The Handwriting on the Wall, Redux

The Handwriting on the Wall, Redux

The other day, a longtime (and second-generation!) reader reminded us of something we wrote just over a month before the 2016 election, noting that we were pretty spot-on:

Whoever wins this contest in five weeks will undoubtedly enter office as the least-liked new president in contemporary history, if not in the entire history of the nation. Moreover, this dislike will not be strictly partisan. Yes, this is a rancorous and exceptionally hostile contest between the major parties, with much antipathy and anger on both sides. But both candidates are disliked as well within the confines of their own caucuses as well.  All of which is to say that the next President of the United States will have no honeymoon whatsoever. He or she will never enjoy the support of 70-plus percent of the country the way the last few new presidents did. The fear and loathing of this campaign will not go away – will never go away….

[T]he next president – be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – is going to face all sorts of problems, those plaguing the country from macro- and geopolitical perspectives, as well as those stemming from the country class revolt. The next four years at least are going to be ugly. And sadly, there’s no guarantee that what happens on the other end of the next presidential term will be any better.

We can’t take credit for being especially imaginative in this forecast, even if we were right.  It didn’t exactly take a fully functional crystal ball to see that the 45th president would face near-unified hostility from the powers that be for most of his presidency.  And nor, for that matter, did it take much insight to foresee that the end of his term would not bring an end to the hatred and rancor.  The handwriting, as the prophet Daniel might have noted, was on the wall.  Anyone who could see it knew what was coming.

Needless to say, last night and this morning, we read an ungodly number of tweets, posts, articles, and commentaries about Iowa and the results of its Republican presidential caucuses.  Our favorite comment of them all came from Tim Carney, the columnist for The Washington Examiner, who has spent the last several presidential primary cycles staked out Iowa, just as he was night.  He wrote: “I think I’m a good writer, but every time I visit Iowa, I realize I cannot adequately express how much I love these people.”

We love those people too – in part because we are those people.  Melcher, as you may know, is from Clear Lake, Iowa, and I lived in Iowa City for five years but spent the majority of my life next door, in Nebraska.  Midwesterners are different.  White, black, Hispanic, whatever, they share common characteristics.  They’re different from people on the coasts.  For the most part, they’re not interested in power or fame.  They live in places like Des Moines and Council Bluffs and Fremont, for crying out loud.  If they wanted to be powerful or famous, they wouldn’t.

What they are interested in is living nice, normal, comfortable lives.  They want to get up in the morning, do their work – whether that’s in an office or a field or the home – and then relax and enjoy their friends and family in the evening, before heading off to bed to do it all over again the next day.  For the most part – and this is EXTREMELY difficult for people on the coasts to grasp, especially after last night – they don’t give a damn about politics.  They want to vote and then get on with their lives.  They don’t want politicians from Washington or cultural elites from Hollywood telling them what to think or how to raise their kids.  They want to be left alone.

Some observers – mostly anti-Trumpers who are looking for reasons to be optimistic – have noted that Iowa does not have a great track record of picking the eventual Republican nominee, as Presidents Huckabee, Santorum, and Cruz can attest.  That’s true and worth keeping in mind, but we doubt it has any bearing in this particular contest.  Last night, Republicans in Iowa picked the overwhelming front-runner and picked him overwhelmingly.  In so doing, they signaled that they are pretty sure that Trump already has the nomination sown up.  More to the point, they signaled that they’re OK with that.

This may seem strange, given that he is a billionaire, the former president, and the choice of most of the Republican establishment, but to voters, Donald Trump still represents their last best hope to stick their collective thumb in the eye of the political class and to get it to back off and leave them alone.  Watch this video clip from MSNBC from last night, in which Rachel Maddow – the Queen of the Russia Collusion Hoax – explains why her network will not air Donald Trump speaking live, why they would not dare to show the winner of the Iowa caucuses making his victory speech.  THIS is why Iowans settled on Donald Trump last night, because they loathe people like Maddow, who think they’re too stupid and too infantile to be allowed to watch Donald Trump speak live.  They didn’t choose Trump because they love him.  They chose him because he’s the only person the Rachel Maddows of the world hate as much as they hate Iowans (and other, “normal” Americans).  Billionaire former president or not, Trump and normal voters share a bond.

In a weird way, Iowans were voting for normalcy last night.  They want the politicization of everything to stop.  They want to be left alone by Washington and New York and Hollywood.  They don’t want to be lectured about how they’re bad people if they don’t want kiddie porn in their middle school libraries or how they need to shut up and let “the professionals” tell them how to think and behave on any number of issues, from education to infectious diseases to the colonizer mentality inherent in the use of corn to make fuel additives.  They just want their lives back – their nice, normal, comfortable lives.

Unfortunately, they’re not going to get them back.  If Trump wins in November…well…the media and political establishments will go nuts.  And if he doesn’t, they’ll go nuts as well, just in a different way.  In either case, the politicization of everything will continue and will, all but certainly, get worse.  And then, come 2028, with Trump and Biden both out of the picture, it’ll get worse still.

We hate to repeat ourselves, but “The next four years at least are going to be ugly. And sadly, there’s no guarantee that what happens on the other end of the next presidential term will be any better.”

The Republicans of Iowa wanted to change things last night, but that’s a change beyond their capacity to make.  And that’s too bad.  We do love those people.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.