Blaming Everybody

It’s hard to empathize with the corporate liberals who streamed from the Javits Center in tears Tuesday night. Their corrupt Democratic Party had a good if not great candidate in Bernie Sanders and their DNC deliberately fought to keep him from winning the primaries. In every poll taken during his campaign, Sanders beat Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election.

Oh, they’ll start pouring out their bile now, blaming everyone but themselves and their candidate. It was the media’s fault for popularizing Trump (a Clinton strategy). It was the FBI’s fault for re-opening the email case (thanks to Huma Abedin’s ex). It was stupid Middle America’s fault for being racist and sexist (was that why they voted for Trump?). It was third-party supporters who screwed us in Florida again (Paul Krugman and Rachel Maddow are furious that leftists didn’t vote for their heroine). It was Russia’s fault for hacking the DNC (no evidence) and plotting to invade Europe (no evidence).

Hillary and the Great Divide

In Hillary’s farewell speech, she kept to form and quoted scripture–the very last guide she has used to shape her political life. In other words, she remained a hypocrite. She talked to little girls who think she is a great flagbearer for womankind, even though she precipitated the brutal destruction of infrastructure, the breakdown of law and order, and the eventual collapse of the Libyan state, throwing thousands of brown women, boys and girls into extreme danger and exile. She exported the same plan to Syria. And she supported a coup d’état in Honduras that has now led to predictably vicious repression and regular homicide.

The truth is, Hillary was a terrible candidate. Like Al Gore. She was charmless and toneless. In an election atmosphere typified by personality politics, Hillary lacked one. She had a rich track record of foreign policy meltdowns at the State Department and a feckless tenure in the Senate. She alienated Congress in 1993 when she failed to get health care reform passed. And she evidently used high office to peddle access and influence to Clinton Foundation donors. Her positions had changed repeatedly, suggesting she couldn’t be trusted. This, compounded by the scandal surrounding her lazy use of email in the trafficking of confidential information, and ham-fisted attempts to cover it up, cast her in the dimmest of lights with many Americans. An albatross husband still despised by conservatives and who loomed hungrily behind the floodlights of her campaign–didn’t help either.

One good point made by political pundit Alex Castellanos was that Trump’s campaign pivoted on a single theme: Make America Great Again. What was Clinton’s theme? Hillary for America? That lack of focus perhaps belied an unwillingness to trumpet her own track record and rather cast herself as a blank slate in a gender-friendly outfit, upon which voters could inscribe all manner of multicultural hopes, much in the way that Barack Obama did in 2008. But Obama played to change. Clinton was far too establishment to try that.

Despite the transparent defects of the Clinton campaign, her bi-coastal minions were astonished at the results. As with Brexit, the media couldn’t understand the populist rage boiling beneath their lofty studio sets. Particularly the partisan mainstream media (MSM) that threw its full weight behind Clinton from the outset of the general campaign. Their strategy was typical of the liberal mindset, which principally cares about identity politics. The media aimed to destroy Trump by exposing his sexism and racism and sense of elite entitlement. The relentless smearing of Trump, the unearthed audio tapes, the timely advent of a phalanx of sexual accusers, and the haunting image of a Great Wall on the Mexican border–all of this “horrified” Starbucks America, the coastal enclaves of educated, profitably employed, and multi-cultural voters. They couldn’t understand how anyone could vote for Trump because they were only focused on multi-culturalism, which is the only message the Democratic Party has left. The top 10 to 20 percent of society, coasting along on the information economy, think it’s all about sexual politics and an outdated bible-based worldview. There’s plenty to that, but there’s a lot more to the authentic rage people feel about having their livelihoods ruined by an oligarchic state that sees them as riff raff–a reserve pool of cheap labor to be patronized every four years and otherwise ignored.

(By the way, “horrifying” and “terrifying” and the most overused clichés of the election season. Have you ever seen such righteous posturing and mawkish contortions among the MSM priesthood?)

The voters in Walmart America, the sneered upon “flyover states,” saw job loss and DC corruption. They are truly the “forgotten people” Trump referenced. How many college-educated white-collar workers understand what it feels like to have their job taken by an illegal immigrant who will work longer hours for less money and fewer benefits? Nobody at The New York Times, anyway. Walmart America was sick and tired of being screwed over by a political class that paid lip service to the plight of labor and then looked the other way. A Democratic Party that wouldn’t even mention poverty and only talked about the Middle Class. As if those tens of millions who couldn’t scrape together $400 in a pinch didn’t exist. Or the 1 in 3 Americans that have zero retirement savings. Or the millions of displaced factory workers. Mortality rates and drug use are on the rise among the middle-age white working class for a reason.

Decades of all-out corporate war against unions, all-out offshoring by disinterested multinationals, debt fearmongering and austerity as a matter of course, and bank-breaking imperial wars that drain away what taxes the working class had left to give. That’s a recipe for a populist uprising. That’s a recipe for a Donald Trump.

Faking Success

A decade of Barack Obama telling us that the economy was growing, manufacturing jobs were back, and inflation was beaten, was comprehensively revealed to be a giant lie by this election. If all that were true, there’d have been no Trump, no inflammatory rhetoric about immigrants being the source of everything wrong with America, and no repudiation of a sitting president’s anointed successor. Immigrants become a scapegoat when illegals compete with citizens for scarce jobs. Obama certainly deported plenty of people, some two million, a presidential record. But he didn’t produce the kinds of full-time, long-term, benefits-included, living-wage jobs people used to have. The kinds of jobs progressives of yore gained by their blood. Instead, Obama effectively watched the economy produce a drizzle of openings for bartenders and waitresses and hospital orderlies–jobs that couldn’t be offshored–and did nothing about it. Obama should have known that not counting discouraged job seekers as unemployed, and tweaking the commodities basket to understate inflation, was no way to fix the economy.

Actually, he did know this. So did the Clintons, who introduced these measures. The problem is that for decades now the corporate Democrats have only cared about appearances. Reality can be prettified with a few glossy BLS reports and a small-time jobs program with a big-time press conference. Social spending programs can be bled dry by talking tough about deficits. But that only works for so long. Eventually the lower classes feel the pain and rebel.

All Trump really had to do was address them personally. He had to acknowledge their reality. Millions of jobs gone. Check. Taxes spent on needless wars and provocations. Check. So-called free trade agreements stealing our sovereignty. Check. Illegals taking American jobs. Check. Monopolies cutting jobs and raising prices. Check.

That’s what mattered to Middle America. Not the p-word and the taco bowl and scattered violence at rallies. That’s what mattered to the coastal class of corporate liberals. But not to anyone else.

Lesson Learned?

It would be a great thing if Democrats learned a lesson from this unqualified rebuke. That they should rediscover the working class. That they should reclaim the progressive mantle of FDR and LBJ. Don’t kid yourself. They are wholly owned subsidiaries of the one percent now. They’ll just regroup and try again. After all, Hillary won the popular vote and 228 electoral votes. She got close.

A Trump presidency that ditches the Cold War rhetoric, quits using NATO as a battering ram, and cuts deals with Russia instead of leveling false accusations against it, would be a welcome sight to many. But there’s no doubt that much on Trump’s agenda will be “deplorable,” including the typical two-party attacks on taxes, regulation, education, and piddling reforms that fall woefully short on climate change, healthcare, and immigration. God only knows what he’ll try.

He could go to Russia and China and say, America wants to be part of the New Silk Road project. We want to run it across the Bering Strait and across the United States. From New York to Lisbon, east to west and back. But he won’t. He’ll most likely cave to strong-armed threats from the Department of Defense and the Pentagon, and will keep most of our discretionary monies ploughed into war. They are anxious to maintain our posture of hostility and menace toward any government that even hints at economic independence. The military-industrial complex (MIC) and international finance capital (IFC) won’t go gently into that good night. They aren’t going anywhere. The MIC-IFC is too big a complex of vested interests for one man to defeat. Challenging them, though, could be the ‘match that sparks a prairie fire,’ to use an old Communist trope. But don’t expect this from The Donald. Vanity suggests he’ll do whatever is necessary to produce a cosmetically attractive presidency, just like Obama did, and just like Hillary would have done. One that looks good on paper and bad in the streets. Another principled Jill Stein campaign crossed the finish line at one percent, four percent shy of qualifying for federal matching funds. But she nearly tripled her totals from 2012. As Obama would say, incremental gains.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire and Imperial Fictions, essay collections from between 2012-2017. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.