Some Post-Election Reflections

election-2016This was unexpected. For weeks, pundits were talking about the flexibility of polling (it looks like the major polls were ~3-4% points off) and the unknowability of the “Silent Trump vote” which came out en masse yesterday. This was yet another election where the experts were off in their predictions enough that it mattered in the end.

Social media matters. The idea that any press is good press undoubtedly assisted President Elect Trump during this election. Election-themed hashtags are here to stay. Additionally, our reliance on social media made it near-impossible to forget that yesterday was election day or who was running. Trump’s traditional “ground game” was non-existent in some places, but his social media furor helped alleviate those concerns. Our country is changing how we communicate and Trump did a solid job embracing that reality.

There are some intriguing parallels to the Obama 2008 election. Both Trump and Obama ran on outsider, change-centered platforms, a possible indication that the electorate really doesn’t really like either party just change. Both candidates offered rhetorically strong campaigns but did not rely much on rhetorical sophistication (“Make America Great Again” and “Hope and Change”). Obama and Trump have also “rewritten” the electoral map (insofar as you can rewrite anything that, by definition, changes constantly and very clearly every four years) in ways that pundits will be digesting and discussing for what will feel like endless election-cycles to come.

Xenophobia and racism were not the primary factors behind the Trump victory. This has, unfortunately, been the immediate response of many progressives in response to Trump’s election. In this way of thinking, a vote for Trump is a vote for hatred. And while that may be true for some voters, as the results now stand, over half of the electorate voting for Trump for some reason. It’s simplistic, short-sighted, prejudiced, and inaccurate to attribute that type of turnout to hatred instead of substantive issues like healthcare reform, the economy, a pro-life stance, and/or Supreme Court nominations.

Real Clear Politics Electoral Map (Nov 9)
Real Clear Politics Electoral Map (Nov 9)

The Rust Belt really liked Trump’s economic message. Obama won Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin at least once, and (IL aside) Trump has won or come very close in the rest. Ronald Reagan in 1984 was the last Republican candidate to perform so well in these Midwestern states (even if Trump narrowly loses the still-counting MI and MN). I’m not sure how sustainable this type of electoral map is, but a pro-economy/pro-life (and preferable less rhetoricized) platform may be the way forward for the Republican party.

Christianity has not won. I’m afraid that many Republicans are going to interpret Trump’s victory as a signal that the Religious Right isn’t dead, that the Culture Wars have shifted in their favor, and that Christian values are back in vogue. The reality is that all of the questions and concerns about Trump’s character are still valid, and that his campaign commitments to Christianity need to carry over into his presidency. American Christians will likely face a more challenging road these next four years than the past sixteen years under W. Bush and Obama. We cannot go back to accepting policy decisions without reflection just because the man in the Oval Office was endorsed by our favorite pastor/theologian.

Will the Religious Right end? I greatly appreciated and resonated with Russell Moore’s recent Erasmus Lecture on the end of the religious right in America. But I worry that the Trump victory perpetuates the (largely) evangelical status quo on church-state-culture issues and allows us to continue skirting difficult discussions about the future of the American Church and American State.

Conservative principles and limited government have not won. In the same way that Trump’s character is not magically more wholesome today than it was on Monday, so also questions about Trump’s ability to govern remain. His lack of a track record on even the most basic issues clouds our knowledge of exactly what a Trump presidency (coupled with a Republican controlled Congress) might do. We’ll know soon enough, but Conservatives need to be careful to not blindly support policies simply because they belong to a Republican and not a Democrat.

Amid all these questions, I’m still glad that I know who has won the World Series this year. Go Cubs!

We must give President-Elect Trump a chance. This is especially true if you voted for someone else. A reality of politics is that campaigns are fully of fluff and promises which won’t materialize. We must wait and see what happens and react accordingly.

Trump must encourage unity and charity among Americans. This is not the time for gloating or punishing dissidents. This is not the office for perpetuating pejorative positions or radicalizing the party divide. In a few months, Donald Trump will be President of the United States, not just of the people who voted for him. While part of his leadership charisma undoubtedly resides in his flamboyance and argumentative authenticity, he must learn to lead with honor and moderation as well. He should learn from the examples of Washington and Lincoln.

Work must be done to move political discourse forward. This election cycle was notoriously long, drawn out, and divisive (not that past elections in our democratic republic have not been this way). But the 24-hour news cycle, Twitter, and explosion of partisan media in recent years have made this election cycle particularly toxic. I fear that the media-saturation status quo and our self-government cannot both remain for long.

The last we hear of Hilary? Hopefully this election means the political end of Hilary Clinton. Hilary’s corruption—though apparently not the illegality of her actions—has become even more clear in the past couple of weeks (although careful observers might rightly note a track record of seemingly nefarious activity). She’s now attempted to run for President twice and served as her party’s nominee against an immanently winnable opponent. Whatever Hilary is selling, America isn’t buying. It’s time for the Clinton political machine to retire and for Hilary to enjoy retirement.

Praying before CrossWe must continue to pray for our leaders. This is particularly true when it comes to people we didn’t vote for. Without snark or angst, we should continue to lift our leaders in prayer to the God who controls everything.

God is still in control. Whether your candidate won or lost, the Lord of the Universe still reigns supreme and (even if it doesn’t feel like it) He has a plan. In spite of ourselves and our wickedest acts, we have not deviated God from His ongoing work of redemption in the world. We should rejoice and live accordingly as we move into the future that the Lord has in store for us.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

3 thoughts on “Some Post-Election Reflections

  1. Hillary Clinton also was involved in social media, but clearly not as much as Trump. Since you say social media was a big factor in Trump winning, if Hillary would have been more active on social media do you think she would have had a better chance?

    1. Good question Emily, though I’m not certain I’m in a position to say one way or another how a stronger Hilary social media game would have impacted the election. I think you near constant during the election was Trump’s presence on media outlets of every sort and social media in particular. This exposure amounted to what in past elections would have amount to millions (billions?) of dollars of ads. That’s a huge advantage for any candidate, even if much of the attention was negative.

      Additionally, I wonder if Trump’s personal Twitter account–and propensity to tweet himself–was helpful. People can feel like they have access to the Donald via social media, whereas little of Hilary’s work on social media seemed to be from her. Again, I’m not certain how far I want to push this factor in deciding the election, but it seems as if it assisted.

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