What have we learned?
*21st-century polling is meaningless. (The good news: we will be spared endless polling going forward and, in any case, no one will pay attention. Why did the polls fail so badly at the state level? I suspect it has to do with the fact that suspicion of the media has become so widespread that the voters who put Trump over the top simply don't respond--and with response rates of 10% to most polls, that was fatal.)
*Trump is not a Republican in any meaningful ideological sense, though it's hard to know what he really believes. But the Republicans that control the Senate and the House have an ideological agenda that, as far as one can tell, he does not share, except with regard to making the rich richer through tax cuts.
*Trump ran as a "populist" against the elites and a "rigged" system. Now the system, of course, is "rigged" in all kinds of ways, and the pathologies of global capitalism have made that vivid to tens of millions of people. While Senator Sanders would have been a rational voter response to that fact, Trump plainly is not. And still, if he moves, as he said he would, to repudiate existing trade agreements, and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, he will be on a collision course with the actual Republicans in Congress. Those folks would surely prefer Mike Pence, the Christian conservative from Indiana, in charge (and, of course, he may be in charge de facto). Will the Republican House move to impeach Trump? It is not at all inconceivable, since he is likely to give them grounds one way or another.
*Putting aside his dubious psychological stability, and the enormous risk that poses, he is less likely to start wars than Hillary Clinton or any recent Republican Administrations. Recall John Mearsheimer's commentary.
*The American military has a powerful culture of deferring to civilian authority, but surely there are limits. We may be far more dependent on the good judgment and professionalism of military leaders than we have ever been in the years ahead.
*Trump himself is a racist (more a casual racist, than an ideologically committed one), but he is not an anti-semite. But he has certainly emboldened the anti-semites, as well as the racists. Local law enforcement will have to be vigilant, though in some parts of the country, it is unclear whether they will be.
*This electoral disaster can be traced to various long-term causes--the main one being the imprudence of the ruling class in capitalist America, of course--but one that deserves notice is the abandonment of the "Fairness Doctrine" by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987, under Ronald Reagan. That doctrine had required media to address matters of public interest, and to present competing views (basically, a Republican and a Democrat). Its elimination cleared the way for Rush Limbaugh and then Fox News in the 1990s, who indoctrinated tens of millions of people with false views about cause and effect and especially false views about markers of epistemic reliability. Putting aside the racist vote, which was undoubtedly a substantial part of Trump's appeal in many places, the inability of people to discern truth and falsehood, or even reliable indicators of truth and falsehood, cleared the way for what has happened. (Having retired early, as I usually do, I woke up at around 3 am ET and looked at my ipad, only to see the utterly shocking news. I imagine millions of people will not forget the moment they realized what had happened.)
*Is there any silver lining in this ominous thundercloud? Not really. Italy survived Berlusconi, but there was always a limit to how much damage the country of Italy could do to the world. Perhaps the Democrats will now nominate real populist firebrands, with rational policies, instead of simply representing the prudent wing of the ruling class? Hopefully we will never hear anymore from the Clintons, John Podesta, and the other 1970s Republicans who took over the Democratic Party. What comes next will be a real test of the strength of the institutions of civil society, and of the judiciary.
*Reader Roger Albin sends along a timely quote from David Hume: “To a philosopher and historian the madness and imbecile wickedness of mankind ought to appear ordinary events.”
UPDATE: A shorter post-mortem from Robert Paul Wolff.