The 2016 presidential election has been described as an earthquake. Actually, it was a political asteroid slamming into the planet, massively altering the environment and triggering the near-extinction of some political species (national pollsters, pundits, experts, etc.). Many writers have dissected the new political order over the last few days, but we have recovered enough from being gobsmacked to offer our opinions (which may not be worth much, having been wrong at every step of the presidential election).
President-elect Donald Trump (very weird to type this) outperformed expectations in Utah and nationally. What does his victory mean for politicos and the country?
Pignanelli: "We have to let history do what it enjoys doing, which is surprising us.” — Peggy Noonan
Millions of decent, compassionate Americans were willing to abide the bizarre instincts of Trump to secure a change. Almost every recognized expert, pollster and consultant could not see, or believe, this dynamic.
Trump disregarded traditional polling measures and once-reliable tactics. He eschewed a campaign ground strategy (relying on the national Republican Party) and focused on rallies and social media — fostering mockery by the political experts.
A furious debate is underway among politicos as to how the unexpected happened, and how to correct their future analysis and predictions.
Every Republican candidate in this country — from presidential to state lawmaker — who faced a difficult challenge should send a thank-you note to Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Because of him, Hillary Clinton’s email controversy never ended. Furthermore, FBI Director James Comey’s fear of Chaffetz spurred the announcement of a short-lived "reopening" of the investigation — which clearly energized anti-Clinton momentum up and down the ballots across the nation.
Bottom line: A strong message, despite an imperfect messenger, is the strongest vehicle for any success in the 21st century ruled by social media. Admitting the “Donald” got it all right will be a painful exercise for years.
Webb: Republicans now control the presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, two-thirds of governorships and the vast majority of legislative chambers. Expectations are sky-high for Trump and the Republicans to solve the nation’s problems. Now they must deliver, or the same people who voted them in will turn on them.
Trump has a mandate to blow up dysfunctional, gridlocked Washington. I’m all in favor of that. But, by far, the best way to blow up Washington is to reverse the centralization of power and money in the District of Columbia and return it to the states, where government still works and problems get solved. The best way to make the federal government work effectively and efficiently is to restore balanced federalism and elevate states to the role envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
At its essence, this election was about grass-roots citizens rebelling against Washington, against dysfunction and gridlock, against big money, elitism, cronyism and lobbyist influence (sorry, Frank). Decentralizing and defunding the federal government is the best way to break up the byzantine morass of Washington.
If Trump continues centralizing power at the federal level, he will fail.
Beyond the candidates, who are the other winners and losers in Utah?
Pignanelli: Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes never wavered that his native Pennsylvania would herald the path to Trump’s victory. Famous hunting activist Don Peay was there with Hughes. Utah senior Sen. Orrin Hatch defended Trump and therefore will become a close confidant in the new administration.
Tuesday was a mixed bag for Democrats. If the results are upheld in the final counts, they will net several additional legislative seats and a majority on the Salt Lake County Council. However, they lost their only legislator outside Salt Lake County.
Lefty organization Alliance for a Better Utah threw everything it had against Republican legislator Jim Dunnigan, but he prevailed with support from all political sectors.
Webb: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peay and/or Hughes join the Trump administration in some position.
Gov. Gary Herbert won a substantial mandate, and I’m hopeful he will take on some big, tough issues in his final term — such as education funding. He has plenty of political capital, and he should spend it for the long-term good of Utah.
Will the political class ever be the same?
Pignanelli: Political hacks are like flies — annoying nuisances that are important to the ecosystem. How we obtain and analyze information will dramatically change, but our role in human society will not.
Webb: I won’t be the same in that I won’t bet against Trump ever again. When he announced he was running, I said his candidacy was a joke. When his campaign looked serious, I said he’d never win the nomination. When he won the nomination, I said he’d never be president. After various crude outbursts and revelations, I said his candidacy was doomed.
Now, despite defying every convention of elective politics (big money, ground game, discipline, organization, influential supporters, etc.) he’s President-elect Trump. I’m choking down the humble pie.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: email@example.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is the president/CEO of the Special Olympics of Utah. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.