When No One Knows the Answer

Liberal commenters reacted with amusement and glee after Donald Trump misspelled a word in a tweet. He typed "covfefe" instead of the possibly intended "coverage." Hillary Clinton "mocked the President’s made-up word, joking to a Code Conference in California that she 'thought it was a hidden message to the Russians', according to The Hill." It pointed up, if that were still necessary, how deficient in literacy and elocution The Donald is.

But inevitably, every Trump malapropism and gaffe raises the invidious comparison: if he's so stupid, then how about the people he beat? One can always explain a loss to Napoleon. But how does one justify a loss to a person regarded as a moron? One can lose to a genius without shame; it's harder to avoid mortification at being worsted by covfefe. And Hillary lost to covfefe.

Trump's unexpected competitiveness is a reminder of how low the political bar has fallen. The energy expended on reviling Trump, however satisfying, does little to address voter disgust with the political class as a whole. They sense a helplessness in the face of a growing entropy, both over the world and their lives, that was happening even before the election. They saw the Obama administration come to office on the proposition the Bush policy of intervention failed and elected him to try something else. They also saw his attempts to "lead from behind" and bomb from on high fail too. The Eiffel Tower was dimmed for a third time in a week to commiserate with yet another bombing, underscoring the fact no one knows the solution. But they do know where wreaths, candles, and blinker bulbs can be had and supply them instead.

Maybe Trump doesn't have a clue about how to fix things. But the more serious problem is not many people are convinced Hillary knows, either. Just as the lack of a cure reduces the worth of doctors, elites are on the defensive because their stock of knowledge, so useful in the past, is now ineffectual against the present chaos. This helplessness has the effect of lowering their status, as with a priesthood faced with the manifest futility of their rites. Legitimacy is based on working magic and the wizardry is faltering.

It partly explains the resentfulness at being demoted to the level of Donald. The mojo left Hillary when people realized she was just a befuddled old lady. While there is nothing wrong with that, there is nothing special either. Without the magic the contest between them was suddenly no longer between a mere mortal and the "smartest woman in the world" but between a reality TV host and a granny, a much closer fight. On that leveled field, even Trump's randomness actually seemed an advantage: a willingness to punch buttons that Hillary would never dare attempt. While that could make things worse, voters in 2016 were desperate enough to try something new.