Post-election ennui is a foregone conclusion for most sane people (like junk food is for the intestine, there’s a limit to how many bumper-sticker slogans and dimwitted soundbites our collective psyche can handle before the floodgates open). But the results are finally in: Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the next US President come January, and the Republicans will hold a majority of the seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. To say that some segment of the American public is caught off-guard is an understatement.
A year ago I wrote a post on Trump that summarized my views on him, vis-a-vis the average American voter:
Simply put, the man is an asshole, and people can better relate to assholes than straight-arrows. They forget about the fact that nothing about Donald Trump is actually relatable to them personally. You weren’t born rich. You don’t get to walk away happily from one bankruptcy after another, after another, after another, and still be called “financially savvy”. You don’t get to insult people on a deeply personal level, and still be seen as anything other than a sour old crank. You are, in every way imaginable, living in a different reality than Donald Trump. And, no, by associating with his name–his brand–you will not be granted access to it, either
To some members of the public Trump is a vicarious personification of how they wish that they, too, could behave (as they please, without fears of consequences). To this segment of the population no deeper reason really needs to exist to convince them that Trump is the man to lead the nation. There are a multitude of other reasons people voted for Trump, of course (worries over immigration trends, worries over big government, distrust or dissatisfaction with Democratic policies, etc.), but a too-thorough analysis really isn’t necessary since–whatever the underlying reasons are–Trump managed to actually appeal to enough members of this society to sell himself as the worthy candidate.
This brings me then to the losing side. With the many confusing factors that made up the 2016 election, explaining why Hillary Clinton never enjoyed mass appeal is the easiest thing to pinpoint. Again, allow me to re-post what I wrote last year:
In the past decade and a half, [Clinton] has been foolishly hawkish when she backed the Iraq war for as long as public opinion could stomach it; she currently speaks out against corporate greed, yet seems to forget that she sat in government, not proposing or supporting a single piece of legislation that might have curbed the coming market crash in 2008, or reformed the financial sector in this country in any way whatsoever; she has never given more than passive support for the rights of gays, low-income families, the labor class, or anybody else for that matter, until she was absolutely sure that such stances polled favorably with the electoral public.
In short, the conundrum that faces the Left in this country when it comes to electing Hillary Clinton is similar to the one that faced them in the 90s with the first Clinton. Namely, the Clintons have no ideology, political or otherwise, to propose, stand, or even fall on: the sole purpose on which any Clinton campaign is fueled by is strictly the unyielding need to get elected. All other concerns are secondary, if nonexistent to this guiding purpose.
The gamble the Democratic Party played was the hope that the American public would look past these obvious flaws in Hillary Clinton’s character, and instead galvanize around the fact that Donald Trump is an incompetent, thin-skinned, pompous, insulting, crybaby, bloated simpleton, wrapped up in a narcissistic package of a special kind of clueless buffoonery. The problem with this line of thinking is that it blatantly illustrated a disregard for their own potential political allies (i.e. moderate and liberal Americans), as if they hoped for the average Democratic voter to be too stupid to realize when a candidate (and her entire Party leadership) were unwilling to afford them the due respect to at least acknowledge the gaping flaws surrounding their candidate’s record, and just rely on the flaws of the opposing candidate to carry them through to the finish. While there may have been a time not long ago when this was true of political campaigns, it simply isn’t any longer. Technology has afforded us too much access behind the veil, too much data at our fingertips, for any perceived lack of sincerity to be brushed aside as irrelevant (Trump may very well have lied about everything he said during his campaign, but the Clinton campaign’s history of trying to downplay any blemish in her political record is what disenfranchised people who may otherwise have been inclined to vote Democratic).
The core lesson that should be gained from this election is the fact that Americans no longer just believe that the political system is corrupt, but that corruption is an innate part of the system. And when these same people say they demand change, rather than settle for hogwash establishment rhetoric, they will go out and choose whatever real change they can find–given the option, they will even choose bad change over the same old “business-as-usual” candidates. Whether this is a lesson that the Democrats learn remains to be seen, however. Lest we forget that the shallow brilliance of political minds lies in the infinite depth of their stupidity when it comes to deducing the reality around them. And if you disagree with that, consult the accuracy of the political experts and pollsters leading up to this election, then revisit how my previous sentence hardly went far enough in explaining their ineptitude.