as he has campaigned, America and the world face real and present danger.
And now here’s Mr. Bruni:
Just days ago I was in Ohio. I was talking to Republicans, and this was the refrain I kept hearing: Donald Trump is throwing this election away. He has no real campaign here. No get-out-the-vote operation. No ground game. Nothing that signifies or befits a truly serious presidential candidate.
These Republicans thought that he’d win the state — barely. But they didn’t think that he could snatch victories in some of the other places that he did on Tuesday, or draw so close to Hillary Clinton elsewhere, or compete so tightly in the election over all. It was done, over, finished.
She had the best experts that money could buy, the most sophisticated data operation that the smartest wonks could put together, and the dutiful troops who went door to door, handing out “Stronger Together” literature and pleading her case.
He had his hair and his ego.
And yet Donald Trump was just elected the 45th president of the United States, soon to take a seat at the most important desk in the most august office in the most consequential residence of the world. Yes, Donald Trump. That gale-force sigh of relief you heard was Chris Christie’s. That demonic cackle of glee was Rudy Giuliani’s.
That shriek of horror was mine.
Trump defied the predictions of pundits and pollsters, more than a few of whom foresaw an Electoral College landslide for Hillary Clinton. That’s what their numbers told them.
But that’s not what America had to say.
On Election Day, Trump did what he had throughout his surreal campaign: exploded the traditional assumptions, upended the usual expectations and forced us to look afresh at the accepted truisms and hoary clichés of our political life. There are important lessons to learn and crucial questions to ask.
Democrats are in the same position that Republicans were when Trump romped to their party’s nomination, which they were convinced for so long he could never get. They need to look seriously at the way they do business and how they arrived at this surprising, humbling destination.
Are the unglamorous, tedious approaches to rounding up votes as powerful as the booming voice of a celebrity with hours of free television time and millions of rapt Twitter followers? Does the imprimatur of the establishment and a towering stack of endorsements and a bulging retinue of pop stars and Hollywood actors make any difference when there’s a fury out there that you haven’t fully and earnestly tried to understand? Does accurate polling lag behind the nature of contemporary American life?
And is a party being remotely realistic — or entirely reckless — to try to sell a candidate who personifies the status quo to an electorate that’s clearly hungry for some kind of shock to the system?
There was an arrogance and foolishness to lining up behind Hillary Clinton as soon as so many Democratic leaders did, and to putting all their chips on her.
She fit the circumstances of 2016 awkwardly, in the same way that Jeb Bush did.
She was a profoundly flawed candidate unable to make an easy connection with voters. She was forever surrounded by messes: some of her own making, some blown out of proportion by the news media, all of them exhausting to voters who had lived through a quarter century of political melodrama with her.
She never found a pithy, pointed message. One Ohio resident noted to me that while Clinton’s campaign workers showed up at his doorstep several times a week, they dropped off pamphlets dense with the rationale for her candidacy, the policies she’d espouse, the promises she was making.
To read it was a commitment, and you couldn’t reduce to one sentence, or even two, what the meaning of her candidacy was.
It’s insane that a pledge to “make America great again” works better, because the vow is so starry-eyed and pat. But it’s concise. Digestible. It takes emotion into account. Democrats in general and Clinton in particular aren’t always good at that.
The party had a night so miserable that its leaders cannot chalk it up to the Russians or to James Comey, though there will be plenty of talk about that, much of it warranted. They had a gorgeous chance to retake their Senate majority, and not only did they fail to do so, but Democratic candidates who were thought to be in tight races lost by significant margins.
Clinton struggled more than had been predicted in the so-called Rust Belt — states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — in yet another illustration of how disaffected working-class white men had become and how estranged from a new economy and a new age they felt.
Their anger was the story of the primaries, the fuel not just for Trump’s campaign but for Bernie Sanders’s as well. And it manifested itself in the general election. Both parties are going to have to reckon with it.
And they should. If this were all that Trump had shown us, we’d owe him our thanks.
But there are darker implications here, too. After all the lies he told, all the fantasy he indulged in, all the hate he spewed and all the divisions he sharpened, he was rewarded with the highest office in the land. What does that portend for the politics of the next few years, for the kinds of congressional candidates we’ll see in 2018, for the presidential race of 2020?
I can’t bear to think about the conflagrations to come.