So. The polls were wrong. Clinton got the popular vote by a little, and lost the electoral college by a lot. To Trump’s supporters, Trump won. Yet a more accurate conclusion is that Hillary Clinton lost: lost the young voters, lost the confidence of her own party, shook off the notion – a kind of meme until now – that one could merely procure the presidency with entitlement alone. She lost precisely because this was an election that should have been un-losable, what with an experienced career politician running against a TV star who was caught, on video, describing what was perceived to be sexual assault, with a dozen or so women coming forward to corroborate this. To be sure, both are still extremely unpopular, scandal-prone figures. Neither managed to win the majority of the electorate, whipped up, at each side, by hatred for and fear of the other side. Their antics ensured the rise of Third Party candidates, and even put Bernie Sanders, a life-long Independent, socialist, atheist, and Jew, into the spotlight as the ‘spirit’ of America’s populist wing, with a reasonable chance of being President, today, had he been the nominee. One candidate promised mass disturbances if the other side won. Then, that other side lost, ushering in a wave of protests that questioned the new president’s legitimacy, replete with petitions to get the electoral college to do the Left’s bidding, an ironic little twist that’s lost on the protesters, and the entire Democratic Party, really, which is still trying to figure out what went wrong.
Yet the question of why Hillary Clinton lost is not a very complex one. One merely needs to look at her behavior over the last thirty years, and the superficially unique alternative Donald Trump offered. Whereas Clinton had been entrenched in a terrible establishment for decades, Trump presented himself as an ‘outsider’ ready to “drain the swamp” of political life. Of course, Trump has already filled the new administration with Washington insiders, with hardly a protest from his supporters, but that doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter that he’s now turning his back on other, key campaign promises as well. The “great, big, beautiful wall” that Mexico would pay for has become a “fence extension” with “a double layer,” that his poorest voters will now pay for, which was, ironically, Hillary’s own proposal. Obamacare, once a “total disaster” which needed to be “completely repealed,” will – if Trump has his way – be preserved at its core due to the popularity of its individual parts. Jamie Dimon, whom Trump has criticized for even being considered for Secretary of the Treasury by Clinton, has now been extended the same invitation by the Trump team. The mass deportation of illegal aliens, another Trump cornerstone, is not really a priority, now. The Iran deal, which he vowed to “rip up”, will pretty much remain the same. And when asked about the mass registration of American Muslims, as well as a complete stop to all Muslim immigration, Trump listened to the question, thanked the journalists for coming, and simply left the room, likely wishing he’d never made the promise in the first place: or rather, not caring, at all, for he’ll merely ignore the thing until it goes away, with his biggest supporters giving him a free pass, and no one loses. Voters, then, must question what they actually voted for, because it sure ain’t what they thought it’d be. Trump ran on a ticket of ‘change’ that was anything but, yet still won, because America – and the entire world, really – responds psychologically to at least the simulacrum of movement as opposed to a few wan patchworks. This is as true in 2016 as it was in 2008, as it was in 1992, as it will be whenever people have to vote with their biases, and baggage, and perceived self-interest.
Now- that’s Trump. Yet to blame the election merely on Trump’s lies, or the stupidity of the electorate, misses the point. Keep in mind that Clinton first lost against a supposedly inexperienced, Muslim, African-born candidate in 2008, almost lost to an old, atheist, socialist in the primaries, then lost, again, against the most unpopular candidate in modern history. These are not flukes or misplaced emotions, but an indictment of the Democratic Party, as well as Clinton’s toxic nature. A few articles try to refute the conventional reportage that 2016 voter turnout was low, but while they are busy with numbers, they also refuse to consider their implications. The fact is, had Clinton managed to even break records in voter turnout, she – along with Trump – would have still broken records in the number of unhappy voters who turned out, failed to convincingly take the youth vote, and lost some of the swing states that Bernie Sanders beat her in during the primaries. Democrats, who are less loyal than Republicans, as a rule, also crossed party lines in unprecedented numbers to vote Trump, neatly reflecting many Democrats’ belief that Clinton should have been indicted in July. Yes, voter turnout, overall, was higher than expected, but given the two candidates up on offer, it is an open question as to whether they went to the polls to vote for something they believed in, or against the candidate they loathed. And this isn’t some intangible, academic question. After all, it is much easier to build a mandate from incentives rather than to run a campaign of fear: fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, yes, but fear of Trump, as well, rather than a love for some well-delineated alternative.
In other words, the issue was Hillary Clinton and her Party’s sense of entitlement. Every four years, they’d provide some excuse for why it’s wrong – say – to ‘waste’ one’s vote on a Third Party. Every four years, it was all about duty, obligation, fear. Now they claim, in their post hoc kind of way, that Clinton was, perhaps, a ‘flawed’ candidate after all. Now there’s a funny word! Clinton, who stumped for NAFTA, the destruction of welfare, DOMA, deregulation, mass incarceration of blacks, and did virtually nothing of note during her eight-year stint as Senator, only to run a racist campaign against Obama in 2008 and screw up the Middle East as Secretary of State, actually expected to inherit the liberal and minority vote on account of her name and her vagina? As I’ve argued elsewhere, it was dangerous to run a Clinton against a Trump, since the mood, clearly, was for change, and it didn’t matter whether it was right or left, as long as it was on the table. Yet the establishment went along with Clinton, anyway, a much-disliked politician with multiple scandals to her name, a bad record, and a trail of hypocrisy almost as bad, in the political realm, as Trump’s is, in the ‘real’ world. Yet her supporters and party hacks STILL haven’t learned, apparently, blaming the Greens and Libertarians for ‘taking away’ what should have been a truly historic win. They are admitting, literally, that Clinton’s campaign was so bad that it utterly depended upon the whims of a few million Third Party voters, and that ‘if only’ Clinton had been extended the mathematically-impossible privilege of getting the bulk of the Green vote, then she’d be president now. Just LOOK at the sense of entitlement, the cynicism, the opportunism, and the angry, resentful ways most human beings respond to such, for therein lies the great undoing of 2016. The fact is, the Democrats need to LEARN from their mistakes, and unless they are punished by their own base, there will always be Trumps and Reagans in the future ready to exact the consequences, themselves.
Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, this is what Democrats need to do. First, they need to quit bitching. Trump won. Say what you will of his long con, but he went out there and earned every single vote he got, just like Obama did in 2008, co-opting the Green platform to such an extent that they were effectively nullified for the next four years. So, that’s that. Call off those idiotic petitions to get ‘faithless electors’ to reverse course and re-instate Clinton, since all that would do is heighten anger, and completely wreck the credibility of the Democratic Party for years to come. Then, start looking for REAL candidates to represent people’s interests, candidates fresh to the system, candidates who’ve proven themselves willing to fight for the sort of things that ARE popular, today, things which have become the new norm, things which can’t brushed aside. Get the better chunk of Trump’s platform, such as the repeal of NAFTA, or cleaning up Washington insiders, and, unlike Trump, actually implement it! Put Bernie Sanders somewhere visible to assuage voters’ anger over what happened with the DNC. Give folks like Elizabeth Warren a bigger platform, for the time being. But do NOT give these same folks – no matter how good they are – the go-ahead to run for high office, since we need new people, younger people, politicians who’ve not been infected by the Democrats’ own contagion, to break free from what the Party has been doing for decades now. Let the Obama coalition not lead, but serve as mentors for new leaders. There can be no Clintons, Tim Kaines, Cory Bookers, or other corporatist hacks from this point on. Do not block every piece of Republican legislation merely because it is Republican. Do not hope for Trump’s failure as President merely because it’s Trump. Do not cry foul when someone beats you at the game you should have prepared for. And, most of all, do NOT try to play a game you are ill-equipped to play, outdoing the Republicans by Republican means, as the less savory Democrats have done, but sticking to classic Democratic promises – yet delivering on them, this time. You MUST realize that this is what a huge portion of Trump’s base voted for, and will NOT get. So, instead of maligning them, co-opt them, because you will need them. But for that to work, they must need YOU.
As for the Republicans? They are, like the Democrats a few short weeks ago, quite happy. They’ve got the executive branch, the House, and the Senate, with a possible conservative pick for a vacancy in the Supreme Court. They feel they have a conservative mandate. Yet just as the Democrats have – thankfully – imploded, the Republicans, too, are on the brink of collapse. They assume they’ll be able to run hacks like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio once the Trump ‘nightmare’ passes. They assume these hacks will be up against the Tim Kaines and Hillary Clintons of the ‘other’ party, and things will be as they’ve always been. But while Democrats must simply hold steady on the promises they have been making all these years, the Republicans need to completely re-think their own ideology. The Religious Right is dead. I mean, they voted for a man that runs completely counter to it, and who is turning out to be the exact opposite on issues American conservatives have long held to. In a way, it didn’t really matter which side won during this election, since the fractures were already there. The Democrats have fallen first, yes, but all this means is that they can re-group now, whereas the Republican implosion will surprise everyone: including Donald Trump, who, after conducting what appeared to be a long, elaborate joke, has now gone too far, has won the presidency, and has no fuckin’ clue what to do with it. That’s okay, because others will – if, of course, they’ll take the time to learn from this nullification.