Friday, November 11, 2016

Diagnosing Trump's Election Win & Why It Happened

Okay, so I know I am probably talking about this election to death right about now and, if you are anything like me, you probably just want to forget about it and try to put it behind you already.

Still, this one was big. In fact, it was heeyuuuuge, and not in a good way. I thought that the 2004 election would take the cake for the worst election results that I lived through, as the Republicans won everything in that election, as well. After four years that saw 9/11, the PATRIOT Act, the introduction of terrorist methods of interrogation such as waterboarding, concentration camps run by Americans, the Iraq invasion and all of the lies and absurdities that went with it, the nation still gave a clear majority to George W. Bush and his administration and, moreover, also gave both the House of Representatives and the Senate to Republicans outright.

Yet this election was probably worse. After all, this time, both the Democrats and the Republicans acted in a despicable manner. The Democrats cheated, rigging the primaries to save Hillary Clinton from what could very well have been a much earlier defeat at the hands of Bernie Sanders, who just for your information, was polling much better against every Republican, including Donald Trump. And speaking of Trump, of course, he outlasted everyone in a truly pathetic Republican field. Among the candidates vying for president was yet another Bush. But who could have foreseen that Jeb Bush would come across looking even dumber than his brother? Then there was Scott Walker, who busted the unions in Wisconsin, and wanted to do away with weekends, claiming Americans were too lazy (by the way, Jeb Bush also believed Americans were too lazy, as well). I was very fearful of Walker, and thought that he might be the worst of the bunch. There was crazy Dr. Ben Carson, who stated and seemed to believe some incredible things, such as the that the pyramids of Egypt were grain silos. And there was Ted Cruz, who was worse than Trump, I felt. He had some ridiculous ideas, and would have been more disastrous than Trump, probably.

Obviously, though, Trump is bad enough. And now, President Trump is a reality...or will be soon enough. 

What this felt like to me was that a bunch of people felt uncomfortable initially admitting to liking Trump. He kept saying stupid things, doing stupid things, and making it very difficult for people to like him or take him seriously. But slowly but surely, people got over their inhibitions. 

It is a little like school yard bullies feeling more empowered by other kids engaging in bullying behavior, so that one kid does something to some poor victim, and another tries to top that, and that gets still another one going, with acts growing in cruelty over time. not all Trump voters and supporters are necessarily like that, not necessarily mean-spirited. However, the Trump phenomenon has empowered bullies within our society, and the fact that those people who are not like that still voted for him makes it shameful.

The horror that we all felt on election day was just too numbing to cope with. Like most people, I watched the results come in with stony faced and silent. As I have said before, I was actually half expecting this, or something like it, for a long, long time. If it had not been Donald Trump, it would have been someone else like him. As I have also mentioned before, some of the other Republican nominees were at least as scary. Scott Walker was considered an early front runner. You might remember him, right? He was the union busting Governor of Wisconsin, and he thought Americans were too lazy. To that end, he wanted to get rid of weekends as we know them. Ted Cruz would likely have been worse than Donald Trump. Hell, we might even have had Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin serve as the first woman in the Oval Office. And let's face it, would Jeb Bush have been much better? He would have been more expected, one of the relatively familiar faces, and his mannerisms maybe are more befitting what we expect from our political leaders these days. But was he really more impressive than Donald Trump? I have my doubts, personally. After all, he was the brother of George W. Bush, who still to me stands as the worst president that this country has ever far. That, of course, might change.

I, like many people, have been asking myself how this happened, although I do not agree with many people who believe that the third party voters ruined it for Hillary. The Democratic party establishment cheated Bernie Sanders, and this is a known fact, not even disputed. However, Hillary's supporters conveniently swept the story under the rug, and these same people who are now outraged that Bernie supporters did not en masse come out to vote for the woman who cheated them remained quiet when they found out that their "Goldwater girl" had asked for help from the party establishment that is supposed to remain neutral, and allow the democratic process to work itself out, to weed out the weak candidates and allow the strongest one to emerge. It seems quite clear that Hillary was, in fact, a weak candidate, and a liability to the chances of the Democratic Party, despite so many propping her up to make her look like a political titan.

Clearly, Hillary was not the sure bet, political juggernaut that her die hard supporters (and only her die hard supporters) assumed her to be. Of course, supporters of one cheated political rival (Bernie Sanders anyone?) kind of knew this and tried to warn the Democrats that they were about to make a big mistake. But, I guess we all have to pay the price now.

Everyone knew that Americans simply did not trust Hillary Clinton. Well, everyone but the establishment Democrats, that is. And, apparently, the mainstream media which, once again, glaringly failed to do it's job. The media had a field day reporting on the latest outrage by Trump. Some unbelievable thing that he did or said, and without outright suggesting it, they suggested that we should all be outraged. And these stories piled, one after the other, implying just how much of a monster Donald Trump is. Indeed, there was some truth to that, although they overdid it. People seemed to get fatigued by this constant stream of things that they were supposed to be outraged by, until it grew sterile. In the meantime, Trump got the free press. He did not even bother paying for commercials until quite late in the general election. When he gets as much of the nightly news coverage and headlines and all sorts of free press, he did not need to.

In the meantime, Hillary Clinton got a free pass, one time after another, by that same media. Any Trump supporter might have legitimately felt entitled to refer to them as the so-called "liberal media," although those of us who know better know that they were anything but liberal. They, like Hillary Clinton, and like many other politicians from both parties, are owned by big corporations with specific interests, and they needed certain messages to get out, while some inconvenient stories never did. And so, Hilary got away with the millions upon millions of funds from "too big to fail" Wall Street firms and major healthcare industry players, but she received little to no scrutiny from the press about this, and never was pressured all that strongly from them to release the transcripts from the speeches that she got enormous speaking fees from. She was not scrutinized for having all of the right allies in all of the right places within the Democratic Party to help her struggling campaign, and when it was revealed that she received help, she was not scrutinized then, either.  When there were confirmed reports that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and other prominent Democrats had indeed failed to remain neutral and helped Clinton's campaign along, she once again got a free pass, claiming she did not know. Even when Wasserman-Schultz mentioned that Hillary had come to her asking for help, Clinton was not seriously pressured by the media, and they did not give her a hard time about giving the disgraced Wasserman-Schultz an honorary position in her campaign within hours of her resigning as DNC chair. Clinton got the nomination through very shady means, but you would never know it from major media outlets, and I was particularly disappointed by NPR's coverage, which at best, glossed over these outright crimes and subversions of democracy, and claimed that she had won "fair and square." Then, Bill Clinton, her obviously powerful husband, met with the Attorney General on a Phoenix airport tarmac illegally, but once again, this remained a minor story that lasted, at best, a couple of days or so, before also being swept under the rug. This added to the growing sense that, indeed, the Clintons were getting away with outright crimes, because they were above the law, and Trump used this later on, and to good effect. There were health issues, but once again, the media did not really give us the full story, simply dismissing it as some temporary illness, although conservative media outlets sure noticed. The only news story that seemed to consistently cast a shadow over her were the emails, where it was confirmed that she had not acted criminally, but merely foolishly and very carelessly. Not particularly great qualities when she is running for the highest office, but hardly a disqualifier for her. And finally, there was Donna Brazile giving Hillary Clinton that question, which once again, was outright cheating. When you mix all of those with her forever shifting positions based on what the political winds revealed, how could anyone not understand the issues regarding truth with the Clintons in general. They have an extensive history of lying, and of being somehow above the law, or at least appearing as if they are.

Very conveniently, establishment Democrats swept all of these doubts aside, never taking any of these stories seriously. They dismissed Bernie Sanders supporters who felt outraged, and told us to get over it. When people, particularly Bernie Sanders supporters, questioned these things, or seemed skeptical about their candidate, they would not even defend her, so much as ask if they would prefer Trump to be president. They, like Hillary Clinton herself, seemed to feel that they had this thing in the bag already. Of course, also very conveniently, they happened to blame those same Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein supporters for not voting for Hillary in the general election.

Frankly, I got a funny feeling those last two weeks prior to the election. I had literally not seen any Clinton/Kaine signs and bumper stickers until those last few weeks, although Trump signs and bumper stickers were everywhere. Even when they finally started to appear, I kid you not, they were outnumbered by at least ten to one in almost every suburban New Jersey community that I drove through - and there were quite a few! It seemed that all of Hillary's momentum stopped dead in it's track, while Trump was surging similar to the way that Bernie Sanders had been surging before him, and this time, the Democratic elites could not manipulate things in their favor (although Donna Brazile and Hillary Clinton tried). Truth be told, in retrospect, the victory of Trump should not have been surprising at all.

But that is just specific to the immediate things that ultimately resulted with what we got in this election. What I was thinking of, however, was how we reached this point as a country, with each election seemingly lowering the bar lower and lower. This has been going on for decades and, frankly, it has been occurring with both parties. We had four leaders that are highly regarded to serve as president, from FDR to Truman to Eisenhower to Kennedy, before there appeared to be a major drop off. Lyndon B. Johnson was actually an accomplished president in terms of what he managed to do domestically, although everything that he did was overshadowed by the stubborn lying of the disastrous Vietnam War, which Johnson escalated greatly from a relatively minor military involvement to a major war. Then came Nixon, who seemed a step down from Eisenhower, the man he served under as Vice-President. But people had no idea just how big the drop off was, and when they found him illegally covering up the growing Watergate scandal, he was forced out of office. Carter certainly faced problems, but the seeming disgust with which people and political leaders refer to him dropped the bar of reverence and even respect for the office still lower. Then there was Reagan, the first "Teflon President," and Americans conveniently ignored one scandal after another, particularly the Iran-Contra Scandal, and the S and L scandal, which also affected his successor, George H.W. Bush. Next came Clinton, the second "Teflon President," who was well known for lying, and moved his supposedly progressive party considerably to the right. Then there was George W. Bush, who presided with a dangerous mixture of ignorance and a stunning level of arrogance, while failing in a very public manner several times. He got away with numerous scandals, from Enron to no bid contracts to the whole Iraq War fiasco, to redefining torture, to the PATRIOT Act, to how he mishandled Hurricane Katrina, to Halliburton, the 2008 economic crisis and, finally, the bailout. Within months of leaving office, however, Americans had a collective period of political amnesia, and his approval ratings soared after he departed office. Then came the high hopes of Barack Obama, who actually enjoyed eight years of a scandal-free presidency. Yet, the level of disrespect and mockery that he was forced to endure marked a new low in American politics.

And the American public kept accepting these ever lowering standards time and time again. They did not get on their own party's leaders when caught lying, but they questioned the other guy. Within weeks of Bill Clinton being inaugurated, I saw bumper stickers to Impeach Clinton. George W. Bush was not taken seriously by opponents, but then, Barack Obama was not taken seriously by his opponents, either. People did not show respect towards the Office of the President anymore, and this went hand in hand with allowing their own people to get away with crimes. Before too long, this corrupt and decadent system spiraled out of control, as things grew worse and worse over time.

This is the way things went until the latest and newest low, the election of Donald Trump. Each prior step was a step down from what came before, and the country as a whole went down with each step down. Once you take that first step, each step after that becomes easier. I look back at Reagan, a man who seemed to typify some of the most excessive qualities of Americans back then, but he seems positively tame and almost intellectual by comparison to what we see now. Still, he got away with crimes, as did Clinton. It was just another step before we had a whole administration who endured one scandal after another, and lied one day after another, for a full eight years, ultimately presiding over the biggest domestic security failure in American history, an illegal and unjustified war while already fighting in another war while giving all sorts of tax breaks and incentives to huge corporations and the ultra rich, ultimately leading to far more corporate scandals and the near collapse of the economy, followed by the ridiculous bailout. It did not take long after that to recognize that nothing had changed.

And now, we have Trump. Literally overnight, the country became a laughing stock. America's relatively good standing in the eye of the world had already been seriously hurt during the term of George W. Bush, with his torture, his PATRIOT Act, the invasion of Iraq, and the numerous corporate scandals that almost led to another Great Depression. With all of that still fresh on the minds of the world, and with Brexit having just happened, and been praised by Trump himself, America was ready for it's own version of the type of Brexit vote that so shocked the world just months before.

The standards keep lowering, although this is a pretty big low. It is hard to imagine that we can get much lower, but stay tuned!

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