In our now 13th year of operation here at Y’all Politics, it’s hard to recall a night signaling more of a tectonic shift in the national political structure. Donald Trump will be President of the United States. And he did so because he fundamentally changed the math by holding the South, winning the Rust Belt and appealing to what are now once again Reagan Democrats on issues they care about (trade, immigration and the economy). He totally circumvented traditional media via social media channels and he used traditional media as a fulcrum to leverage the distrust Americans now have in institutions of power, particularly media and the political establishment of both parties.
However, probably the most understated story of the election night, understandably overshadowed by Trump’s win, was US Senator Roger Wicker’s role as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in keeping the US Senate in Republican hands. It got almost zero coverage nor received any meaningful analysis from any news outlet in Mississippi. I doubt it ever will. But Roger Wicker at the beginning of the cycle volunteered for what most pundits believed was a political fool’s errand. Republicans had to defend 24 seats (including 7 in states that Obama won twice) in 2016 on a slim 54 seat majority. In the chaos of 17 Republican presidential primary candidates against the backdrop of what seemed like the certainty of a showdown with Hillary Clinton, the question was really, “how bad would the damage be for Senate Republicans?”
Wicker got to work. He traveled incessantly and raised a tremendous amount of money. He made some of his own luck with Rubio agreeing to run again. He delivered slim margins in Wisconsin, Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. There’s no question that there would not be a Republican majority but for the efforts of Wicker’s NRSC. It will take a while for the media to unpack it. I seriously doubt that he’ll get the credit in Mississippi that he deserves, but his star in DC is unquestionably on the rise and now the prospects two years hence look excellent. He will undeniably be a real player in the next Congress.
Another big winner on Election Night was Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant. After a brief bet on Ted Cruz, Bryant swung decisively toward Trump and went all-in. He’s spoken as a surrogate on the trail. He’s spent time in New York at Trump HQ. There are rumblings that he might be set up for a potential cabinet seat. Regardless of what the next step is for Trump, his bet on Trump and his loyalty through the chaotic primary process seems to indicate there are good things for Bryant ahead relative to a Trump administration, and that means good things for Mississippi.
The big loser of the night? The national media. As much as there is a fundamental disillusionment with the political establishment, the national media completely and fundamentally blew it and collectively showed they are incapable of “getting it”. Again, as this election is unpacked, how bad the media was in the tank for one candidate and how blind they were to the reality, whether that was willful or just based on incompetence, is something that I believe will spark breakdowns of media establishments and fuel new entrants and change even more how and where people get their news.
It’s a fascinating time. 2017 will mark a sea change with new Supreme Court candidates, a likely repeal of Obamacare and a drastic cut in regulation. How the Trump led Republicans synthesizes with the more social conservatives will likely generate friction and a good bit of Trump’s agenda involving trade and infrastructure improvements will probably see resistance, but there is opportunity for some cross-party coalition building on certain items.
Regardless of the outcome, it’s a fun time to be a political junkie.