Election Requiem

November 23, 2016

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election will long stand as one of the most controversial and riveting political contests in modern history. When the dust settled, Donald Trump, the underdog Republican nominee, was elected the 45th President of the United States.
Much like its European corollary - June's surprise Brexit vote - this contest featured a quietly seething, discontented electorate that rose up in order to slough off the reigns of what it perceived as a broken, self-enriching symbiotic establishment duopoly that had run the ship of state aground. The pollsters, betting houses and blathering punditocracy misread the election all along. Believing that the electorate would prefer a flawed, experienced hand to that of a flawed, unproven one.
Here, they were wrong.

Much of the forward analysis of the election will likely reveal an ongoing phenomenon that many political and media elites failed to detect, yet Mr. Trump appears to have understood. While American elites were attempting to mould the world to their liking, America's domestic political foundations were decaying. Creating an internecine conflict between Americans with power and ordinary people with none. Seemingly, the American Empire was being advanced to the detriment of the American Nation.
As was shown during June's Brexit vote, as well as current populist efforts in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and even France, the ordinary masses of tired of a move towards globalization that has benefited those who already had wealth and influence while the middle and lower economic classes were left to stagnate. The American industrial base - the very symbol of American middle class might - was left in decay. The nation's infrastructure in shambles. Its education system underperforming. And its long-esteemed social contract in tatters.
The United States has 4.5 percent of the global population and roughly 20 percent of the world's GDP, yet it is responsible for almost 40 percent of global military expenditures. And as the middle class was left to consider to ever-growing disparity between its stead and that of the coastal political elites, it refused to accept that the trend was irreversible.
Accordingly, when Donald Trump and his populist message appeared as a counterweight to D.C.'s growing consolidation of money, influence and power, much of the American electorate opened up their hearts and minds.
The stock market predicted the election's outcome. As it has for the last 70 years.
Dating back to World War II, when the S&P 500's performance was negative between July 31 and October 31, the non-incumbent candidate has been victorious 86 percent of the time.
From August 1st to Halloween the market drifted lower by two percent. And entering election week, the S&P 500 had dropped on nine consecutive days. Something it had not done in 36 years. The last time such a drop occurred? December 1980. The eve of Reagan's presidency.
As results began to pour in that Tuesday evening, it quickly became clear that the race was going to be closer than expected. U.S. futures markets, having already priced in a Clinton victory, had plummeted 900 points by 2 am.
Suddenly, however, the tide changed.
Pessimism gave way to optimism as the President Elect's victory speech, viewed as uncharacteristically reserved and diplomatic, provided overtures of a growth-oriented economic vision. Catalyzing a stock-market rally that has sent every major stock index higher since the election. With each having already achieved new all-time highs.
The vitriol continues. As Facebook and Twitter have served as verbal Gettysburgs. Enabling those dissatisfied with the outcome and their political opposites to snipe at each other like neighboring dogs astride opposing sides of a fence.
Eventually, both sides of this acerbic contest can might vituperating one another long enough to make a reasonably detached and objective analysis of the current situation.
Cognitive psychology says they will.
Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has spoken of the "Illusion of Focus," the tendency to place much more gravity on something when it is front of mind. So, when the collective consciousness was incessantly bombarded by the media's election coverage, the collective sense of angst dialed up into the red zone. Yet, the further we move from the election, the more sensible, forgiving and pragmatic we will become. Which will, eventually, heal the rifts left by this contentious contest.
As Kahneman has said, "Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it."
Eventually, such thoughts fade from the focal point of consciousness. And the sooner the better.
So, with the election's outcome decided, let's survey the landscape.
Most pundits forecast a decisive Clinton victory. But the outcome was quite opposite. With Trump capturing 290 Electoral College votes. Moreover, there was widespread speculation that Trump would wreak havoc down the GOP ticket. Damaging the candidates who shared his political party affiliation. Even if Trump was far from the traditional Republican.
Of course, those outcomes were also in stark contrast to the projections.
After taking the required states of Florida and Ohio, Trump didn't so much pierce the "big blue wall" of traditionally Midwest Democratic states as he did tear it down entirely. Winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
In so doing, Trump did not damage the GOP's down-ticket candidates so much as pulled them along on much-larger-than-expected coattails. Helping the GOP to preserve majorities in the House and Senate - which had increasingly been forecast to swing back to the Democrats.
The GOP won in traditional Democratic strongholds. Gaining four seats in the Illinois House. Winning the Minnesota Senate. And flipping four seats in the Connecticut Senate to achieve a political equilibrium of 18 seats for both parties.
Reform-minded Republicans dominated state elections nationwide. With the GOP now in control of a record 69 of 99 legislative majorities across the country. Even managing to flip the Iowa senate and the Kentucky house - which went Republican for the first time in 100 years.
Republicans lost the house and the senate in Nevada, largely driven by Senator Harry Reid's effective turnout machine as well as Trump's poor performance there. This also hurt Republican candidates in the New Mexico house, where Democrats were victorious.
The GOP picked up governorships in Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. Bringing the tally of Republican governors to 33. With the GOP now holding the governorship and both legislative chambers in 25 states. Compared to the Democrat's four.
Republicans won a record number of state attorneys general, 29. 31 lieutenant governors. And 31 secretaries of state - including Oregon, long a DNC safe haven.
In hindsight, Trump's resounding victory says less about the state of the Republican party -- which was in tatters the day before the election - than it does about the electorate's stinging rebuke of and contempt for a dysfunctional, hyper-prosperous Washington D.C. A capital viewed as removed from the lives of ordinary Americans. A repudiation of both parties with Trump as its primary vehicle. Republicans were simply along for the ride.
Trump handed the GOP a victory it did not expect. Leaving Republicans to appear as the grade-schooler who gets kicked out of school the week before Christmas. And yet, waking on Christmas morning with no expectations, finds everything he ever hoped for under the tree.
Hardly the victor, the GOP will also be forced into a period of soul searching. As it considers the merits of abandoning the spirit of Reagan conservatism in favor of a new, inwardly focused blend of populism, capitalism and constitutionalism.
The morning after the election, the GOP was simply lucky to find itself not opposing Trump's path to the White House. Which turned out to be a winning formula. And the party's hand in his victory pretty much ends right there.
What does a Trump presidency mean for the economy, markets and portfolios?
In the seven days following the election, some $45 billion flowed into equity exchange-traded funds. The second largest surge on record. While bond outflows represented the largest such exodus since the 2013 taper tantrum. Municipal and emerging-market bond funds were hit the hardest. All of which points to a presumption that, under a Trump administration, GDP growth will likely be back in vogue. As he cuts corporate and personal taxes, reduces regulatory constraints, ramps up military and infrastructure spending, and enacts protectionist trade measures.
All of which amounts to a pro-growth formula. One that should benefit stocks. While also stoking inflation. Which could bring the Fed to ramp up interest rates faster than previously assumed. To the detriment of bonds. And eventually, mortgages.
According to MacroMavens' Stephanie Pomboy, if Trump implements the policies on which he campaigned, lifting the burdens of regulation and Obamacare on businesses while cutting taxes, "we will finally get back to genuine economic growth built on entrepreneurial spirit and a rising standard of living for the populace."
One key to Trump's campaign was his pledge to spend over $550 billion on a five-year overhaul of the nation's infrastructure. If this investment occurs, it could provide significant job creation and economic growth. Ultimately propelling markets higher.
Big picture seer Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Capital, the world's largest hedge fund, was also optimistic about the economy moving forward.
"We believe that we will have a profound president-led ideological shift that is of a magnitude, and in more ways than one, analogous to Ronald Reagan's shift to the right," Dalio wrote. "Donald Trump is moving forcefully to policies that put the stimulation of traditional domestic manufacturing above all else, that are far more pro-business, that are much more protectionist."
The Federal Reserve is likely to "increasingly tighten," he said. That, along with fiscal stimulus, corporate tax changes and less regulation will be positive for domestically-oriented stocks more than companies with businesses abroad.
And while all the pundits were sour on Trump only two weeks ago, a recent Financial Times article says that financial markets have reversed their views since the election. No longer viewing him as a disruptive terror. Now considering him a pro-business, good-for-markets, Reagan-esque figure.
And there exist some valid comparisons between the two. As Reagan's early eighties rise brought large tax cuts, additional defense spending and deregulation that, combined with a tough Fed chairman, produced a period of healthy GDP growth.
Citigroup, among the largest banks in the world, happens to agree. Stating that "the market's reaction to Trump's victory signals something very big to come. The reaction over the 72 hours following Trump's victory was astounding. Bonds have lost over $1 billion while stocks gained $1.3 billion. So much for the idea that presidents don't move markets."
Not all stocks were so buoyant, however. As Tesla was down three percent the morning after the election. As were many of the large solar stocks. Because, suddenly, government subsidies were in question.
They'll bounce back. Because in this nation, capital - which is always politically neutral - simply flows to the best ideas. And when entrepreneurs assume calibrated levels of risk in order to create, produce and provide, capital finds them. Seeking out the best ideas. And rewarding those who conceived them.
One certainty? Trump's election represents the death of the Democratic socialism that was practiced by both Democrats and Republicans dating back to 2000. In its place, Trump plans to usher in capitalism. In its rawest form since Reagan. Marking his a growth agenda. Plain and simple. Anti-big government. Reducing new regulations. Trimming government hiring.
In retrospect, both parties governing this greatest of all nations lost sight of what they were governing. That being the right of any American-born or naturalized citizen to productively pursue happiness and prosperity. To wake up. Work hard. And provide for whomever she may choose to provide for. To take risks. To fail. And try again. And ultimately, to succeed.
"People underestimated the discontent that average Americans felt," said Joe Borelli, a New York City councilman. "It was palpable to everyone who travelled the country, but the media and pundits were blind to it.
Ultimately, nobody has better summed up that for which this nation stands than the indefatigable Teddy Roosevelt. Author. Explorer. Soldier. Naturalist. And reformer. Who served as our nation's 26th President.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
With the election over and done, may the nation's electorate now come together. Replace its differences with the pursuit of our common interests. So that we might all strive, dare greatly and, ultimately, know the triumph of achievement.

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