Hillary on Tuesday night
If you’re like me, you were pretty shocked to see Donald Trump emerge as the US president-elect. Has there ever been a bigger WTF moment? But if you were paying closer attention, maybe it didn’t come as such a surprise.
Progressives might recall the excitement generated by Bernie Sanders (who was screwed in the Democratic primary, and possibly could have beat Trump). The Independent senator called out the corporate class and demanded integrity for ordinary citizens in clear, direct terms. Such passionate language is a panacea for citizens that have been largely forgotten in the continued age of Reagan’s neoliberalism, typified by Bernie on the left, and after the Tea Party, Trump on the right.
I must dispel a myth: Half the country is crazy. Half the country are racists, sexists, gun fetishists and religious extremists who have united to “Make America Great Again”. This energized block of conservative voters — similar in anger to Bernie supporters, but bigoted — won this election for Trump. This is not the case. While bigots are certainly emboldened by Trump’s victory, this narrative has many holes. To start with, Trump received *fewer votes* than Republicans that ran before him. He may have been louder, but was not actually stronger as a candidate. (This should surprise no one — his campaign was a catastrophe.) Many conservatives (especially evangelicals) had their own hashtag: #NeverTrump. And only 18.3% of America voted for him. Not even 1/5th of the country. So let’s keep this in mind.
This outcome is really due to a lack of support for Hillary from the left. Her status as a career politician simply didn’t resonate with voters. Let’s compare the numbers to previous elections:
Look at how many people stayed home. Obama inspired, Hillary didn’t. And yet, you can see that she still did win the popular vote! With 60 million votes (as of this writing — and Trump got 59 million). So even with abysmal voter turnout, America really did prefer her, if just barely. She actually won! The fact that she somehow lost to Trump is a gigantic failure of the awful, unfair electoral college system. (For more on this, read here.)
Left-leaning people simply didn’t want another typical politician committed to policies of neoliberalism. They chose to abstain instead, particularly in supposed Democrat strongholds like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio — the Rustbelt — where workers feel particularly disenfranchised. These are the same workers who voted for Obama twice, so calls of a racist uprising hardly make sense. It was a failure of uninspired workers and a fractured left that simply never gave Hillary the support she needed, because she never gave them what they needed: Something to believe in. Only 18.5% of the country voted for Hillary.
Excerpt from Michael Moore in Trumpland
Michael Moore, the impassioned every-man, honed in on the real issues central to many Trump voters: a frustration with a world order that has left them in the dust, falling out of the middle class into a paycheck-to-paycheck struggle, scared of the future and angry at revolving-door politics as usual. Trump is their “human Molotov cocktail to throw into the system”. Or so they think.
Some deeper insight from Michael Moore
Essentially, there is a legitimate appeal to Trump’s image as an outsider that enticed some average voters away from Clinton. In this way, Trump mirrors the change to believe in that Barack Obama espoused. Specifically in regard to prestige (ok, nationalism), and also to security, Trump just offered more than Clinton did. Clinton really did offer very little. Just a continuation of the same, which too many people are tired of.
And perhaps we should also recognize the down-to-earth charisma that Trump seems to have for some people. On the left, we like to throw around terms like sexist, racist, misogynist, blowhard and bigot, but outside of our virtue-signaling self-righteousness, his attitude looks more like genuine straightforwardness with typical character flaws. “Tells it like it is.” “Locker room talk.” Trump said some of the craziest things ever, and it only fueled his fire. Truly this was a man that could do no wrong in the eyes of some, who just want to watch the world burn.
Infamous alt-right troll makes a compelling case
PC culture is a factor. Moderates and Conservatives don’t love to be called names, and see the left’s obsession with identity politics as quite authoritarian and annoying. America is engaging a race war and gender war, and it’s not entirely clear that it’s being led by such bigots. It’s possible that they are baited by leftist movements. The rise of Social Justice Warriors has indeed caused a backlash of trolls and people who don’t take Trump (or politics) very seriously, and instead vote for the lulz.
On the world stage, Clinton has failed to even address the global terror of political Islam. Trump’s insensitive remarks toward Muslims at least sound like an admittance of a real problem. It’s no wonder that people didn’t trust her in this realm, including actual Muslims.
So, to sum up: Hillary Clinton lost this election because she failed to inspire people for her cause. Perhaps we don’t know what her cause even is. As they say: Stand for something or fall for anything, and Trump really is anything. What did Clinton really stand for in the end? (It’s a rhetorical question, but the actual answer might be: stability, integrity, compromise, slow progress, and corporate neoliberalism. People simply weren’t interested.)
And now we have a very scary, uncertain world in front of us.
Trump himself is an enigma. We know he’s an egomaniac, but what does he actually believe? Is he serious about shaking things up? If so, perhaps we can find a silver lining in this cloud: he’s not tied to big banks. He answers to no major contributors. He has the fierce independence to stand up to many of the things that the 99% are pissed off about. Unfortunately, he will surely staff his cabinet with awful, predicable Republicans.
In terms of policy, it’s not Trump that scares me, but those who surround him. Vice President-elect Mike Pence is a fundamentalist Christian demagogue aimed at gutting Planned Parenthood. Newt Gingrich, apparently the future Secretary of State, is similarly evil, full of Christian rhetoric while hurting the needy. There’s talk of Rudy Giuliani and even Sarah Palin in this new government. Reading through this annotated list of possibilities is quite frightening. And of course, Supreme Court appointments. This is where the real terror lies: four years is plenty of time to set the country back decades in terms of progress.
Furthermore, Trump’s personal issues are hard to ignore, as German chancellor Angela Merkel has made clear. He must be taken seriously on the world stage, which is absurd, given what a classless person he is. And even if hate and intolerance weren’t directly responsible for his ascent, it will most surely surface now that he’s won. Awful behavior will now feel entitled to express itself, as has sadly begun. We live in a world now that acknowledges warfare between races and other identities. This is a very bad thing.
Moving forward, it’s important that liberals in and out of the public sector fight against destructive measures that this anti-government government proposes. Each and every issue will demand attention. Michael Moore’s five-point plan has gone viral, which feels like a good start. There’s a petition going around to demand that the electoral college delegates prevent the official vote. And a commitment to taking back congress in 2018. There are other suggestions, like moving to a swing state instead of leaving the country. But we cannot sit back and wait for the next presidential election. We could lose too much by then.
The immediate future is nauseating, but thinking long term, there’s still hope. We have to remain politically conscious and demand what is right as a populous. It’s almost inevitable, so long as the next four years aren’t too bad…
Header image: New York Magazine mock-up 11/2016, Dewey Defeats Truman, 11/1948