Had this week’s results been accurately forecast and tallied like in any other year, I suspect the perception of Trump’s defeat would be very different.
But because our expectations were set by a raft of overheated polling — and because the initial count of same-day ballots, minus the largely Democratic mail-in vote, created the illusion of an election that was too close to call — the idea took hold that Trump’s mean brand of nativism hadn’t repulsed a clear majority of Americans.
In fact, it had. There was a clear message that what we think of as Trumpism — the cult of personality, the white nostalgia, the contempt for all institutions and rule of law — isn’t a viable national strategy, and will only become less so.
As a friend of mine put it, the repudiation wasn’t really overwhelming or underwhelming. It was just whelming enough.
And maybe that’s all it was ever going to be. The truth is that we don’t live in a world of Goldwater-like implosions anymore.