The media elites, the pollsters, statisticians, and commentators (including me) missed that one. What else are 'we' missing?
Ever since the Wilsonian period, the progressive agenda has come with trained experts who by design immune from direct democratic pressures. This is most evident in the Independent Regulatory Agencies -- CPSC, EPA, FTC, FAA, FCC, FERC, Fed Reserve System, FDA, ICC, NLRB, NRC, OSHA, SEC -- but it is an embedded attitude in our universities, our legal system, our politics, our media. Experts are expected to lead the way based on their expertise in the policy sciences.
One of my favorite books is Vincent Ostrom's The Intellectual Crisis of American Public Administration, precisely because he challenges this vision to the core. I'd also recommend reading Frank Knight's Intelligence and Democratic Action, and pay close attention to the forthcoming book by David Levy and Sandra Peart, Escape from Democracy: The Role of Experts and the Public in Economic Policy (Cambridge 2016) and Roger Koppl's work on expert failure, including his forthcoming book. The problem with experts isn't that individuals can have superior judgement to others, or that one can earn authority through judicious study and successful action. The problem is an institutional one, and institutional problems demand institutional solutions. In the case of the Levy/Peart and Koppl stories, the problem results from monopoly expertise that produce systemic incentives and social epistemology which is distortionary from the perspective of correct policy response. This new work is an updating and development of the earlier works of Knight and Ostrom, and demonstrate the intellectual bankruptcy of the progressive agenda as it relates to a self-governing democratic society, and the institutional fragility of expert rule.
In fact, this focus on institutions of governance, and the fragility or robustness of these institutions, has been a focus of the great Scottish Philosophers -- Hume and Smith -- and the Founding Father's -- Madison, and of course modern political economists such as Hayek and Buchanan. Critical to the core ideas in these social philosophers and political theorists is that in designing institutions of governance we must presume that all men are knaves. It is critical to understand that in doing so this was not a description, nor was it an "as if" approximation, but rather it was an analytical move to build institutions that would ensure that "bad men would do least harm". There is a recognized trade-off -- "good men" will not be granted the power to pursue actions unchecked even if that good man was about to do the objectively "right thing". But that trade-off was understood by Madison when he wrote that if men were angels there would be no need for government, and if government were to be run by angels there would be no need for restraints, but precisely because men are going to rule over other men, we must first empower, and then constrain that power. Our knavery comes in the form of arrogance and opportunism, and if we construct institutions of governance that fail to check our knavery, and instead unleashes experts immune from democratic pressures, we get expert failure.
Tremendous power and authority has been entrusted in these experts. Yet, there are serious issues that potentially delegitimize large segments of the establishment in: education from primary to secondary to higher, media from traditional print to radio, TV and even the echo-chamber of social media, public services from police to infrastructure to public pensions, and government from local to state to federal. One way to "read" the election results is that this was an indictment of the establishment of experts.
There are no doubt "darker" interpretations of what happened, and I am not naive about them and I share that concern with many of my fellow citizens. There is something extremely strange about Trump being viewed as an outsider to the establishment when his entire career has been about working connections in the establishment to benefit himself at the expense of others --- he is the classic crony capitalist. But amidst this mess, the fact that it was such a surprise to so many in the establishment should cause social scientists to rethink some basic points in political economy and social philosophy, and its relationship to public policy in a self-governing democratic society. This isn't a partisan issue --- that is what goes on in the activity of governing, but for those of us whose job it is to study government, we must focus on the institutions that make governing possible, and we have to get a sense of the public ideology that defines our age.
Hamilton asked whether the constitution of this country would be based on accident and force, or reflection and choice. Let's hope that the institutions that have been built from reflection and choice retain the robust constraints against knavery, and first step would be to demonopolize experts and introduce contestation throughout the social organization, and upset the comfort of the establishment. This doesn't mean that the 'establishment" will go away, but those in that establishment will have to address challenges to their authority and their comfort will be disturbed.