Saturday, December 9, 2017
My Autopsy of the 2016 Election
Thirteen nightmarish months have passed since Americans of one form or another decided to screw the electoral pooch and put both the nation and world in jeopardy. Of course the cluster frak I'm writing about is the one where an amoral, narcissistic, racist conman was able to game the Constitution allowing him to occupy the White House. Conservatives do not openly read my admittedly partisan crap but just in case there is one out there lurking I'll explain what I mean.
Despite all the whining and moronic conspiracy theories, Hillary Clinton received well over three million more popular votes than Trump. What did put him in the White House were around seventy-thousand popular votes in several key Midwest states that push him over the required two-hundred seventy electoral votes needed for the Electoral College. Yes, I'm splitting hairs but given his total lack of character, dangerous authoritarian tendencies, and need for total adulation that borders on the sociopathic, I will never call him president. Trump may hate the little doofus ruling North Korea, but they are far more alike than he or his supporters here in the United States can conceive with their little brains.
With that out of the way, I'm not writing this to talk crap about the low-information, semi-suicidal idiots who put that orange bastard in the White House. Quite the contrary, my goal today is to do my own version of an electoral autopsy on the Democrats and how they truly bumbled nearly every aspect of the 2016 presidential campaign. The following are my own views in no particular order and are not meant to offend anyone.
Hillary Clinton: First off let me go ahead and say I believe Secretary Clinton would have made an excellent Chief Executive had she won the election. During her time in the United States Senate she was able to build productive relationships with the political adversaries that worked hard to impeach and then convict her husband while he was president. The problem is that by Mrs. Clinton's own admission she was a terrible campaigner, something highly problematic for people wishing to enter elected office. A large part of this problem came from what I believe was her attitude of inevitability. This was clearly visible during the 2008 presidential campaign, to the point she threw an old fashioned hissy fit as Barrack Obama won the nomination.
Frankly, one of her chief failures was that between the 2008 and 2016 campaigns she did not appear to do anything to change her style or how she approached people. Yes, Secretary Clinton has always had a large number of people who admire her but unfortunately, she has at least had an equal number of individuals who found her to be standoffish, to put it kindly. I will not touch on the allegations of corruption and worse crimes since the waters on those issues have been muddied beyond any reasonable discussion. Also yes, a lot of that was generated by outright political propaganda but Hillary was never able to effectively counter that perception. Because of that I was initially happy when Bernie Sanders entered the 2016 race. I had some hope that Bernie's clear passion might rub off on Secretary Clinton allowing her to overcome those deficiencies.
I wouldn't be offering a honest assessment of the situation if I didn't mention Hillary's infamous and totally false story about landing in Bosnia while under snipe fire. During the 2008 campaign Hillary related a story about how she and her daughter, Chelsea were flying into Bosnia during that country's blood civil war back in the 1990's. Supposedly, snipers were up in the hills firing down at the anyone foolish enough to walk out in the open. According to Hillary, both her and Chelsea had to be rushed off the military plane under heavy protection. Unfortunately, there was video of that arrival, shown on CNN, of her and Chelsea leisurely walking off the ramp of the military plane being greeted with locals wearing colorful costumes and bringing flowers. There was even, if I remember correctly, a brass band present on the tarmac.
Of lesser importance, but something I have to mention anyway, Hillary made a rather big strategic error in picking Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. In normal times he would have been an excellent choice. Being a moderate Democrat from a key swing state, he would have been seen as balancing the ticket. And to put it bluntly, being male Senator Kaine would have possibly massaged the bruised egos of guys upset that a woman was now running the country. However, with the primary campaign becoming bitterly divisive, I feel she should have picked Bernie Sanders in an attempt to heal those wounds. Given that she lost by seventy-thousand votes in those swing Midwest states Hillary's need to “feel comfortable” with the VP choice was a luxury she couldn't afford.
Bernie Sanders: Initially, I welcomed Bernie entering the race for reasons I have already stated. But his presence sent the campaign off the rails and to an extreme that should have been scary to anyone really watching. For me, the first sign his candidacy would be more trouble than it was worth was displayed with the attitude of his supporters. They viewed Bernie as a savior and anyone disagreeing with them was not only a corrupted Clinton stooge but worse than a Republican. Bernie supporters totally ignored the near unanimity of their senate voting record and the fact that while Sanders is good for dramatic displays his actual accomplishments in congress are wafer thin.
Another problem I have with Bernie is the simple fact he is a radical dinosaur from the 1960's. Understand, I actually agree with many of his ideas about how our country should be reformed. But given his personality, I believe he would have been totally ineffective in getting them through Congress had he somehow won the Democratic nomination then the presidential election. Putting this as simply as I can so there will be no misunderstanding, there is absolutely NO nascent radical progressive movement being quashed by Republicans nor evil corporations nor the overall political establishment. Yes, in some areas of the country such a movement exists, but to believe it is widespread is frankly delusional.
As much as such places like the American South needs a radical progressive movement those groups are incredibly small and isolated. I've meet a few of these individuals and while they whine about being held down by the establishment there is no support for them in Democratic Party nor as viable third-party candidates. Truth be told, here in the South even traditional Democratic strongholds are quite socially and economically conservative. For those progressives reading this getting mad, if you believe I'm wrong move down here and become politically active.
Being honest here but let's face it, Bernie is a petulant hippie suffering from an inability to separate what is fantasy and what is politically possible. Bernie's insistence on the Democrats playing by his rules when the vast majority of the time he is an Independent suggests his personality isn't that far from the way Trump behaves. Bernie is also famous for wanting political purity tests for Democratic candidates wanting them far more progressive than their areas would support.
One of the items Republicans were twitching in their pants to bring up was Sander's past love affair with communist countries. During the 2016 campaign. one of the U.S. Senators from South Carolina, got this gleeful look in his eye whenever he got the chance to bring up the fact that Bernie Sanders and his wife spent their honeymoon in the freaking Soviet Union! How Bernie's past ties with communist countries and Trump's love affair with Putin would have played out in a presidential election would have been interesting. That could also be an explanation why Hillary didn't pick Bernie as a running mate, but that is just wishful thinking on my part.
Democratic Voters: While the Republican Party is made up of quite different factions, they do at least readily coalesce when election time arrives. The comparison to mindless sheep is an accurate assessment. Democratic voters on the other hand are a vicious and near suicidal bunch that will angrily sabotage the overall effort if they feel their particular interest is not receiving proper attention. President Obama wasn't in office six months when Hispanic-American groups began complaining immigration reform wasn't on the agenda. Understand, the United States desperately needs immigration reform but at that time the American economy was teetering on the abyss of another Great Depression.
While relatively speaking, Democrats are the only adults sitting at the table of government, many have a disturbingly short attention span and think all that has to be done to bring about utopia is for a president to wave a magical wand. Democrats are by in large looking for a savior, hence Bernie's attractiveness, but government doesn't work that way so when things get drawn out and ugly with compromise they get mad and wander off looking for a latte or the nearest Apple Store. Childish Democratic attitudes were made worse when hardly any showed up to vote during the 2010 and 2014 midterms. Progressives whined endlessly about Obama's failure of leadership but no one seemed to remember he was dealing with heavy Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.
Yes, I know Democrats had majorities in Congress up until 2010, but most of them came from districts and states that were not Democratic strongholds. If progressives want radical change they will first have to somehow elect a heavy majority of such individuals to Congress then defend such people during the midterms.
Lastly, Democratic voters do have an unsettling need for celebrity in their political candidates. I voted for Barrack Obama twice and to this day feel he was head and shoulders above the Republican candidates he faced. But one factor that helped him in the primaries against Hillary was not only his talents but his skin color. There was a similar but weaker celebrity associated with Hillary in 2016 with her on the verge of being the first female president. Conversely, Hillary's lack of celebrity, given that she was a known factor, easily contributed to the lackluster turnout of some Democratic voters.
In short, while being the only available adults at this moment, Democrats have lacked any honest commitment to their cause for decades. Instead they have played second fiddle to the Republicans as the chasm between rich and poor in this country has grown to dangerous levels.
Third-Party Voters: You cannot have politics in any form without some level of corruption. Idealistic types desiring the perfect over the good might as well try to continue living without breathing. That doesn't make corruption acceptable, but hopelessly idealistic types often fail to make a distinction between actual corruption and political compromise. I'm sorry, democracy is messy and the comparison to making sausage is unbelievably accurate.
That doesn't stop some individuals from getting upset with the current situation and abandoning the established political institutions. Third-parties do have a long history of introducing vital reforms to the national consciousness which are eventually adopted by the two main political parties. The problem with third-parties became dangerously apparent in 2016 with Trump the Republican nominee.
The Green Party, lead by their nominee Jill Stein, attracted a great many progressive Democratic voters who were upset Bernie wasn't proclaimed messiah at the convention. Given the incredibly narrow election results in the critical Midwestern states, I believe people voting for the Green Party instead of Hillary gave Trump the presidency. The shrill refrain from many Green Party voters was that there was no real difference between Hillary and Trump. I would hope such sentiment would be long dead but unfortunately, it's alive and well.
American Voters in general: What can you say about a nation filled to the brim with petty, uncurious, self-indulgent individuals for whom patriotism is a mile wide but only a few inches deep. The United States became the leader of the free world pretty much by accident. Untouched by the Second World War, the men and women of the Greatest Generation then went on to reform the country and push all human limitations. Then came the Baby Boomer generation and we've been mostly coasting since then. Oh there are individual exceptions, but upon reaching the pinnacle of global power each generation after World War Two has become increasingly complacent at doing what is required to keep up with the rest of the world. Far too many of our schools are underfunded, especially in areas of rampant poverty, and literally falling apart. Our infrastructure of roads, electrical grids, water systems, and just about everything else is suffering through decades of neglect. Why? Because Americans get grouchy if they have to pay taxes, and God forbid anyone suggest differently.
Tagging along with crappy schools is a growing ignorance about how technology and the world in general is changing. Emerging nations naturally have cheaper labor allowing more primitive industries to flourish, and naturally American corporations have rushed to them to stay profitable.
Instead of facing these challenges and creating new strategies to adapt, Americans want nothing but to metaphorically stick their heads in the sand and return to their sports and reality television. Americans bitch and moan about our elected leaders failing us but they are just a reflection of the people that continue to send them to Washington. Trump is an abomination to everything this country supposedly believes but he is just a symptom of something far worse.
Americans today have tied themselves in self destructive knots because they do not want to be bothered by government. Things were super duper for their grandparents and Goddammit, they should still be that way for them. These days we as a people lack any imagination and understanding of the workings of both the nation and world. They know things have gone off the rails but lack the basic initiative to figure out how and why. Such a climate of ignorance spawns demagogues who exacerbates fears and plays with prejudices. Contrary to the notions of a former politician that hosts one of the morning cable news show I once watched, the United States is not guarded by some supernatural being, we are not immune to the same factors that brought down nations and empires all through history.
The only silver lining I can find in this huge mess is that Trump may have awaken enough people to act that something might be saved. No, I not just talking about Democrats. There are inkling that some Republicans understand the dangers we are facing. Will this be enough to turn the tide? I sure as hell hope but we won't even begin to know until the midterms.