A lot of people are now asking “Trump – what happened?” President-elect Donald Trump’s victory certainly shattered the world for a lot of people, me included. It raised a lot of questions, and I pose some of them below with reflections.

What happened to the vaunted Hillary Clinton ground game?

All the way during this last summer, we heard about how Secretary Clinton’s ground game was far stronger than Mr. Trump’s. Having a ground game–the effort of going essentially door-to-door and getting the voters to fund the campaign and to the polls–has been considered an critical element of a modern political campaign. Ted Cruz’s ground game was substantially better than Trump’s, and he lost. Drawing on strengths from the impressive organization of President Obama, Hillary Clinton seemed to have an truly impressive ground campaign. And she lost.

Trump seemed to not really believe in a ground game, as multiple times he alleged that Clinton was spending far too much on it. He essentially outsourced his ground campaign to the Republican National Committee (RNC). So is a ground game overrated? No, but these things stand out:

  • Anger and hope is a ground game. If the candidate connects well enough with the passion of citizens, they go to the polls on their own.
  • Minority enthusiasm for going to vote was overestimated.
  • The RNC ground game might have been substantially stronger than reported in the news.

What Happened to Common Decency?

A big complaint about President-elect Trump is that he has insulted and disrespected some groups. Well, pretty much all groups: blacks, Hispanics, native Americans, POWs, women, Muslims, and disabled people to name a few. Doesn’t any one care about common decency any more?

Apparently not. Feel-good movies show fictionalized people who stand up for their values despite the personal hardships. But, sometimes it’s different for real people. Numerous studies and events in history have shown people might act in contrast to values they have typically believed in when put in a stressful or difficult situations. This was shown back in the 1970’s Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram experiments, where regular people became sadistic in conditions where they had certain power or were subject to authoritarian demands. These people reported afterward being shocked at their own behavior.

A lot of people are in dire straits some parts of the country, it makes them feel like it’s a life or death scenario and other considerations like human decency or being a good Supporting Christian (or other religious) values become less important.

What about the Polls?

This one was hard. I believe in data and research, but clearly the tone of all the polls and predictions was pretty much toward Hillary Clinton. Are polls just rubbish?

Well, let’s not go overboard. Polls have always been imperfect instruments. Nate Silver at the vaunted 538 blog would like to explain it away as within the margin of error. There is probably some truth to that, as Clinton did win the popular vote and Trump did not really win by that much. He just won by narrow margins in surprising spots where it counted.

There are some claims that the pollsters tweaked their data. They may have intuitively labeled things as outliers that shouldn’t have been. Perhaps this was well-meaning, or perhaps they did not want to be too far of from the crowd, a kind of information cascade.

The polls seemed to have difficulty accounting for turnout. It might be one thing to say you are voting for Clinton while sitting on the couch at home and another thing to get to polls and do it. According to USA Today, “One key source of the misfire for pollsters: They overestimated Clinton’s support among minorities and underestimated Trump’s support among white voters.”

By some accounts, Trump supporters, apparently mistrustful of institutions, are not easily polled. Thus, they are less likely to respond to requests from polling institutions. The declining participation in surveys in general, aided by caller ID screening, is problematic for the polling industry.

For a further breakdown of missed estimates, see this.

Why do People Vote for Him even though He Lies Constantly?

He’s either an idiot or he lies constantly. Compare recent standings on Politifact.

Donald Trump


Hillary Clinton


I have no idea on this one. I guess it falls under “people believe what they want to believe.”

Is Trump a Genius?

I mean, despite everyone saying he couldn’t to it, he called it and did it, right? That’s pretty much a fact. So, arguably he is a genius at getting elected. Or very lucky.

But, just because you are a genius at one thing doesn’t mean you are a genius at everything. The problem is that people tend to assume just because someone is a genius at one thing that person is genius at everything. That’s why advertisers force us to listen to Matthew Mcconaughey’s opinions on which car we should buy.

Trump is clearly not a genius at many things. His campaign was pretty much in disarray all summer. His business performance has been hit and miss, and the story is quite a roller coaster ride. There are plenty of lengthy lists of his failures on the web, like this one. And of course we all know that even he admitted to having to take gigantic 20-year tax write off due to loss from his casino misfortunes. That stands in sharp contrast to the performance of undisputed investing genius Warren Buffet who noted that he had no need for write offs because he didn’t lose that kind of money, despite Trump’s false allegations about him. Buffet then released his own tax returns. Trump has said he would do likewise after the election. Oh, yeah, where are they?

It probably feels good to a lot of people to have a flashy guy like Trump at the top. It gives people hope they could be like him. I’ve heard one thing his supporters liked about him was his ‘alpha male’ style. They worry the world is becoming too feminized.

A big ego makes for good TV, but research shows it is not so good for a the performance of a business leader. Author Jim Collins found that, “In more than two-thirds of the comparison companies, we noted the presence of a gargantuan ego that contributed to the demise or continued mediocrity of the company.” [1] Instead, the most successful leaders are characterized by humility and firm resolve.

Final Analysis

In the days following the election, it seems Mr. Trump has soften a lot of his formerly hard line positions. It may be that his genius was using those statements to engage the electorate and now he going to do something else. And why should anyone believe that given how many lies and factual errors he made that he would now be accountable to something he said during he campaign?





[1] Jim Collins, “Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve,” 72