The mix of politics and culture is far too complex to be predictable. Even the best-laid political plans can lead to unintended consequences, both good and bad -- what we sometimes call irony, nemesis or karma.
Take the election of 2008, which ushered
Instead of ensuring a heralded generation of Democratic rule, Obama alienated both friends and foes almost immediately. He rammed through the unworkable Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. He prevaricated about Obamacare's costs and savings. Huge budget deficits followed. Racial polarization ensured. Apologies abroad on behalf of America proved a national turnoff.
By the final pushback of 2016, the Obama administration had proven to be a rare gift to the
The Republican establishment hated
But instead of ruin, Trump delivered to the Republicans their most astounding political edge in nearly a century. The candidate who was most despised by the party unified it in a way no other nominee could have.
The result was that Arab nations suddenly no longer saw
Almost every major initiative that Obama pushed has largely failed. Obamacare is a mess. He nearly doubled the national debt in eight years. Economic growth is at its slowest in decades. Reset with
Yet Obama has been quiet about one of the greatest economic revolutions in American history, one that has kept the U.S. economy afloat: a radical transformation from crippling energy dependency to veritable fossil-fuel independence.
The revolution in fracking and horizontal drilling has brought in much-needed federal revenue, increased jobs, weakened
Yet Obama opposed the energy revolution at every step. He radically curtailed the leasing of federal lands for new drilling, stopped the Keystone XL pipeline, and subsidized inefficient and often crony-capitalist wind and solar projects. Nonetheless, Obama's eventual failure to stop new drilling ended up his one success.
Logically, Clinton should have won. The media worked hand in glove with her campaign. Her ground game and voter registration drives made Trump's look pathetic.
Yet all that money, press and orthodoxy only confirmed suspicions that Clinton was a slick but wooden candidate. She became so scripted that even her Twitter feed was composed by a committee.
The more she followed her boring narrative, the more she made the amateur Trump seem authentic and energized in comparison. Doing everything right ended up for Hillary as doing everything wrong -- and ensured the greatest upset in American political history.
The ancient Greeks taught us that arrogance brings payback, that nothing is sure in a fickle universe, that none of us can be judged successful and happy until we die, and that moderation and humility alone protect us from own darker sides.
In 2016, what could never have happened usually did.