President Trump says he will veto the NDAA that funds the Pentagon at $740 billion for FY 2021. Congress appears to have the votes to override his veto.
What caught my eye was part of Trump’s rationale for the veto: China. China will apparently be outraged when Trump vetoes the bill. Here’s the report (from the Guardian):
Trump says he will veto defense bill
Donald Trump once again said he intends to veto the annual defense authorization bill, setting up a potential veto override by Congress.
“I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy,” the president said in a tweet. “They love it. Must have Section 230 termination, protect our National Monuments and allow for removal of military from far away, and very unappreciative, lands. Thank you!”
We just witnessed four years of red-baiting by the Democrats against the Republicans and Trump (“Moscow Mitch”?) with Russia as the Bad Red Guy. Prepare for four years of red-baiting by Republicans against the Democrats and Biden (“Hunter, Made in China”?) with China as the Bad Red Guy. The winner: the military-industrial complex. The loser: the American people, and perhaps the world.
Actually, Trump has a point about the NDAA inhibiting his ability to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s too bad he didn’t focus on that and the issue of bipartisan support of endless wars.
But he had to hit the China gong, and it will resound loudly in the coming years. You know what they say about payback, Democrats …
Trump lost the election more than Biden won it. Trump lost mainly because of the pandemic and the economy. Biden ran on little other than “not being Trump” and squeaked by on that weak message. Sure, he’s president, but he has no mandate.
74 million Americans didn’t vote for Trump solely because he’s racist, sexist, bigoted, and ignorant. Sure, some of them voted due to White supremacy and so on, but some pro-Trump votes reflect the bankruptcy in ideas from Biden/Harris. The Democrats simply offered little to the working class, e.g. the total rejection of Medicare for All during a pandemic. Biden was quoted as saying nothing would fundamentally change in his administration. How’s that for inspiration?
To establishment Democrats like Biden, the Republicans may be rivals but Progressives are the real enemy. So far, Biden’s announced staff and cabinet has zero Progressives in it. “Diversity” for Biden and the DNC does not include diversity in policy views. “Good” policies are those that favor the donors and owners. Anyone to the left of Biden need not apply.
If the Democratic Presidential primaries taught us one thing, it’s that voters have no say. The DNC has the only say, and they pick the candidate who will best protect their sinecures, in this case Joe Biden. Voters were told, take him or vote for Trump. Or go pound sand.
The DNC exists to defeat Progressive challengers like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard. Both Sanders and Gabbard refused big cash from big donors, and that is simply not allowed. A “respectable” candidate must be beholden to the big donors, else the DNC simply won’t support you. Indeed, it will do most anything to stop you.
Surely one of the most despicable acts I’ve seen in politics was the smearing of Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian asset by NBC News and Hillary Clinton. They essentially denounced an Army major and Congresswoman as a traitor, or at the very least a useful idiot, a tool of the Kremlin. What was Tulsi’s main message again? Oh, she was against America’s wasteful and wanton regime-change wars.
The big winners of the 2020 election were predictable: Big pharma, private health insurance companies, the military-industrial complex, fossil fuel companies, and so on. Biden/Harris will continue to serve their interests.
When the senior leaders are Biden, McConnell, and Pelosi, you know Washington is bereft of new ideas and innovative leadership.
Even more ignored than climate change in this election was any serious talk of ending America’s wars overseas. Look for them to continue at least until 2024.
America remains a country of two parties: A Republican Party increasingly in Trump’s mold, and a Republican-lite Party (otherwise known as Democrats) in service to business and the moneyed interests. In a “pay to play” system, how could it be otherwise? The results of 2020 prove America needs a new party. Call it the Workers’ Party, the Progressive Party, the People’s Party, what-have-you, but recognize that, without campaign finance reform and public funding of elections, 2024 is likely to produce yet another round of a Trumpist candidate against a DNC corporate tool/Republican-lite. And they dare call it “choice”!
The predictable headlines are here: “Biden plans to reach across the aisle” to solicit Republican support. Even though he just won the popular vote by more than five million and a clear electoral victory as well, Biden must compromise with Republicans. Just because.
Remember when Donald Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million in 2016? And eked out electoral victories in three states? Did he feel the need “to reach across the aisle” to Democrats? Of course not. Trump and the Republicans took no prisoners. They got the tax cut they wanted. They did their best to overturn Obamacare. They got three supreme court justices. No reaching across the aisle required.
If Biden were a real Democrat, and the Democratic Party a real party, there’d be no premature talk of aisle-reaching and bipartisan handshaking. But Biden and the DNC are essentially moderate Republicans, as Barack Obama himself admitted in an interview. You might say they’re DINOs: Democrats in name only. Dinosaurs.
Speaking of dinosaurs, remember when Americans made fun of the aging leaders of the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s? “Gerontocracy” is the word I remember back then. Joe Biden will be 78 when he takes office; Mitch McConnell, likely to remain the Senate majority leader will also be 78, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, is 80. I have nothing against senior citizens, but it’s not a coincidence that the three most powerful people in U.S. government are 80 or pushing 80. They are all creatures of a system that is all about sustaining a status quo. A status quo in which two parties, one that’s center-right and the other far-right, work to ensure that money keeps flowing into the usual pockets, irrespective of world-changing events like climate change.
With respect to Biden’s cabinet, early reports are that we’ll see a lot of Obama and Clinton retreads espousing the usual neoliberal or neoconservative positions. They’ll be more “diverse” voices,” i.e. more women, more people of color, even an openly gay guy (Mayor Pete!), but the song will remain the same. I’m guessing not a single prominent progressive voice will be added to Biden’s cabinet. None.
With respect to action, I don’t see Biden even trying to expand the Supreme Court. I see a lot of half measures: a weak attempt at a “green” economy, a weak attempt at reforming Obamacare, perhaps an expansion of Medicare to cover people 60 and older, and so on. These and similar half measures will be consistent with what the donors and owners want. And if Biden fails even with this tepid plan, he can always blame Mitch McConnell and those obstinate Republicans who just can’t seem to reach across that same aisle that Biden is so eager to cross.
Of course, there is no “aisle” to reach across. There’s plenty of bipartisan consensus already in Washington. One clear example is at the Pentagon and the Defense budget, which continues to soar no matter which party is in power.
The only “aisle” Biden truly needs to reach across is the progressive one within his own party — and I can almost guarantee you it’s the one he’s least likely to cross.
Trump isn’t running against Biden/Harris. He’s running against a caricature of the Democratic Party. The usual lies: the “radical left” is coming to take your guns; they hate America; they want open borders so that America will be flooded with non-white foreigners; they’re godless socialists; they favor abortion on demand; they want to turn your kids against you by controlling education; and so on. The truth is entirely the opposite: Biden/Harris are in fact the darlings of Wall Street and are without a radical bone in their bodies.
Trump and the Republicans are running without a platform. It’s rather remarkable that the Republican Party is totally subservient to Trump. Meanwhile, Trump’s “platform” is more of the same, including yet another capital gains tax cut. And if Trump wins, you can count on the “radical” Democrats approving that tax cut.
Trump still wants to overturn Obamacare during a pandemic, which could lead to 20 million people losing their health care coverage. It’s no surprise that repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps the rich the most, as their taxes will decrease. (As an aside, polls show Americans favor the ACA more than they do Obamacare: they are, of course, the exact same thing.)
Trump’s rallies have served as super-spreader events for Covid-19. In short, the president is a pandemic vector, yet his supporters continue to love him and defend him. Death cult?
Way back in April 2019, I picked Biden/Harris as the Democratic dream ticket. You know: an elder white guy balanced by a younger black woman, sort of like a network news team that is supposed to show inclusion and diversity while broadcasting steadiness. Yes, the fix was in from the beginning. Biden has said nothing will fundamentally change under his administration, the one promise he will be certain to keep.
Compared to Biden supporters, Trump supporters are more fired up, more committed to their man and how he makes them feel. Meanwhile, Trump is at pains to show how many people cheer for him at his rallies. If Trump loses, how will these supporters process that loss?
I can’t remember a presidential election in which foreign policy has been so infrequently discussed. Presidents possess the most latitude in dealing with other countries, yet rarely did Biden or Trump answer any questions in detail about world affairs. The impression from their “debates” is that China and Russia are enemies and that a new cold war is essentially inevitable. Neither candidate talked about defense spending except to stress it probably would go up. The U.S. dominance of the world’s trade in weapons went unremarked upon. America’s wars they pretty much ignored.
A final thought: If you think your vote is worthless, you’re wrong. If it was worthless, various forces wouldn’t be trying to buy it, or block it, or otherwise restrict it. The choices may be depressing, but I’ve found voting itself to be uplifting. Get out there and vote!
Chatting with friends today via email, we discussed Trump’s prospects for a second term. Trump could win again, one friend said. “Could” win? He’s got this thing locked up, another friend added. It’s beginning to feel that way.
What’s Trump’s secret? Sure, he’s a shameless con man. He passes himself off as a “law and order” man even as his own way of living demonstrates lawlessness and disorder. Sure, his ignorance, his narcissism, and his laziness have combined to produce 200,000 American deaths from Covid-19, a figure that should have been far smaller with firm leadership from an engaged president.
Yet his supporters don’t hold him responsible for any of this: deaths, disorder, lawlessness in the government, who cares? They favor Trump because he gives them what they want. He makes them feel good.
Can you say the same of Joe Biden? Biden is largely a cipher who’s been picked by the donor class precisely because he’s predictable. His appeals to the progressive base of his party are at best lukewarm. While Trump feeds his base red meat, Biden gives his some warmed up, somewhat spoiled, leftovers.
Trump is an empty shell of man, devoid of compassion and humility. But he knows how to sell, and he knows how to deliver, even if that delivery isn’t quite what one was expecting. So, for example, he hasn’t built much of his great big beautiful wall along the southern border, and Mexico sure isn’t paying for it, but Trump has kept fighting for it. New portions of the wall are being built. And his base likes this because they like walls that allegedly keep out killers and rapists and they like Trump for persisting. Even if the final result is ineffective, a colossal waste of money, it made his base feel better. And Trump knows this.
Trump is delivering with the Supreme Court as well, with help from the ultimate Washington swamp creature, Mitch McConnell. How did Obama do with his Supreme Court choice in 2016? That poor weak man had his pick stolen from him. You think Trump and McConnell are going to let Democrats block or cheat them? Forget about it.
In four short years, Trump will deliver three supreme court justices who are conservative and who will likely overturn Roe v. Wade, sealing the support of evangelicals until End Times. Again, like him or loathe him, Trump has delivered to his base.
Remember when Obama promised hope and change in 2008 and then hired all the usual suspects in Washington to protect businesses and the bankers while screwing the little people? Remember when Obama instantly caved on the idea of universal health care as he worked toward what became Obamacare, which is basically Romneycare and originally a conservative idea? Remember when Obama admitted his policies were basically those of a moderate Republican? So do I.
That’s why we got Trump in 2016. That and the terrible campaign his Democratic rival ran. “I’m with her,” but she wasn’t with me or the majority of Americans, so she lost. Now we have Joe Biden, yet another Democrat who wants to win without promising anything to the base that will upset his donors.
And how does that base feel about Joe? My sense is they are, at best, ambivalent. They don’t trust him. And why should they? Biden is establishment, unexciting, and past his prime. Trump is anti-establishment (in his poses), exciting (in a violent and visceral way), and still hitting on most of his cylinders. Edge to Trump.
Look: Readers of Bracing Views know I despise Trump. I find Biden unreliable as well as uninspiring. His message, so far, is “I’m not Trump.” And I don’t think that’s enough.
You need to inspire. You need to make people feel — something. Trump does this, mostly in a highly charged and negative way. His followers like him and think that Trump knows them and cares about them. Biden is not connecting, not in the same charged way as Trump does, and he’s not giving the Democratic base much of anything.
If the Democrats lose yet again, they had better change tactics and actually play to their base, else you can start penciling in Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner as America’s president and “first man” in 2024.
With Trump trailing in the polls, some people have suggested an “October surprise” looms, such as a provocation against Iran, that could swing the election. But what if this “surprise” is something different. What if Trump decides to outflank Biden on an issue of great importance to ordinary Americans. It’s a scenario that’s more than possible, as the redoubtable M. Davout argues in his latest article for this site. W.J. Astore
In my first contribution to Bracing Views a little more than four years ago, I appealed, as an enthusiastic advocate for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, to fellow Bernie supporters in swing states to vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming general election. This election cycle I will be taking a different approach.
The virtual Democratic National Convention for the 2020 general election has just ended with the nomination of a candidate, Joe Biden, whose political instincts, record in office, and stated policy goals are in most essential respects updates of Clinton’s. Despite the convention speakers’ almost universal silence about policy, we can expect from a Biden win a continuation of what has largely been the Democratic Party policy agenda of the last forty years: maintenance of the US global military umbrella, protection of neoliberal economic interests, and gestures of racial inclusiveness and multicultural tolerance.
If Biden wins, it will be because of Trump’s catastrophic public health leadership failures in the face of the Covid pandemic, which has radically disrupted social life, tanked many parts of the economy, and thus far killed 175,000+ American lives. And Trump’s heartless and authoritarian response to the mobilization of millions of people in street demonstrations affirming that Black Lives Matter has not helped his electoral prospects.
In his acceptance speech, Biden emphatically told us that if elected he will take effective action to get a grip on the Covid crisis. Yet, on other occasions, he has also told us that if he wins, he will not fundamentally address the more insidious and chronic crisis of tens of millions of Americans with few, if any, health care options, even going so far as to say that he would veto any Medicare-for-All bill passed by Congress. On the issue of policing, he has been up front about his intention not to challenge the militarized and racist institutions of policing in this country other than to call for more training and prohibition of police use of choke holds.
The sad truth is that of the two major party candidates, only one has ever run a national campaign as an economic populist and it isn’t the current standard bearer of the Democratic Party. In 2016, Donald Trump promised Americans that he would get all of them great health care, take on Big Pharma and make prescription drugs affordable, end the hemorrhaging of American lives and treasure in foreign wars and drain the swamp by putting a stop to special interest corruption of members of Congress. Trump was lying, of course, but these lies were just effective enough in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania because the Democratic Party had lost all credibility as the party of working people.
So, this cycle, rather than try to persuade my fellow Bernie supporters once again to vote democratic, let me try a different approach and offer Trump some electoral advice. Give a nationally televised Oval Office speech in which you commit to stopping the pandemic and embrace, as one of the main pillars of your pandemic response, Medicare-for-All. Tell the American people the truth—that the private health insurance system in the U.S. has failed to protect the health of the American people and instead has lined the pockets of CEOs, rich shareholders, medical specialists, insurance industry lobbyists and members of Congress. Tell them that ensuring universal and affordable access to healthcare through universal expansion of Medicare is an essential step not only in defeating Covid-19 but also in protecting against the pandemics that might occur down the road. A true nation-state takes care of its own and Medicare-for-All will Make America Great Again.
As a certified political scientist, I can guarantee that you stand only to gain electorally by taking this advice. You won’t lose your business supporters and anti-Communist Republican voters–they will know that you are lying. The idea of universal health insurance based on the expansion of a system on which their parents and grandparents have relied will be attractive to your white working class base voters who have suffered disproportionately from opioid and alcohol addiction and deaths. And, who knows, maybe some progressives, unhinged by Biden’s hostility to universal coverage, will pull the lever for you. It may be enough to keep Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in your column (and maybe even swing Minnesota your way).
I give this advice not because I want Trump to win but because of my conviction that until the Democratic Party is forced to compete for working class votes on the basis of economic populism, we are going to be locked into an ever more dangerous cycle of alternating rule by neoliberal Democrats and nationalist-racist Republican populists.
M. Davout teaches political science in the Deep South.
President Trump’s strategy for winning in 2020 is to fan the flames of culture war, including blatant references to white power. Even some Republicans seem embarrassed, though not enough to make any difference in Trump’s reprehensible tactics. Trump’s emptiness is incalculable — this and his cult-like “base” make him a dangerous man indeed. He needs to be denounced and voted out of office; how disappointing is it that the Democratic alternative is Joe Biden, a man with his own record of lies, a man with little going for him except that he’s not Donald Trump.
Along with culture war, Republicans are also doing their best to discourage voting. The tactics here are many: fewer polling stations, meaning longer lines and wait times; voter ID laws to counter non-existent voter fraud; disenfranchisement of voters through purges of rolls; opposition to mail-in ballots and other efforts to make voting easier and safer in the age of Covid-19; the presence of “monitors” at polling sites as a form of intimidation.
Rally the base while suppressing the overall vote: this, apparently, is what Trump is counting on this November.
Why? Because Trump has nothing real to run on. His biggest “accomplishment” was a tax break for corporations and for the richest Americans. When asked by Fox News about what he wanted to accomplish in his second term, Trump had nothing specific to say. No policy goals. Nothing. The one thing he seems determined to do, besides building his wall, is eliminating Obamacare, which would throw tens of millions off their health care plans during a pandemic.
If cynicism has a bottom, Trump hasn’t found it yet, though not for want of trying.
Of course, Trump’s culture war is as ugly as it is racist. It’s also a distraction from rampant and blatant kleptocracy. For example, the latest “defense” budget calls for $740 billion in spending, yet the key issue for Trump is to defend military posts that are named for Confederate officers. Trump, a New York City trust fund baby, as Yankee as a Yankee can be, poses as a principled defender of Confederate leaders and the Confederate battle flag, in the name of “respecting our past.” Consider him the quintessential con man as cultural carpetbagger, cynically adopting any position that he can use to inflame his base and drive them to the polls this November.
Truly, these are bizarre times. Trump, the Vietnam draft dodger, the man of heel spurs infamy, celebrates Generals George Patton and Douglas MacArthur as his ideals. As military leaders, both were deeply flawed; both were vainglorious; both were over-celebrated and overrated. Small wonder that Trump sees something in them that he sees in himself: overweening egotism, the quest for victory at any cost, including the deaths of their own troops.
Trump wants America to turn on itself, to consume itself, and as long as he wins another term, he couldn’t care less about the cost. Why? Because he doesn’t see us as his fellow citizens — he sees us as his subjects. And even if you count yourself in his “base,” he likely sees you as nothing more than a patsy. A sucker. And, based on his total lack of leadership when it comes to Covid-19, he literally doesn’t care if you live or die.
Trump is a wannabe king, and he will say or do most anything to keep his grip on power. Having just marked another July 4th celebration of America’s independence from a capricious monarch, King George III, it doesn’t make any sense to re-empower another mad king.
Don’t be distracted by Trump’s culture wars and his incessant divisiveness, America. Remember its intent: to divide is the way to conquer. Trump doesn’t want “to keep America great.” He wants to keep it servile to him. He wants you under his spell, shouting his name, laughing at his cruel jokes.
Is that what you want for yourself and for our country?
As millions of Americans are laid off or lose their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis, they often also lose their employer-provided health care. You think maybe it’s finally time for Medicare For All?
Americans will have to rely increasingly on credit cards, which charge usurious interest rates of 25% or higher, even as the Fed has lowered the prime rate nearly to zero for banks. Any chance that banks and credit card companies will dramatically lower their rates to help Americans in this time of crisis?
Speaking of credit card companies and high interest rates, guess who their greatest friend was in the U.S. Senate. Yes, Joe Biden, Senator from Delaware, where laws favor banks and credit card companies.
Speaking of Joe Biden, guess who’s been virtually invisible during the coronavirus crisis. His handlers apparently think Joe isn’t ready for prime time. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has been raising millions for charity and promoting sensible ideas that are later adopted by the Trump administration.
The DNC, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer don’t know what to think or do until their corporate masters provide guidance or give them permission. Meanwhile, the Trump administration and the Republicans are filling the vacuum, even as they push legislation that supports their pet ideas and programs (restrictions on immigration, further attacks on public education, and the like).
Party-line Democrats want payments to Americans to be means-tested. Yet help to corporations is never means-tested. What gives? In the spirit of trickle-down economics, expect a few drops of assistance to the poor and buckets-full of support for the rich.
Huge crises don’t always produce good leaders. The Great Depression exposed Herbert Hoover and his small-minded thinking. COVID-19 is exposing Trump for what he is: ignorant, lazy, incurious, incapable of empathy, petulant, and vain. Meanwhile, as an alternative, the DNC puts forward Joe Biden, a corporate tool in his late seventies showing signs of confusion and cognitive decline. Sadly, it’s not true that strong leaders arise to meet the moment — not in this White House, not in this corrupt political system.
Americans have been told for decades “You can have it all.” To have “No Fear.” To take selfies of ourselves and revel in our own individualism. Even after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, our leaders told us to go shopping and visit Disney, to consume and party. Now we’re being encouraged to come together, to help one another, to be unselfish, to live a life that’s not self-centered. But in many cases it’s too late. People aren’t listening. They’ve been told forever to focus on themselves and their own self-actualization. And you just don’t flip a propaganda/conditioning switch that easily.
That said, I salute our doctors, nurses, other medical personnel, and first responders. I salute everyone working at supermarkets and hardware stores and the like, serving us all despite the risks. I meet my neighbors on walks and I admire the spirit of friendliness and our collective willingness to help one another. We’re going to need this spirit to get through the weeks and months ahead.
“Keep calm and wash your hands” is a sign I saw at my local bank. It’s not the worst advice. Be safe out there.
Update (3/23): To no surprise, a deeply corrupt and compromised political system is responding to this crisis in a deeply corrupt and compromised way. Truly, this is a national emergency. And what is Congress doing to help ordinary people? Virtually nothing. The Senate’s “relief” package is relief for the rich and corporations and industries.
In this immense crisis, we are seeing the sheer awfulness of the religion of American capitalism.
As Trump has dithered and Biden has remained invisible, Bernie Sanders has led the charge, raising millions for charity and fighting for workers. Why can’t people see this?
I used to think the Republican party had principles of substance. I supported Gerald Ford in 1976 and found common cause with Ronald Reagan during the early ’80s. Ford was a decent man, a moderate Republican (imagine such a thing in 2017!), and people forget that Reagan worked with Gorbachev on the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Today’s Republican Party? The only “principles” they seem to have are driven by profit and power. When you sell people’s privacy, conspire to deny them health care, and authorize projects that threaten the very air they breathe and the water they drink, you are the antithesis of public servants.
President Trump, of course, is partly to blame, but he’s often little more than a blustering figurehead. Republicans in 2017 would be seeking to gut Obamacare, rape the earth, and sell everything in and out of sight regardless of which of their candidates had won the presidency. Would it really be much different under President Ted Cruz or Ben Carson or Jeb! Bush?
Who’s to blame? It sure isn’t the Russians or Comey at the FBI. You might blame Hillary Clinton in part for running a horrible campaign. And surely the Democratic Party for favoring her over Bernie Sanders. I’d also blame all those who voted for Trump and who were driven to do so for their own unprincipled reasons.
America is already paying a high cost for Republican rule. Lindy West at the Guardian puts it well: “America has never seen a party less caring than 21st-century Republicans.”
As she explains:
I don’t know that America has ever seen a political party so divested of care. Since Trump took office, Republicans have proposed legislation to destroy unions, the healthcare system, the education system and the Environmental Protection Agency; to defund the reproductive health charity Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion; to stifle public protest and decimate arts funding; to increase the risk of violence against trans people and roll back anti-discrimination laws; and to funnel more and more wealth from the poorest to the richest. Every executive order and piece of GOP legislation is destructive, aimed at dismantling something else, never creating anything new, never in the service of improving the care of the nation.
Contemporary American conservatism is not a political philosophy so much as the roiling negative space around Barack Obama’s legacy. Can you imagine being that insecure? Can you imagine not wanting children to have healthcare because you’re embarrassed a black guy was your boss? It would be sad if it wasn’t so dangerous.
A close friend put it well: “I think much of it is about spite — let’s take away whatever Obama did just because we hate him and because we CAN. Whatever he did must be wrong. Have they [the Republicans] done anything or passed any regulation since they took office that actually benefits anyone other than big business (and maybe coal miners)? I honestly can’t think of anything! Isn’t [Steve] Bannon’s philosophy to deconstruct and destroy the government? I’d say he’s succeeding.”
Yes, it’s always easier to destroy than to create. And when you destroy, there’s money to be made from the wreckage.
Behold, I give you today’s Republican Party, a party of wreckers.
In my last post, I predicted Trump would lose. I thought his declinist message and his blatant vulgarity would ultimately cost him too many votes. As Trump would say, “wrong.”
What are we to take from Trump’s stunning upset? Here are a few quick thoughts:
The Democrats ran the wrong candidate. Remember when Bernie Sanders was saying he had the best chance to defeat Trump? That the polls favored him and not Hillary? Turns out Bernie was right. People were looking for a candidate who represented change. Real change. Bernie had that. So too did Trump. But Hillary was the establishment personified. Not only that, but she had extensive baggage that led to high negatives. Too many people just didn’t like her. Or they simply wanted a fresh face and a new approach — even if that face was Trump.
The October surprise. Does Trump win without the last minute intervention of the FBI in the email follies? We’ll never know, but Hillary had the momentum prior to the letter issued by the FBI. That letter may have slowed her momentum just enough to allow Trump to win.
All politics is local — or, at least, personal. The Democrats addressed global issues like climate change. The Republicans basically denied it’s happening. The Democrats talked about embracing immigrants and tolerating Muslims. The Republicans did neither. What the Republicans did was to emphasize personal pain. The pain of those who’ve seen their jobs disappear and their way of life suffer. The Republicans also played to nostalgia. Yes, America is in decline, they said, but we can make the country great again (by making it less inclusive, by keeping out the “bad” people, by being tough). That message proved appealing to so many Americans who see in Trump the possibility of returning to “the good old days” (whatever that may mean).
“I won’t play the sap for you.” That’s a Humphrey Bogart line from “The Maltese Falcon.” Many Americans believe they are being played for saps by foreign powers. Trump recognized this. He called for tougher trade deals. He called for NATO and other U.S. allies to pay their way. He promised a new approach to foreign policy, one where enemies would be smashed even as Americans would avoid dumb wars like Iraq. Basically, Trump promised that America would no longer play the sap for the rest of the world. And the American people liked what they heard.
That’s my quick take. Lots of Americans truly wanted a change in course — a sort of reactionary revolution. That desire led them to downplay Trump’s sexism, ignorance, incivility, and vulgarity. (Of course, there were some who embraced Trump precisely for these qualities.) In essence, they simply had no patience for Hillary’s “politics as usual” message.
Finally, let’s not forget that Trump said the election is “rigged.” He was a sore loser even before the results were in. What kind of winner will he be? Much will depend on the answer to that question.