Europeans truly struggled with Brexit. The result was a complete shock to the “collective” system. The “experts” forecast “Remain” would carry the day, and the English polls, betting houses, and markets were all caught significantly off guard. This collective head-snap occurred despite the palpable discontent with the status quo and the persistent unease within Britain at the continual, if gradual, slithering deference to Brussels. A water torture of statist drift.
In the United States, we take a more jaundiced view of professional prognosticators and their predictions. Still, many here were caught completely off-guard by the recent election results. Jaw drop. The experts had once again gotten it all wrong.
To borrow a phrase from the ineffable Bertie Wooster: “The bally ballyness of it all makes it all seem so bally bally.” As we, the converted, know, a cornerstone of libertarian thought is the notion that experts are as likely to be wrong about big decisions as anyone else, or to put it another way – your education and experience do not trump my common sense. Nor do they give you the right to decide my life for me. This isn’t a celebration of “dunce” power, and does not mean experts have no place in decision making, but it is the reason we have for over 200 years maintained civilian control over the military and remain skeptical of anyone who proclaims himself an expert.
A singular incident in the debates provides the most telling example of this tension.
It is established wisdom that Trump’s answer to Chris Wallace on his willingness to accept election results, or lack thereof, was the foot put wrong which, in a most alarmingly and unfettered manner, demonstrated his disrespect for the democratic process and democratic institutions. You could hear the experts sigh in relief, as they were sure the Terminator of political candidates had finally imploded by unmasking himself to the world as unfit for office. A true totalitarian in our midst. I was sure the average Joe likely saw and heard something completely different. Trump, reminiscent of Reagan’s “I’m paying for this microphone” moment, had passed the Candy Crowley test – a test the gnat of 2016 had failed during his presidential bid in 2012. We remember that moment when Crowley shifted from debate moderator to propagandist and began furthering the Obama campaign’s claim they had, in fact, called the attack on our embassy in Libya a terrorist attack, and not a spontaneous reaction to a video. Romney went down without a fight, and it was the moment he lost the election.
During this campaign, there was a constant murmur about Trump’s reasons for running: Did he really want to be president anyway? Was the campaign some kind of brand-building stunt? Some even claimed Trump was a plant, a kind of Manchurian candidate, the brainchild of former President Bill Clinton to ensure the election of his wife.
In that answer to Wallace, Trump was informing his supporters, those willing to endure the wrath of the experts and the myriad of epithets hurled upon them, epithets finally distilled and crystalized in Hillary’s now famous “basket of deplorables” moniker, that he would not abandon them. Trump was going to stand in there and fight. This was a very important message, and it was code to the non-cognoscenti. It was the moment where Trump said, if you stand by me, regardless of what tapes they have and regardless of what they say about me, I will not abandon you. It was an important message to that portion of the electorate feeling bereft and abandoned by those in the cool clique. The message to supporters was clear: Trump was in this fight until the finish. The experts, with a vested interest and an opinion crafted through talking-head consensus, could not hear or parse the message. His supporters knew he would accept a legitimate result, but Trump’s supporters wanted to hear that he was unwilling to make a concession speech based on polls or expert opinion. The votes would need to be counted – and counted fairly.
For those of a libertarian bent, the Trump election is not as satisfying as the election of one truly dedicated to libertarian principles. It is not without risk for those of seeking smaller government, fewer tariffs and a less interventionist foreign policy.
It is, however, a blow to the nanny state and the continuous parade of droning experts who have told the electorate here, and in Europe, their opinions are of lower value and they just need to get on board. The result, which included many more women and college-educated adults than was originally expected, is a strong counter-statement to the widely-held belief among elites that a vote for Trump is one rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, or another deplorable emotion.
During both the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, you could hear the elites telling the populace: “You need to get on board because we know what is best for you and what is really in the best interest of the country.” Trump’s election is the validation of William F. Buckley’s view that he would rather be governed by the first 400 names of the Boston telephone directory than the faculty of Harvard University. For that, we libertarians can take part in the celebration.
* Gerard Toohey is an investment banker living in Chicagoland. He wrote a conservative/libertarian column for his law school newspaper. He has a wife and four children and pays a lot in taxes and college tuition.