The Autopsy, and what next?

I began this blog on Nov. 13, less than a week after the elections. It was too painful for me to continue. Not that there are many bright spots on the horizon that have appeared over the last 6 weeks, but the time has come for me to put this blog to rest and move on. So here it is, no less painful, but blunted slightly by mankind’s ability to adapt to new and stressful situations, time and time again…

The polls were wrong. The statistical aggregators were wrong. The pundits were wrong. The Democratic party was wrong. And the Republican party was wrong. And I was wrong. And while I won’t be eating any bugs, I am tremendously worried about the future of this country, the free world, and the planet.

What happened? There is no simple answer. And every one of the ~120,000,000 voters probably had a slightly different reason for casting her/his vote. One thing is clear, though; a large number of those who cast votes, did so with emphasis on outcomes that differ from what most analysts thought.

Some comments on the situation: The Irony: Early on in this election, it is clear that the Democrats realized that this election should first and foremost be a referendum on the character and temperament of Trump. It isn’t hard to understand why, or to fault this strategy. As noted by Clinton and the Democrats, does the country want a man who can be baited by a tweet? Whose anger at criticism boils over until he vents his frustration at common citizens in the middle of the night? Who cannot control his temper, frustration and anger during debates? The democrats, seemingly wisely, made this a key element of the campaign for Clinton for president. This left little time to really contrast policy.

And now, Americans are realizing that into the Oval office will go a Republican ticket that wants to turn back the clock on a woman’s control over her reproductive rights, that wants to annul gay marriage and (at least the Vice Presidential candidate) apparently supports “conversion therapy” for gays. Ironically, such ‘policies’ are largely considered to be anachronistic in American society, and surveys show that the vast majority of Americans are reject these attempts to infringe on the rights of minorities, women and LGBT community members. This irony can be extended for the environment–the new administration has put a climate change denier in control of the transition team of the American Environmental Protection Agency (*note: this has gotten far worse since Nov. 13), and I suspect that when millennials and many who were apathetic during the election realize the extent to which the Trump administration will ignore environmental concerns. *Additional irony since Nov. 13: Trump’s self-declared “landslide victory” includes a loss of the popular vote by nearly 3 million voters. Of course, he maintains through his post-truth ignorance of data, that this defeat in the popular vote stems from the “millions of illegal immigrants who illegally voted against him.” An ego such as his has no clause for losing.

Why did Hilary Clinton really lose the election? Was it the famous server in her basement? The perception by the working person that democrats took them for granted?  The growing loss of faith in institutions?  Was it FBI chief Comey’s two interventions? The Russian hackers? The tremendous smear campaign waged by the Republicans? The accumulation of “Fake News” and elevation of its significance to that of “Real News?” The desire for something different? Even as different as Trump, with 67% of the American public of the opinion that he does not have the skills, abilities and temperament required to be president? Or–is it all–“The economy, stupid!” *As an aside, significant numbers of people who voted for Trump are now very concerned about losing their healthcare insurance through “ObamaCare.” Some of these people, when interviewed, even said that they didn’t take Trump literally when he said he would repeal the act. Guess what?

I remain optimistic. I hope that these next four years will be better than I predict–despite tremendous misgivings regarding the president-elect–and I will not forgive any of the bigot-racist statements (in particular the birtherism and stirring of hatred towards President Obama) or “Locker room talk” and sexist behavior–but I still hope for the success of the government and country. After all, I live here. My goal is not to say “I told you so” in a few years (or months)–but rather–if at all possible: well, we are still moving forward.

At the same time, demography, the popular vote, a perceived weak democratic candidate,  a desire for change after 8 years and attention by the working classes all combined, in my humble opinion, to make this an exceptional and unusual election–with an unexpected outcome. Social issues, science, technology and equality for all people cannot be erased and the clock cannot be turned back. Let’s hope that the president-elect realizes that the clock needs winding.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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