It was not a failure of polling technique. It requires no fine tuning of the survey methods. The cognoscenti were victims of their own propaganda and of the fear-mongering that is the modus operandi of their politics. People did not tell the pollsters that they were voting for Donald Trump because they were afraid to.
For years the leftist establishment has created such an atmosphere of intimidation for anyone who dissents from their ideology that most people find it easier just to keep their mouths shut. People who do not accept what is really the extreme leftism espoused by ideologues like Hillary Clinton are told that they are “nationalists” and “racists” and “misogynists” and “homophobic” and “Islamophobic.” They are made to feel that they are guilty and should be ashamed of just being who they are: white or male or heterosexual or conservative or Christian or simply American, or any other embodiment of the moral inferiority above which the righteous left postures. Indeed, the only way to expiate these sins is to fall in line with the radicals and their war against not only the traditional values but also against ordinary people – a war that so dominates in the Democratic party, the media, academia, show business, and even sports that it has convinced itself that its extremist view of the world and contempt for working people is now “mainstream” and normal. The rest of the world is not buying.
But it is more than just culture. The continuing challenge for President Trump will be that the left has achieved such a stranglehold over not only our cultural institutions but also our judicial and bureaucratic machinery (the non-democratic branches of government) that it no longer debates with its opponents: It accuses. Dissenters are insinuated to be guilty of some crime or quasi-crime. Terms likes “hate” and “racist” and “misogynist” and “homophobic” are accusatory; they imply guilt that has moved beyond the moral and has become semi-criminal. Now that the left has officially legislated what it chooses to call “hate” as a “crime,” they are also now endeavoring to find ways to punish political opinions and religious beliefs it considers to be “racism” and “misogyny” and “Islamophobia” as crimes as well.
The vanguard of this trend is in the universities, where freedom of belief and expression have all but broken down, where dissenters – both students and faculty – are heckled and harassed, accused of quasi-crimes against which they cannot possibly defend themselves, driven off the campus, and dismissed or expelled from the institution.
Here too, the easiest way to avoid trouble is to keep your head down and your mouth shut. As with any Cultural Revolution, the most effective way to blend in and avoid being accused is to accuse someone else first.
Oddly, the neoconservative right also joined in, eschewing reasoned debate and discussion in favor of the leftist attack phrases. It was especially ironic to see prominent Christian commentators respond to Trump’s sexual immorality: It was not “fornication” or “adultery”; these quaint terms lack the sophistication of the Washington elite. No, Trump was guilty of “misogyny,” “sexual harassment,” and even “sexual assault” (even though the point he was making in the tapes was that some women become quite willing when given access to powerful men): Not immorality but ideological heterodoxy.
Now there is talk that the Trump phenomenon will spread to Europe. Indeed, in some ways this is where it began in the first place – specifically Eastern Europe. Even before Brexit, Poland was in open revolt, when it elected the Law and Justice (PiS) party a year ago by an overwhelming majority. Ever since then Poland has been subject to an incessant barrage of vilification by the western and western-dominated media with the same accusatory tone: “populist,” “nationalist,” “racist,” “misogynist.” Comparisons were drawn with Fascists and Nazis. The government is attacked by the European Union and other transitional organizations as a “threat to democracy” and violating the “rule of law. When Polish citizens circulated a citizens’ initiative to strengthen the abortion laws that collected almost a half-million signatures, they were reviled in the Western media (which almost never mentioned that it was a citizens’ action), and Warsaw was flooded with (ironically) black-shirted demonstrators, who struck fear into legislator and intimidated them into dropping the initiative.
In these circumstances, ordinary decent people are reluctant to call attention to themselves by expressing their views, even when asked. I know many conservative people who planned to vote for Trump, mostly well educated people, but few wanted to discuss it. They always preferred to couch it in terms of disliking Hillary.
This is not the first time we have been subject to the snobbery of the nouveaux instruit. “Ronald Reagan’s victory was greeted with precisely the type of snooty horror, by an establishment who felt that the barbarians had broken down the gate and had plonked an idiot on the throne,” writes Fraser Nelson. “A despairing media derided him as…a wisecracking actor…who, armed with the nuclear codes, might just bring about the end of the world.” Reagan’s supporter were dismissed as “fed-up and grudging aged white Christian children,” and the British ambassador at the time contemptuously ridiculed Reagan’s obsession with the Soviet Union as “Baddie No 1.”
Nine years later, the most repressive governments in history were crumbling.
Stephen Baskerville is professor of government at Patrick Henry College. His book, The New Politics of Sex, will be published by Wipf & Stock.