Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Memo To The Press: Get the Clinton Loss Right

In one of my other hats (one I wear here on occasion), I'm a bit of a political analyst. It has been offered to me by several friends and acquaintances that I'm pretty good at this and that this is probably because I'm a radical, a guy who doesn't have a dog in partisan battles. I'll defer to others on the matter of whether my analysis is of any merit. Some months ago, I did predict the likely outcome of yesterday's presidential contest. On days when I should probably be doing something better with my time, I haunt various message boards and Facebook groups and talk politics. The weakness of Hillary Clinton as a candidate has been a constant theme of mine throughout this campaign season, just as it was back in 2008. On 3 June, I wrote a post I threw up on several Facebook groups--and that's how it was often treated, as if I'd thrown up--noting that, from a long-term perspective, it could be argued that

"The best possible outcome of a Clinton/Trump general is to simply let the GOP have the presidency and allow that to become the rock on which that party in its present form is finally broken. That's also the most likely outcome of such a race. But that's a story for another time."

That post eventually evolved into an article here, "A Trump Win the Best Possible Outcome?" Late last night, Donald Trump won the presidency.[1] In the coming days and weeks, I imagine we're going to be hearing all kinds of spin from Democratic insiders in the press trying to explain this. Or, more to the point, to explain it away. Late last night, I wrote some thoughts on this:

As I’m writing this, the outcome of the presidential contest hasn’t yet been settled but it’s clear Donald Trump has performed solidly and is probably on his way to winning it. However that turns out, what should have been a one-sided massacre of a joke of a Republican candidate has become a razor-thin contest and before the usual Democratic spin-cycle starts, it’s important to get some things straight.

Hillary Clinton didn't perform badly because of the presence of third-party candidates in the race. Clinton didn't perform badly because of Bernie Sanders. She didn't perform badly because people didn't want a woman for president. It certainly wasn't because she wasn't conservative enough, and moving the party even further right is certainly no solution. It isn't the fault of young people or of James Comey. Hillary Clinton has performed so badly because of Hillary Clinton. She's a weak, loser candidate, a bought-and-paid-for shill, the ultimate Establishment politician in a year in which that was an anathema. She's behind and probably going to lose because she was, yet again, another pol who offered nothing to those who have been harmed by the decline of America and have been left behind by the political Establishment. In the absence of constructive politics that address their concerns, people will inevitably turn to whatever is available, even a faux-populist protofascist campaign.

This didn't have to happen. The Democrats had a solid candidate who drew all the enthusiasm within the party and who would have rolled right over Trump. And Clinton and the party Establishment burned every bridge in order to screw him over and foist Clinton on the public instead, at a time when most people openly told pollsters they despised her. It worked. Hope was broken.[2] And now, the U.S. is likely to be saddled with a dangerously incompetent protofascist half-wit.

There's a certain element of unappealing braggadocio in told-you-so-ism but in this case, it's some salt that needs to be vigorously applied to this particular wound, because this outcome was utterly predictable. I assembled the below graphic in October 2015[3] and used it to accompany this analysis, which I'd been offering in various venues even before that, and had, in fact, offered back in 2008 as well. The good news is that a Trump win will probably finish off the GOP and lead to the revitalization of an opposition party.

It will, that is, unless the expected Democratic spin I've tried to prematurely disentangle is allowed to substitute for a genuine autopsy.


Showing the same lack of class that helped defeat her, Clinton declined to speak to her followers gathered at her campaign headquarters in New York last night, offering no public concession. It fell to Trump to note, during his own victory speech, that she'd called him and conceded.

It will be interesting to see if Democrats get this right and, for the purpose of this blog, even more interesting to see if the press holds them to account rather than letting them spin it away. Trump's win also presents a  major problem for the GOP, as the populist views he's adopted on things like "free trade" and jobs clash rather spectacularly with those of the party and its elected officials and the coverage of that will be a whole 'nother can of worms. But that's a can of worms for another day...

--j.

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[1] In recent days, I've been overwhelmed by the feeling that I've seriously dropped the ball on the Trump phenomenon. Trump is the latest manifestation of trends I've been covering for a couple decades now and though on various message boards and debate groups I've written perhaps entire books about his candidacy and, much more importantly, what's behind it, I've written almost nothing in the way of formal articles on it (and certainly no books). His campaign could be seen as a culmination of so much work I've done. Now that he's won, I guess I'll have the opportunity to play catch-up. I note this for no particular reason. Maybe it's just that this piece sounds like I'm crowing about getting the election right, so I'm feeling overly compelled to point out a personal shortcoming as counter.

[2] Bernie Sanders saw the likely outcome of a Clinton/Trump contest as well. In a speech to the Democratic National Committee's Summer conference on 28th August, 2015, he warned:

"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."

[3] To clarify, this was an existing image of Clinton; I only applied the word to it.