So how did we get here?
Yesterday, according to pollsters and pundits, Hillary Clinton was almost assuredly going to be the next President of the United States. Today…
Today, we have President Trump. All hail our jowly orange overlord.
I am, for the record, suppressing painful levels of “I told you so.”
This must be how Cassandra felt.
How did we get here? I mean, this was supposed to be more of a coronation than a contest, after all. It’s why the Democrats chose her to run before the primary proper even started. It was the go-to bit of rhetoric when people were discouraging Bernie Sanders supporters.
“Bernie is great and all, but only Hillary can win the election.”
Well, you’ll likely hear a lot of pundits and media personalities over the next few days expounding on how the third parties Nader’d the race, or how racism and xenophobia triumphed over the forces of progress, but those are difficult variables to quantify, when you get right down to it. While I’m sure that there are a lot of Trump supporters who are, quite frankly, the sort of racist caricature that they’re depicted as being by their Democrat detractors, the fact of the matter is that a.) those people were never going to vote for a Democrat to begin with, b.) the country as a whole elected a black president twice, and c.) it ignores certain realities that are quantifiable.
Like the fact that we are hip deep in the middle of the economic recovery that wasn’t. Sure, the markets are doing well, and the Dow is up, and unemployment is down. But workforce participation has fallen for pretty much the last 8 years straight, and the middle and lower classes haven’t seen their income increase for roughly the same period.
The market might be doing well, but all that does is drive home a fact that too many people in America have gained a visceral understanding of: Globalization helps the very rich, and the very poor, and relatively few in between.
Eventually it will help everyone. But eventually is a long time away when you’ve watched your town die after the factory closed, or found yourself unable to live the life you expected to live because the jobs simply aren’t there.
So yes. Trump tapped into a vein of racism and bigotry that people had hoped was a lot smaller than it proved to be. But that’s not all that he tapped into.
And that is how we got where we are now.
The Democrats chose to run the candidate of the status quo against someone who promised the sort of change that far too many people in this country have been clamoring for for far too long. The fact that Trump likely can’t deliver on those promises, that he quite possibly has no intention of doing so, and that he’s a spray-tanned buffoon doesn’t really matter. He’s making the right noises, pissing off the right people, and all the backlash against him just proves that he’s doing the right thing, in the eyes of his supporters.
Hillary was a poor choice.
“But she’s qualified!”
Doesn’t matter. For one, she’s what, not even a two term senator and Secretary of State? I hate to break it to you, but to most people, her time spent as First Lady of the US and/or Arkansas doesn’t… qualify… as on the job experience. They don’t see it, and it doesn’t matter that she had a more active role that most.
“Third parties ruined her chances!”
Third party candidates should be in the math, or you’re a shitty strategist for one thing, and the fact that Johnson and to a lesser extent Stein were even on the radar this year is a testament to just how badly the major parties screwed up in their choices.
What’s more, Johnson (the only third party candidate of note) was the Libertarian candidate. If he didn’t pull at least half his support from the Republican side of things, I’d be shocked.
“But the Republicans are to blame for choosing Trump!”
Yes. And no. The Republicans don’t have the same rules as the Democrats. No system of superdelegates to insulate the elites of the party from the wishes of the plebs. Except that this time, the superdelegates screwed the pooch, putting party politics ahead of smart strategy.
Sure, Hillary had name recognition, and qualifications, and the potential for making history as the first female President. But she also had all the downsides of a political history coupled with relatively few wins on her own, and she couldn’t wrap herself in the warm glow of the Obama administration’s halo in part because she’s still got tarnish on hers from the Clinton administration.
The fact that the Democrat superdelegates came out in overwhelming force for Hillary the day she announced should be proof enough to the leadership of that party that that is not the way that they should be employed. They wield enormous power over the primary by the simple virtue of their capability to give one of the candidates a nearly insurmountable hill to climb, and while Sanders did his best, it wasn’t enough.
And if they’d been smart, they’d have held off. They’d have watched the primary, waited, and seen which of the candidates was bringing in the most new voters. Because despite how many people will be telling you that the Berniebros or Steinbots or w/e pejorative they choose ruined the election for Clinton by simply not showing up, why would they?
The party already proved to them, most definitively, that it didn’t care about what they wanted. They owed it no loyalty, and while you may curse their shortsightedness, realize that to a lot of people, Hillary Clinton’s stated policies are nearly as repugnant as Donald Trump’s.
“But the FBI!”
Yes, Comey screwed up.
But Clinton dug that hole herself. He just pushed her back into it at the 11th hour. So while I concur that Comey had no business publicizing the fact that the FBI managed to scrounge up over half a million emails while searching for more of Anthony Weiner’s dick pics, Clinton should have known better than to put herself in that position to begin with.
All factors considered, I long ago reached what many would consider a rather startling conclusion: Hillary Clinton isn’t a particularly good politician.
Good at the sort of backroom dealings and political maneuvering that make up life in Washington and Wall Street, perhaps, but not at the public side of politics. Not the part that actually gets you elected. Then again, Hillary hasn’t ever really had to stand for an election.
Shocking, I know. I mean, according to the pundits, she’s the best thing since sliced bread, a politician of consummate skill and verve. Except that she’s never been in a fight to the finish. Her “election” to the Senate in 2000 was quite literally a coronation; a seat vacated by a Democrat who had held it for 24 years, up against… Well, as it turned out, up against a Republican candidate who didn’t even place in the primary, but won the nomination by default when Giuliani pulled out. In ’06, it was even more one-sided; Clinton still spent almost $40 million dollars vying for a seat that wasn’t in any doubt, however.
So yeah. Not exactly a seasoned veteran in the trenches, when you get right down to it.
And the Democrats either forgot that, or ignored it. Maybe they figured they could ride the Obama train for another four years, maybe they figured the Clinton legacy would win through, or maybe they just figured that this time, goddamnit, they’d get the Chosen One through to the election, rather than getting stymied like they did back in ’08.
Except for one little problem: Hillary Clinton pulled, in total, fewer votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012. And she won the popular vote, admittedly pretty much on the back of Californian voters panicking as they watched what was supposed to be an easy win go south on them in record time.
Congratulations, you helped create an election toxic enough that you couldn’t even mobilize your base against a reality show host until it was far, far too late.
This shouldn’t have been as much of a shock as it was. Hell, I was considerably more skeptical than most about the odds of Hillary sweeping the election, despite the polls and pundits saying she was easily going to win, and I still expected her to squeak out a victory. The fact that Michigan and Pennsylvania went to Trump should terrify the Democrats; these have been solid blue states for at least the last 24 years, and suddenly they’re not.
They’re not because the Democrats have forgotten their roots, and when the populist faction of their party finally rose up this year in the form of Bernie Sanders, they smacked it down hard and told it to wait its turn. That the worries of the middle class worry it less than the worries of Wall Street. That they should trust the elites who haven’t managed to do much for them in the last eight years.
“Hold your nose and vote for Hillary”, they said, “It’s the only way to prevent the Republicans from stacking the Supreme Court, and that’s all that matters.”
Clearly, the voters disagreed.