“Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Of the many bits of folk wisdom in circulation few are as widely accepted as this formula, focused on the special depth of self-loathing triggered when you repeat a misjudgment of trust.
Even folks who sensed that Donald Trump’s innumerable, inconsistent, sometimes conflicting campaign promises were meant to fool them could live with it, because his line of baloney at least sounded new and different. If, as many suspect, Trump’s promises prove to be unsustainable, or even as he might put it, “a disaster,” a lot of those disappointed Trump voters might be twice-shy…saying with The Who, “we won’t be fooled again.”
Which explains this prediction: Donald Trump will be a one-term President.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton will be a no-term, never-President because too many voters in too many states decided, a vote for the former Secretary of State would be asking to be fooled twice. And this was a shame they simply were not prepared to risk.
Put this frame around the interesting observation, President Barack Obama made to New Yorker editor David Remnick, that given the highly negative opinions voters held of both candidates, in Remnick’s words: “whichever candidate was in the news most lost ground. “And for reasons that you’re well aware of”—Obama-ese for Comey’s letter and the acid drip, by way of Russia, of WikiLeaks—“Hillary had been in the news a lot for a week going into the election. And that was going to create, given the dynamics of this race, some challenges.”
How those challenges worked out was shown in a couple of statistical observations of the race: (1) early voters tended to go for Clinton, late deciders broke big for Trump; and (2) In areas where his support was strong, Trump turned out many citizens who had not voted for Mitt Romney, whereas even her best precincts, Clinton got fewer voters than had Barack Obama.
In other words, until the last week of the campaign, the polls had it right that the Democrat was ahead, what the pollsters and the pundits missed was that once-undecided, or tending towards third-party voters decided to swallow their doubts about Trump by choosing him at the polls, while Democratic doubters of Hillary Clinton stayed home.
Of course, there was much more to this historic election than aversion voters felt towards a too-familiar candidate, and fear that shopworn promises would be as false as the famous one that NAFTA and free trade in general would make change the working family’s friend.
Steve Handelsman is a correspondent specializing in national politics for NBC News. He spent much of 2015-16 on the campaign trail, covering Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.