Thursday, November 10, 2016

More on the 2016 Election

It still angers me, the fact that Hillary Clinton asked Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for help, and that the Democratic Party leadership, who is supposed to remain neutral in the spirit of democracy, gave it to her. That her "win" in the Democratic primaries and subsequent nomination were tainted, and that even though polls back then showed that Bernie Sanders would do better against Donald Trump, the Democratic leadership, in their infinite wisdom, still selected Hillary Clinton. More than that, what angers me are those people who so supported Hillary, that they simply disregarded the concerns and criticisms of their very flawed candidate - who happened to have the strongest unfavorability ratings of any major party candidate in our lifetime. Because they wanted a woman president, they disregarded the criticisms and ignored the arguments that their candidate cheated much in the way that George W. Bush cheated.

Now, they have to suffer the consequences of assuming too much. Like with their candidate, who loaded up on a fireworks display over the Hudson River for a victory that never came, they now have to grapple with their unconditional support of a candidate who, in retrospect, was bound to fail, one way or the other.

And let's face it: this election was a failure all around. It was supposed to represent the democratic process in action. Instead, it highlighted the growing skepticism that our system is working, and that was reflected in both parties. Ultimately, it ended with the election victory of the least democratic President-elect in history.

One of the problems is that everything in this country, in the United States, seems to be "too big too fail." We have no imagination collectively for how the world might look if we did not have "too big to fail" banks, healthcare corporations, media outlets, and political parties.

Yet, if you look back in history - and you do not have to even look that far - we did not have these huge corporate conglomerates essentially owning the nation. And, in fact, if you look at the world before they took it over, you see a world that looks better than ours right now. A world that is generally less polluted and ravaged, a world that has just seen the two biggest wars in history, and have apparently learned something from this, as there seemed to be a real effort to work towards peaceful solutions to potential conflicts between at least the major military powers.

But all that feels like a long time ago. Long enough that it feels almost completely irrelevant at this point. I am not sure what is happening in this world, or why it seems like everything is going to hell, but the fact of the matter is that something is happening. There is a discontent, an unease, and increasingly, facts do not seem to matter. Despite this being the age of information, with billions of people having access to almost any information that they want and/or need right at their fingertips, people around the world seem to increasingly believe what they want to believe, and these are not necessarily backed by facts.

The results are increasingly showing. Despite the fact that people in western, industrialized nations live, by and large, comfortable lives with high standards of living, there is a rising sentiment of fear, of hatred, and of the need to take some sort of action against the powers that be, either real or imagined. You could see it with the Brexit vote, and you could see it with the election not only of Donald Trump two days ago, but also of George W. Bush, and in fact, of numerous prominent corporate politicians in our national government, representing both parties.

Here's the thing: this election came as a shock to some people. And let me say this straight away: it came as a shock to me, too.


Now, I know that sounds like a contradiction. After all, it either is a shock, or it is not, right? What was a shock to me is that the country actually went ahead with it, and elected somebody like Donald Trump into the White House for the next four years. But you could kind of see it coming, right? I mean, we seem to be flirting with ever more extremist politicians. One prominent Republican wanted to get rid of weekends, and another agreed that Americans were too lazy. Several seem to take the Bible as the literal Word of God, although they also seem to cherry pick the passages that they prefer to focus on, while ignoring the other parts, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. They do not talk about the compassion and love for one another, and not casting the first stone, which were important, even crucial, things that Jesus preached. But these self-serving, supposedly Christian politicians often talk about things that are decidedly against every major religious doctrine, and they seem to approve of it. Look at how Ted Cruz promised that we would find out if sand glows in the dark after being bombed, which was a pretty blatant call for war if there is one. Sure, Trump said some similarly aggressive things, but at least to his credit, he does not pretend to use the Bible or wear his faith on his sleeve, using it as justification for his prejudices, or simply to advance his political career (or both).

Sure enough, almost every single Republican denied the reality of climate change, on some level or another. Even those who admit that it is real, seem to do so only grudgingly, like Chris Christie. The Bush administration had to admit that, too, although they dragged their feet on the issue. And they certainly were not quick to do much of anything about it, either. Now, we have an outright climate change skeptic once again in the last place that he belongs, in the White House. I am so tired, as an American, of seeing my supposed leaders as the only leaders in the world who still deny the reality of climate change. It is a source of embarrassment and really, a national disgrace.

Yes, the most extremist nut jobs vying for prominent leadership have generally been Republicans, but let's face it, Democrats have grown much closer to replacing Republicans as the moderate conservatives. That leaves no options for people on the left, as the prominent Democrats these days tend to hold positions that are quite far to the right of what Repbulicans believed and acted upon during the days of President Eisenhower many decades ago now!

That is why, while rather stunned when it actually happened, I cannot say that I was completely shocked at these results. I mean, it did, on some level. But it was the shock of actually watching something that, deep down, you kind of know is going to happen, sooner or later. It felt a bit like watching an inevitable action by someone who makes a habit of taking reckless, unnecessary risks.

Yet, disappointing election results have kind of been the norm for me. My family and I were not fans of Ronald Reagan, but I remember him basically wiping the floor with Mondale in 1984, losing only one state and Washington, D.C.. I remember Willie Horton, and the victory of George H. W. Bush in 1988. Then, who could forget the surreal election results of 2000, as George W. Bush "won" despite some shady things in Florida, such as election places and/or roads leading to them being inexplicably closed for that one day, and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, overseeing the fairness of the election. Frankly, I still never figured out how the brother of a candidate being in such an important position while simultaneously promising to deliver his state for his brother was not an outrageous and blatantly obvious conflict of interest. Then, the most disappointing election result of all to me, when George W. Bush won the White House straight up, with hardly any meaningful controversy, in 2004, after four long years when Americans certainly knew what they would get with another four years.

Yes, 2004 was the worst election result - until this one. And the disappointment for me, and for millions of Bernie supporters, came in two parts. You see, I was a supporter of Bernie Sanders, because that man had integrity. Maybe he would have been able to get some of his ideas passed had he won the Oval Office, and maybe not. But we would have had someone who would have fought for what was best for Americans as he saw it, and given it everything that he had, day in and day out. For once, a Democrat was actually inspiring thousands and even tens of thousands of people to come out just to see him, just to hear him, and to feel like they might be a part of something larger than him, and larger than the party.

But Hillary Clinton, who a year and a half ago looked unchallenged within the Democratic primary race, suddenly was struggling, and she asked for help from the Democratic Party elites. Now officially, they are supposed to remain neutral, but they opted to go ahead and help her out, and to subvert the democratic process while so doing. She received help from these political elites, from prominent Washington insiders, and she received tons of funds from "too big to fail" Wall Street firms and major healthcare industry players, and she received all of this help without apology or humility during a very unconventional election year, when the sentiment against Washington insiders and big money, elite corporate interference within the political system was toxic to candidates. Now, all of this is beyond being contested, these are simply facts being stated. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz fell on the sword for the Democrats regarding her involvement in making sure that Sanders would not get the Democratic nomination, and some other Democrats were also named but, by and large, the story was swept under the rug by the supposedly "liberal" media. You might think that they would jump on such a huge story, especially when Hillary Clinton almost immediately appointed Wasserman-Schultz to an honorary position within her campaign, but that was not so. In fact, the Democratic insiders employed some of the very same tactics that George W. Bush and company has used against them during the 2000 election, and it worked. The Democrats interfered with the race, and got their girl, who once proudly considered herself a "Goldwater girl."

Rather predictably, she failed to inspire. She had difficulty getting people to go to her events, was criticized for the high price tag of some election events - particularly a fundraising event in Hollywood, in actor George Clooney's home. Even though officially, the Democratic Party platform was the most progressive in a generation, many simply did not trust Hillary Clinton to deliver on those promises, given her history, and the issues that a vast majority of voters had with her trustworthiness. Also, rather predictably, her campaign came not so much to be defined by what she would actually do when, not if, she was elected president, but rather, she focused on just how bad things would be in the unlikely event that Donald Trump won the election.

Looking at it now, however, the warning signs were very clear. After all, as was already mentioned, this was a very atypical election year. Outsiders blossomed with both major political parties, as Bernie Sanders won state after state for quite a while there for the Democrats, and Donald Trump fought off a tough Ted Cruz challenge, even though both were considered outsiders. On the Republican side, in a party that often is known for advocating the same old same old in the name of stability, a wildcard received the nomination, and in the general election, he took a page out of Bernie Sanders page, turning his campaign into a movement, into a political revolution. This inspired people, and even if many dismiss them or insult their intelligence, there was a reason that they were so fired up to come out and vote for their candidate.

By contrast, Hillary was plagued with stories that underscored her issues with being trustworthy, with being ethically challenged. Predictably, the message that kept resonating from her camp was not a positive one, but simply harping on how bad a Trump presidency would be. Again, in an election year when people on both the left and the right were tired of the excessive pessimism and mudslinging of mainstream politics, and when they also expressed strong skepticism towards popular portrayals of anyone on the outside as extremist or dangerous. The Democrats controlled the primary, so their portrayals of Bernie Sanders as such, and the idea that he could not possibly win the general election, were enough to sway enough of those who did vote to go for Clinton. But in the general election, they did not have those advantages, and many simply dismissed the warnings that Trump truly was the monster that he was portrayed as.

So, Trump had a fired up base, and as he reined in his own excesses a bit during the general election, more and more people came on board. The same critics within his own party, including Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell, eventually came around. In the meantime, from what the pundits have been saying in post-election coverage, Hillary failed to get enough of the people she assumed would be her supporters to go out and vote. Not great turnout among the black community. She did not visit Wisconsin following the convention, assuming, as most of the establishment Democrats did, that this state was in the bag, as it had voted Democratic since way back in the 1988 election.


And the same with Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Again, whoops!

Ohio went for Trump, as did Florida. By the time that NPR announced that they were calling Florida for Trump, I pretty much knew that he was going to win. CNN still had the election as contested, but it did not take too long before they had to acknowledge it as well, that Trump had taken North Carolina, had taken Ohio, and had taken Florida, and suddenly, the very narrow road that Trump was supposed to have to the presidency, with very little wiggle room, was applicable towards Hillary Clinton instead.

Let's call a spade a spade: Trump and his campaign had a brilliant strategy to win this election. They were written off, time and time again, but they kept surviving. Kept winning. Beat tons of other Republicans, one after the other. Kept getting the evangelical vote, despite hardly being the typical evangelical candidate. And he won where he needed to win.

The media was expecting, and clearly ready to announce, a resounding Hillary Clinton landslide. Instead, they got a very convincing Trump victory. The so-called "Blue Wall" crumbled, and it was clear that the Democrats had underestimated the power of the pro-Trump contingent. They came out in strong numbers, while supporters of Hillary Clinton simply did not.

The result was a shock for many people. I was talking to a guy who was literally crying last night, and just wanted to talk. There were posts after posts expressing shock and dismay.

And this is only the beginning. It has not even been 24 hours, as I write this, since Donald Trump's victory speech. There will have to be a long, long adjustment period. But once he gets into office, we would do well to be well past this initial shock and dismay, and do as some already are strongly urging us, and be ready, organize. We have to continue to fight for the country that we believe in, rather than give in to the worst fears of the country that it seems we have become. This is an evolutionary process, and it does not simply stop with some major event. The country did not end with the Kennedy assassination, or with September 11th. I could not stand George W. Bush, but he has been out of office now for eight years. Trump will be in office soon enough, but he will not be president forever. He was elected to a four year term, after all, and the most he can serve is eight years. We have to believe that the country is worth fighting for, because the future goes well beyond those next four or even eight years. We owe our future generations that much.

1 comment:

  1. I think if anything positive can emerge from this train wreck, it will be to serve as the vivid, omnipresent symbol of what the perfect storm of complacency, corruption and intellectual laziness can and does lead to.

    The complacency of the two major parties, seemingly under the impression that milquetoast candidates regurgitating tired, carefully scripted, well rehearsed soundbites, canned answers and empty promises ad infinitum constituted a magic formula for permanently thwarting all threats to the status quo. And the complacency of voters who've essentially told such candidates "That's good enough for me", thereby allowing their mediocrity to go unchallenged for far too long.

    The corruption of the electoral process itself (some examples of which you cited in your post), not to mention the apathy with which that corruption is generally met.

    And of course the intellectual laziness (probably more euphemistic than it needs to me – "abject fucking stupidity" is a more concise way of putting it) of those whose frustration and disgust with "business as usual" (a sentiment I can certainly relate to in and of itself) leads them to be easily swayed by pandering, self-aggrandizing blowhards and their glib, simplistic remedies for society's ills.

    Perhaps the political landscape will become far more polarized here than it had been. One could make the case that that's already happened, seeing as Democrats and Republicans alike are beginning to find out – the hard way – that they can only get so much mileage from patronizingly pretending to share the hopes and concerns of their base, only to screw that base over afterwards.

    I certainly agree with your earlier description of the Trump campaign as a joke taken too far. As many of the luminaries who voted for him are bound to discover, the joke was on us. As Van Jones said, "You can't polish this turd". Hopefully that sobering realization will lead to something akin to critical thinking prior to entering the voting booth four years from now. I wouldn't bet the ranch on it, but one can hope...