For a detailed, excellent analysis, see Everything mattered: lessons from 2016’s bizarre presidential election. The election was close, so many groups and people share blame for the outcome.
By the end of the election, Trump was repeating Bernie Sanders’s talking points about inequality and outsourcing. Obviously he convinced a lot of people that he and the Repugs would help the middle class. Obama barely tried, but even if he had, the Repugs would have obstructed his efforts.
After being criticized on facebook, I am now wondering whether my inclusion of “Clinton Foundation” is a mistake and a succumbing to GOP propaganda. The Clinton Foundation received a 4 out of 4 rating from Charity Navigator and an A from Charity Watch. Is the widespread perception that the Clinton Foundation is corrupt justified? Show the evidence.
Similarly, on the question of whether Putin really did help Trump, it’s unclear whether the CIA. can be believed.
(Originally published in August, 2016 as “Hot August Political Thoughts”)
There is absolutely no moral, social, or political equivalency between voting for Donald Trump or voting for Hillary Clinton. Nada. Zilch. None.
I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. Far from it. She is a product of and the embodiment of the Oligarchy. Let me be blunt: She and her Husband have received over $200 million of influence and access payments masquerading as speaking fees and control a massive self-promotion vehicle supported by $Billions that represents itself as a charitable foundation but spends the vast percentage of its budget on administrative overhead and promoting the Clintons.
Clinton is functionally a Pro-Choice Moderate Republican who will extend the control of the Oligarchy over economic policies for four years and will have to be constantly thwarted by an engaged electorate to prevent us from entering into further needless wars. Progressives will have to push, cajole, embarrass, and hem in Clinton – a hard but manageable task – to minimize negative impacts on the working class and our shrinking middle class. It will be a difficult four years with many suffering but the nation and the planet will survive.
Trump is a textbook case of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a Sociopath, Bat Shit Crazy, suffering from the onset of Dementia, or some combination thereof. It is clear his decision-making in matters of virtually any policy topic is irrational, ego driven, and inconsistent. If he ran our economy like he ran his businesses, he would start a trade war, a Second Great Depression, and quite possibly a third World War. His instability, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia would be a cataclysmically divisive force likely not seen in our nation since our Civil War 150 years ago and potentially result in America becoming a pariah nation. His Climate Change Denial will push us to the edge of environmental extinction.
The best we can hope for if Donald Trump is elected is a quick impeachment and removal. Unfortunately, if Trump were removed from office, he’d be replaced by one of the most rightwing politicians in America – Mike Pence (Planned Parenthood rating of 0%, NARAL Pro-Choice America 0%, National Farmers Union 11%, Sierra Club 0%, American Library Association 0%, National Association of Manufacturers 100%, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights 0%, Human Right Campaign 0%, Americans for Democratic Action 0%, ACLU 0%, NAACP 5%, American Conservative Union Lifetime Score 99%, Alliance for Retired Americans Lifetime Score 3%, League of Conservation Voter Lifetime Score 4%, American Wilderness Coalition 0%, American Association of University Women 0%, AFL-CIO Lifetime Score 5%, AFSCME Lifetime Score 2%, Source: VoteSmart.org).
At the worse, we could see an attempted or successful Military Coup or the Start of World War Three. There is no way Donald Trump should have access to nuclear launch codes. Seriously.
Hillary Clinton is a temporary barrier to Progressives defeating the American Oligarchy. Donald Trump is an immediate existential threat to the survival of our nation and planet. They are not equivalent.
I listened as they called my President a Muslim. I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys. I listened as they said he wasn’t born here. I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could. I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice. I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog. I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court, no matter who the nominee was. I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn. I watched as they did just that.
I listened…..I watched…..I paid attention.
Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward. To denounce protesters. To “Get over it.” To accept this…
I will not! I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.I will do this as quickly as possible, every chance I get. I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country. I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice. I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win. I will do this so that they never forget. And they will hear me. They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them. They will know that I know who they are. They will know that I know what they are. Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can. Now it’s their turn to tolerate ridicule. Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day
forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as they thought it was Obama’s.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.
The 2016 presidential election was a battle of negatives.
Despite Trump’s numerous well-known negatives — including a history of racist and sexist insults, inexperience in politics, impetuousness, sexual scandals, mediocre performance at the debates, and a 70% untrue rating from PolitiFact — Trump managed to convince almost a majority of voters that he was the better choice than Hillary Clinton.
As Thomas Frank said, the least qualified presidential candidate in history bested the most qualified candidate.
The country is in shock that Trump and the GOP were able to eke out a victory.
Hillary had her negatives too — carelessness with emails, questionable ties to Wall Street, hawkishness, and a legacy of dirty tricks against Bernie Sanders — but it’s obvious to me that Republicans were much more successful at making their attacks stick.
Trump is the Teflon Don.
Hillary is the Sticky Dame: attacks stick to her.
The victory is being explained as the result of a populist backlash against business-as-usual in Washington, D.C. and against a Democratic Party which failed to inspire confidence among white middle class voters. Such voters felt that the Democrats were closer to Wall Street than to Main Street; were more concerned about immigrants than poor white folks; and were more interested in diversity than in traditional religious orthodoxy. Opposition to abortion, gay marriage, transgender rights continues among millions of Americans. Hillary called such people “deplorables” and it’s no wonder they voted against her.
Blue collar whites trusted Trump more than Hillary to win back their jobs. If Trump doesn’t deliver, because of GOP devotion to their corporate benefactors, will the voters turn against Trump and the GOP? Or will the GOP figure out a way to lay the blame on Democrats or someone else? Given the experience with recent Democratic administrations, the latter outcome seems more likely. (See Obama and other reasons for the election debacle.)
Aside from economic and cultural explanations for Trump’s victory, there’s another explanation that should be obvious but that I feel needs emphasis.
The Republican Noise Machine is well-organized, well-funded, and very persuasive. Fox News, Breitbart News, AM talk radio, and a vast array of think tanks and websites relentlessly repeat GOP talking points that reinforce a world view that’s at odds with the world of progressives. Conservatives live in what seems like an alternate reality in which global climate change is a myth, deregulation of Wall Street is good for the economy, and tax cuts for rich people help the middle class.
As Emily Nussbaum says in the New Yorker, speaking of Fox News, “you need to immerse yourself entirely to grok the breadth of its world-building paranoias and mythologies.”
Tens of millions of Americans, and not just uneducated people, buy into that worldview.
The partisan divide is so extreme to propose a quantum multi-verse explanation for the phenomenon, given the vast gulf in facts acknowledged between the two worldviews.
Along with the ability to create alternate realities, with different facts and values, the GOP is brilliant at character assassination and dirty tricks. “Lock her up!” “Crooked Hillary”.
Specifically, for purposes of this article, they live in an alternate reality in which Hillary’s negatives trump Trump’s negatives.
To a large extent, the email scandal was Hillary’s swift-boating: the GOP was able to exaggerate the significance of the scandal.
The Republican Noise Machine was successful at rousing its base and rousing hatred for Hillary, whereas many Democrats and left-leaning independents stayed home or voted third party, refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils. The GOP base seems more willing to vote for imperfect candidates. The Democratic base is more purist.
Just how many people voted third party? According to a USA TODAY/Rock The Vote/Ipsos poll conducted Oct. 24-27. “Among those aged 18-34 who supported the Vermont senator in the primary, 64% said they’d vote for Clinton, while 10% were for Trump, 8% were for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 8% backed Green Party candidate Jill Stein.” However, it’s unclear how many of these people were Democrats and would have voted for Hillary had Sanders not run.
Unlike the case in 2000, when Nader drew votes away from Al Gore, in 2016 the reason why some Berniecrats rejected Hillary are clear: Hillary’s hawkishness, her ties to Wall Street, the mistreatment of Sanders by the DNC, and the clear flip-flopping on issues such as TPP.
This week we witnessed another 21st century virtual coup in America.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by well over 600,000 votes and by the time all the ballots are counted, it will be a margin in excess of 1.5 million nationwide. Hillary lost the electoral college vote, an archaic institution fashioned by the founders to insulate the making of a president from the democratic will of the voters.
On top of this, the intervention of the FBI in the election just 10 days before voting, and then the finding by the FBI that there was nothing new, announced two days before the election, had a significant dampening effect on voting for Hillary Clinton.
Just 16 years ago, Al Gore won the popular vote for president by a margin of more than half a million votes, and lost the electoral college vote to George Bush. What did that bring us: war, privatization, money for the already monied, stagnation of wages and income, the pulling apart of America. But America survived and we survived. We will survive the Trump years, and rise again.
Most likely, only bad things will happen at the federal level, from health coverage to environmental protection to corporate regulation and accelerated privatization to trampling on workers’ rights and their organization into unions.
What this means for us is that we can progress, we must progress, and we will progress at the state and local level. Election results from Tuesday underscore this. Our minimum wage and statewide paid sick days initiative in Washington won with 59% support.
We must look forward, and we must realize our responsibility to the people of our several states. So already in Washington we have a host of proposals for the coming year. Family leave insurance is of highest priority for the state legislature. We will also be working on compensation for early learning teachers and caregivers, progressive tax reform, higher education affordability and accessibility, health coverage, and a state supplemental social security system to add to federal social security as private retirement plans wither.
Then we have a host of openings and opportunities at the city level, especially in Seattle, including a family allowance and local tax reform.
We don’t have much of a choice, do we? We must go forward, or we must go forward. I would suggest we go forward, for the well-being of our people and our democracy.
The emerging consensus of commentators is that Trump won because of populist disgust with politics as usual, because of hatred of Hillary, and because of economic hardship that Trump was able to blame on immigrants, trade deals, regulations, and corrupt elites. Trump pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., and people thought Hillary was part of the swamp.
As Thomas Frank says in Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there,
The woman we were constantly assured was the best-qualified candidate of all time has lost to the least qualified candidate of all time. Everyone who was anyone rallied around her, and it didn’t make any difference. The man too incompetent to insult is now going to sit in the Oval Office, whence he will hand down his beauty-contest verdicts on the grandees and sages of the old order.
The Democrats chose a flawed candidate, with high negatives. Granted, much of the hatred of Hillary is based on myths and exaggerations manufactured by conservative media. But enough of the hatred was justified — by her close ties to Wall Street, by her past votes for the Iraq War, by her hawkishness during the Obama administration, by her past support for the TPP, by the questionable practices of the Clinton Foundation, and by her carelessness with the private email servers — that Republicans could rightfully say that she was corrupt. Granted, Trump and the Republicans are far worse!!!! But that made no difference because Fox News and the rest of right wing media have entrapped tens of millions of Americans in an alternate reality in which climate change is unreal and deregulation and tax cuts for rich people will help the middle class.
Few people on the right loved Trump. They were aware of his flaws. But they hated Hillary even more than Trump.
Much of the Democratic base hated Hillary too. Some of my progressive friends refused to vote for Hillary, knowing well that Trump is probably worse, because they didn’t want to reward her and the DNC for its mistreatment of Bernie Sanders. One friend at work was a Bernie supporter who knew all about how terrible Trump would be. Still, he wouldn’t vote for Hillary. He refused to vote for the lesser of two evils. He said he felt no sympathy for the Democrats, who courted disaster by their hubris. (Disclosure: I reluctantly voted for Hillary, as the lesser-of-two-evils.)
There’s lots of blame to go around for this debacle. Ignoring both the obvious culprits on the right and the desperate, stupid gullibility of millions of Americans, who should we blame? In no particular order,
- Hillary & Bill Clinton, for hubris, short-sightedness, and corruption;
- The DNC, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for cheating Bernie Sanders and for serving the corporate elite;
- Barack Obama, for serving Wall Street, for compromising early and often, for burdening us with a flawed health care plan designed by conservatives to enrich the insurance companies, for pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and, mostly, for refusing to prosecute Bush administration criminality, while eagerly going after whistle blowers who exposed government corruption, thereby hiding from the American people the extent of GOP corruption;
- Elizabeth Warren, for refusing to back Bernie Sanders and for refusing to run (she’ll be 71 in 2020, possibly too old to run);
- Bernie Sanders, for calling himself a socialist when, in reality, he’s a social democrat;
- Liberals, for their elitism and their insensitivity to religious and cultural minorities (Thomas Frank elaborates on that elitism here);
- FBI Director James Comey, for announcing to Congress 10 days before the election that he’s investigating more emails;
- Our antiquated and reactionary electoral system, which delivered the presidency to a candidate who lost the popular vote, and which gives greater political power to small, agricultural states;
- The greed and elitism of high tech plutocrats such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and the titans of Apple and Google, who profited immensely from government-funded research and from government services and protections, but then promoted anti-tax and anti-government policies that gutted education, journalism, the middle class, and the Rust Belt;
- The media, for giving Trump free air time, and for failing to refute right wing media’s assault on truth. If you listen to right wing media, you’d think that Obama and Hillary are raving socialists and that climate change is a myth. Half the country lives in an alternate reality.
Don’t Blame Berniecrats, Blame Corporate Dems
Notice that I don’t list Berniecrats in that list. In 2000, many Democrats blamed Ralph Nader and his supporters for the election of George W. Bush; indeed, had all Nader voters voted for Gore, Bush would have lost. I am unaware of any concerted effort to blame Sanders and his supporters for Hillary’s defeat. But there are indications that low turnout, especially among blacks, contributed to Hillary’s loss. From what I have read, too few Sanders voters voted for Jill Stein or Trump to make a difference in the swing states that went for Trump. Sanders strongly endorsed Hillary, and most Berniecrats apparently voted for her. As Michael Moore says in his prescient article 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win,
Stop fretting about Bernie’s supporters not voting for Clinton – we’re voting for Clinton! The polls already show that more Sanders voters will vote for Hillary this year than the number of Hillary primary voters in ’08 who then voted for Obama. This is not the problem. The fire alarm that should be going off is that while the average Bernie backer will drag him/herself to the polls that day to somewhat reluctantly vote for Hillary, it will be what’s called a “depressed vote” – meaning the voter doesn’t bring five people to vote with her. He doesn’t volunteer 10 hours in the month leading up to the election. She never talks in an excited voice when asked why she’s voting for Hillary. A depressed voter.
Besides, even if Berniecrats did abandon Hillary, can you blame them, given how badly the DNC treated Sanders?
By the way, in that article Moore correctly predicted that Trump would win in the Midwest, where disgust with NAFTA and TPP would turn blue collar voters towards Trump, who campaigned there against unfair trade deals and corporate outsourcing.
Elaborating on #1 and #2, and again quoting Frank,
Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue – each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.
As David Talbot said, “This catastrophe is primarily the fault of the elites who took over the Democratic Party and turned it into a bastion of corporate globalism and permanent war, at the expense of the working people who were once its base. The Clintons — with their self-serving Davos internationalism and Wall Street pandering — were the ultimate symbol of this Democratic Party sellout.”
Though I risk criticism from friends and allies on the left, I want to elaborate on #6.
Liberal Elitism and Gay Marriage
I support gay rights and think that gays should have the right to get married. But I suspect it was a huge tactical error for Democrats to push this issue. Gay marriage enrages and disgusts tens of millions of Americans, guaranteeing that they will vote for Republicans. Far better if the Democrats had spent their political capital on other issues such as (1) cleaning up corruption in D.C., (2) exposing and prosecuting Bush administration criminality, (3) reining in Wall Street, (4) exposing and fixing our unfair tax system that gaping loopholes that favor the rich, (5) ending bad trade deals, and (6) ending our imperialistic foreign policy.
Politics is like a game of chess. You have to sacrifice some pieces. We have gay marriage, but now we got Trump. It wasn’t worth the trade.
Besides, is marriage really that wonderful? Look at the high divorce rates among heterosexuals.
Same with transgender rights. A worthy cause. Politically stupid. (A Chinese acquaintance said she voted for Trump because the Democrats favor immigrants and transgender rights.)
On the other hand, even the Supreme Court agreed that gays should marry. Maybe I’m horribly wrong. Maybe gay rights is like civil rights for blacks. Just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 drove the South into the arms of the Republican Party, gay marriage helped strengthen evangelicals embrace of the GOP.
Notice, too, that I haven’t mentioned abortion rights. I am unwilling to sacrifice the right to choose. But I point out that with the election of Trump, and with the continued GOP control of Congress, the Supreme Court may overturn Roe versus Wade in the not-too-distant future.
With gay marriage, the Left won the battle but lost the war.
On immigration, the sad thing is that Obama has been extraditing millions of immigrants — something you’re not likely to hear. Immigrants are the ones who may suffer the most from the election of Donald Trump. This is truly a tragedy. Unfortunately, millions of Americans think undocumented aliens should be extradited. (The same Chinese woman I mentioned above told me she’s angry that illegal immigrants get to stay here for free and go to college, while her son is discriminated against when he applies to elite colleges because he’s Asian.)
Lastly, I want to elaborate on #3 (Obama’s blame). He’s the leader of the Democratic Party. How much blame does he deserve for the debacle?
Many of my friends are despairing. One woman says she hasn’t been able to sleep at night. Another friend has pledged to boycott contact with family members who voted for Trump. People are scared and saddened. In fact, this sort of mental anguish has plagued millions of us since 2000. There was a ray of hope in 2008, but that was soon extinguished when Obama surrounded himself with Wall Street hacks, prosecuted the whistle blowers, protected the Bush criminals, escalated the war in Afghanistan, and pushed through a flawed healthcare act designed by conservatives to enrich the insurance companies. Obama compromised early and often. See this petition for a partial list of Obama’s many sell-outs, too numerous to mention here.
After Obama aided Wall Street, the rural whites correctly saw that the Democratic establishment serves the 1%. Obama had a chance to break new ground and expose the GOP for what it is. Instead, he foolishly tried to be bipartisan and allowed right wing media to control the narrative.
George W. Bush delivered the G.O.P.’s head on a platter. Obama re-attached it and resuscitated a conservative monster that has roared back into power. (On this, see Thomas Frank’s Pity the Billionaire.)
Obama saved the nation from economic collapse but failed utterly at getting credit and at stopping Republicans. By 2010, Republicans had taken back control of Congress. Republicans now control a record number of governorships and state legislatures. In 2017, Republicans will almost certainly repeal Obamacare (Obama’s “crowning achievement”) and will probably gut Dodd-Frank. Trump will appoint a replacement for Scalia and, quite possibly, two or more additional members of the Supreme Court.
At the beginning of the Obama administration, the country was reeling from the disaster of the Iraq War, the recession, and Republican corruption. Now Republicans have convinced almost half the population that Democrats are to blame for the country’s problems.
As a friend said on facebook, “The same people who elected Obama in the rust belt states are those who elected Trump. It’s the hopey – changey thing.” Obama delivered an economic boom but allowed the GOP to blame him for the country’s problems.
Thus, the prize for blame goes to Barack Obama. He had a chance to slay the dragon. Instead he helped Wall Street and the Pentagon, while letting the dragon roar back to life. Hillary’s loss is collateral damage.
We Berniecrats warned people, during the primary, that Hillary was vulnerable, that Bernie would more easily beat Trump.
Indeed, Bernie warned the Democrats on August 28, 2015:
Let me be very clear. In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate, will not gain the House and will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races unless we run a campaign which generates excitement and momentum and which produces a huge voter turnout.
With all due respect, and I do not mean to insult anyone here, that will not happen with politics as usual. The same old, same old will not be successful.
The people of our country understand that — given the collapse of the American middle class and the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing — we do not need more establishment politics or establishment economics.
We need a political movement which is prepared to take on the billionaire class and create a government which represents all Americans, and not just corporate America and wealthy campaign donors.
In other words, we need a movement which takes on the economic and political establishment, not one which is part of it.
Is this an opportunity to replace corporate Dems? Or is this a victory of conservative, corporate ideology? Though Hillary and the corporate Dems lost, it’s hard to see this as a victory for progressive values, given the Republican gains.
Possibly the loss is best blamed on hatred of Hillary, fueled by the powerful right wing media, and on populist revolt against the establishment, especially among rural white folk, many poor and poorly educated.
One problem with revitalizing the Democratic Party is that most Congressional progressives, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, sold out to Hillary and went down with her sinking ship.
I often think that Elizabeth Warren should have run. She’ll be 71 in 2020, possibly too old. She is almost as progressive as Sanders; but, unlike him, she doesn’t call herself a socialist. She wasn’t hated, the way Hillary was hated. Yet Warren may have destroyed her credibility by refusing to back Sanders and by hitching her star to Hillary’s.
Looking for a silver lining …. will Trump follow through on his pacifist rhetoric? While he’s spoken against the Iraq War and other foreign entanglements, he’s also pledged bring back water-boarding and beef up the military. Presumably, Trump will avoid war with Putin. Maybe this is a silver lining. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
Rob Kall (editor of OpEdNews and my friend) blames the DNC, the HillaryBots, CNN, MSNBC, and even Elizabeth Warren for supporting a corrupt, hated candidate.
Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek, has this excellent commentary:
In the end, Hillary Clinton became the face of a corrupt, arrogant and out-of-touch Establishment, while Donald Trump emerged as an almost perfectly imperfect vessel for a populist fury that had bubbled beneath the surface of America.
There is clearly much to fear from a Trump presidency, especially coupled with continued Republican control of Congress. Trump and many Republicans have denied the reality of climate change; they favor more tax cuts for the rich; they want to deregulate Wall Street and other powerful industries — all policies that helped create the current mess that the United States and much of the world are now in.
Further, Trump’s personality is problematic to say the least. He lacks the knowledge and the temperament that one would like to see in a President — or even in a much less powerful public official. He appealed to racism, misogyny, white supremacy, bigotry toward immigrants and prejudice toward Muslims. He favors torture and wants a giant wall built across America’s southern border.
But American voters chose him in part because they felt they needed a blunt instrument to smash the Establishment that has ruled and mis-ruled America for at least the past several decades. It is an Establishment that not only has grabbed for itself almost all the new wealth that the country has produced but has casually sent the U.S. military into wars of choice, as if the lives of working-class soldiers are of little value.
On foreign policy, the Establishment had turned decision-making over to the neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks, a collection of haughty elitists who often subordinated American interests to those of Israel and Saudi Arabia, for political or financial advantage.
With blinders firmly in place, the Democrats yoked themselves to Clinton’s gilded carriage and tried to pull it all the way to the White House. But they ignored the fact that many Americans came to see Clinton as the personification of all that is wrong about the insular and corrupt world of Official Washington. And that has given us President-elect Trump.