Rutland Herald and Montpelier (Barre) Times Argus
Weekend Nov. 26/27 2016
I feel your pain, and share the shock that has befallen you. At a time like this, it is natural for liberals to blame themselves for what feels like a crushing loss - all the worse because it was so unexpected..
Perhaps we should have been more generous with those in need. Maybe we should have taken Syrian refugees into our communities or even our homes. How could we have been so insensitive to the anger of the white working class? Why didn’t the Democratic Party’s economic message reflect this growing frustration? And what can we do immediately to make amends for the shortcomings of the party and its soundly defeated leadership? Again, for liberals, this is the normal thought process – and certainly no one would argue that individual and collective mistakes were not made in the course of this campaign.
But before you head north to Canada- or take on the heavy debt of long-term psycho- therapy. let me remind you of a few things.
Two weeks after the election, Hillary Clinton was nearing two million ballots ahead in the popular vote. That number may still grow. I know that doesn’t matter. Only the Electoral College votes count. But it does suggest that there was not a landslide rejection of Clinton and her proposals.
Actually, many of her ideas would have directly helped working class Americans of all colors. For instance her plans to rebuild roads, bridges, airports, railway stations and tunnels, to provide safe water supplies to countless towns and cities along with proper sewage disposal – infrastructure is the not very exciting word for these quality of civilized life requirements- which could produce millions of good paying jobs.
Donald Trump has made promises involving infrastructure, yet it is looking as though he will do this by giving huge tax breaks to businesses, for such work. And as is often the case using this system, the rich will get richer, the profits will be privatized and any losses absorbed by tax payers. But I digress.
Any and all analyses of why Trump won and Clinton lost really boils down to one thing- there has never been a U.S. presidential candidate of one of the two major parties like Donald Trump. Not only does he have virtually none of the skills, experience and knowledge of so called “normal” candidates. He also has his own unique value system in which virtually none of the dos and don’ts of civil behavior appear to apply. Historically, if a candidate told a provable lie on a matter of some importance, he would have trouble surviving. If this happened several times, he would be done.
But never has there been a case when a candidate almost never told the truth and this had little or no impact on his millions of supporters. Trump attracted blue collar, white workers, by simply promising them the moon- especially in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where he effectively won the election. He said he would tear up trade agreements like NAFTA, round up and expel illegal Hispanic immigrants by the millions. This he promised would restore manufacturing jobs for white workers, and they chose to believe him. In West Virginia and Kentucky he promised he would bring back the dying coal industry, and against all logic people believed him.
How does an opponent deal with this suspension of disbelief on the part of some forty percent of the electorate? Furthermore, how do you deal with an opponent who not only does not tell the truth, but who uses fear of African-Americans, Hispanics and Muslims to stoke up anger among whites in support of policies which scape-goat minorities and run counter to the Constitution? In the past, liberals have been partly successful in appealing to America’s better angels, but in Campaign 2016, better angels were in short supply.
In other elections, the main stream news media might have played a mediating role in this debate. But not this time. Cable television was an early convert to Donald Trump’s form of campaigning, and played a singular role in his winning the Republican nomination by giving him millions of dollars worth of free airtime. Cable news networks ended up having the best ratings and thus their best financial year, ever. Eventually, the news media realized Trump was serious, but by this time it was too late. Yet even as they got tougher on Trump, major newspapers could never shake their long held negative views of Hillary Clinton – witness the New York Times number one Hillary hater Maureen Dowd, who when she wasn’t pummeling Clinton, felt compelled to give us the views of her (Maureen’s) right wing brother, to tell us still again why Hillary couldn’t trusted. Was this really necessary? Liberals might want to ask the NYT Editorial board.
In fact, the mainstream news media played a major role in feeding the misperception that Hillary Clinton could not be trusted by constantly drawing false equivalents between her foibles and Trumps. Considering Trump's erratic, often threatening attitude toward the press, we all may live to regret that anti-Clinton bias.
Finally, there was one move the Clinton campaign made, which turned out to be woefully wrong. As Trump's egregious behavior went out of control in October, Republican college graduates, particularly women, were considered prospects to vote for Hillary and so became targets of substantial Democratic Party advertising. What a waste! According to exit polling in the last two weeks of the campaign substantial numbers of college educated Republicans -men and women – decided to vote for Trump. So much for Republican "family values." In short, given the unique nature of Donald Trump, the 2016 election campaign was probably one liberals were destined to lose.
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