^ the President-elect of a nation facing a very dark future as an heroic era of our history ends in self-inflicted failure
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Yesterday, voters in the nation we have called “America” chose “presidential electors,” a majority of whom will vote to make Donald J. Trump the next holder of the office of President, as designated under Article 2 of the Constitution.
It is customary on the day after an election for the loser to congratulate the winner.
Thus I congratulate the man now entitled to receive a clear majority of electoral votes pursuant to the Constitution’s Amendment 12.
His opponent, Hillary Clinton, did win a clear plurality of actual voters’ votes. But our Constitution does not empower direct democracy. We live the electoral college. Our ancestors ratified the Constitution — albeit very narrowly in almost every one of the 13 original states — and we cannot now complain of Ratification’s consequences.
Congratulations thus given, and citing my bases for according them, let me now look at what has happened. This will be a rather long read; please bear with me.
1.The South has risen again. Trump’s base was most of the South. His voice was that of the South. His hatreds and precepts were born in the South, and in states founded by Southerners.
The Trump story begins a long time ago : the election of 1836, which brought to power a man very similar : Andrew Jackson, a major slaveholder from Tennessee, was a gut fighter, an uncouth womanizer, a manner-less frontiersman who hated the urbane lite and marshaled the votes of gun-toting frontier guys to overwhelm said elites. Jackson proceeded to destroy his enemies’ power abolishing the first national bank and causing the nation’s most serious depression prior to that of 1929-1934. Jackson uprooted entire nations of Indians, stealing their land, exiling them to what is now Oklahoma, while his followers grabbed the Indians’ ancestral land for speculation and settlement.
Jackson’s coalition of Southern slaveholders, Mississippi Valley backwoodsmen, Appalachian land grabbers, and riverboat watermen (and their riverside suppliers) dominated national politics right up to the Civil War,. And though overwhelmed, and driven from power, by the consequences of secession, Civil War, and armies of the North and Northern Midwest that won it, they and their children rose again after Reconstruction to terrorize people of color, bamboozle poor white workers and farmers, and block every measure of reform presented to Congress well into the 1960s.
Jackson’s coalition was racist and violent then, their descendants are racist and violent now, and they command majorities of voters in all the Jacksonian states. And if their current champion is a New Yorker — the opposite of Southern — Jackson had plenty of support from New York cotton men and slave traders who hated the national bank’s control of their schemes and scams. His Vice President (Martin van Buren) was a New York machine pol. Sound familiar ?
It may seem odd for me to refer to events of 130 to 180 years ago to put Trump in perspective, but the stability of America’s voting system — of universal suffrage — assures that the surfaces may change but the fundamentals do not. We are politically the same polity were were in 1836. In the four year run up to Jackson’s election, his allies in Congress blocked President John Quincy Adams — the very sectional winner of a vicious 1832 election — from accomplishing anything at. all. We know this drill, don’t we ?
2.The South had help from crucial allies. Hillary Clinton would have won easily, South or no South opposed, had her opponent not received crucial help from two allies.
The first ally was Russia. It’s not the first time a foreign power has interfered with our politics.
In the Revolution and since, our polity in times of crisis has seen its destiny directed by foreign powers. France helped us secure victory in the Revolution; Britain staying out of the Civil War — despite enormous pressure on its government by Southern-sympathetic cotton importers — helped us to beat the slave power. Having England as staging area for the D Day invasion enabled us to win the Normandy battle; and Russia on the Eastern front assured us of victory in the entire European war. England as a base also helped us to win the First Iraq War.
Now comes Russia, to do what Britain declined to do in the Civil War : take the side of the South and its candidate.
We allowed it to happen. Few protested. The media hardly mentioned it. Their fixation was Hillary Clinton’s e mails. More on this later.
Vladmiir Putin means us no good. He actively supports secession movements in various states — recently he hosted a secessionists’ convention in Moscow — seeking the breakup of our nation if possible. That may be a stretch; but his interference in the election itself, via hacking of e mail accounts and sponsorship of WikiLeaks, his espionage vanguard, unleashed much private gossip that our media — seeking advantage and profit, in true tabloid fashion — publicized hungrily. The message of said publication was to bolster the Trump campaign narrative of “cro0oked Hillary.”
Putin’s intelligence officers fed information constantly to the Trump campaign, bankrolled its second campaign chief, Paul Manafort, and gained in return Trump’s consistent approbation — a scandal for anyone who remembers the cold war, in which Russia’s predecessor state was our mortal enemy.
Russia is still our enemy. But the vitriol of most Trump supporters against our own government of “elites” is such that Trump’s embrace of Putin became a kind of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
If Putin helped Trump to win the election, fine and dandy, in the dark hearts of Trump zealots.
The second ally crucial to Trump’s election was the NY office of the FBI. Determined to indict Hillary Clinton for her use of that private e mail sever as Secretary of State — a practice used by both her immediate predecessors — or, if not indict, then smear, agents in that FBI office succeeded in pressuring Director Jim Comey to release the now infamous letter of investigation a mere eleven days before the election. At the time, Hillary Clinton was coasting to easy election; Comey’s letter, coming when early voting had already begun, cost her a good two to four points and all momentum. When finally, nine days alter, he wrote that the new investigation had nothing, the damage was done : because those days of early voting cost Clinton votes and because even with renewed momentum, doubts were sown, with a crucial two or three percent of voters, as to what next scandal Clinton might have in her resume.
Exit polls suggest that the votes the Comey letter cost Clinton came from suburban, white, college educated women : her core group. On election day, despite having one million volunteers (!!) out knock doors — an extraordinary ground game — Clinton was playing catch up. The IBD/TIPP poll, always accurate, showed it. The final IBD/TIPP poll had Clinton down 1 point.
One percent was not the whole story — Clinton actually won the popular vote — but it was the difference in those states that she had to win did not : Florida, Wisconsin (half a percent), Pennsylvania (0.4 percent). As of this writing, she is behind also in Michigan, by 0.2 percent. Had she gained one percent more votes, she would have won all four and the Presidency.
Some have blamed Black voters for not turning out in huge numbers. True enough; in some states, Black voting numbers lagged noticeably. Ohio and North Carolina especially : but Clinton could have won without these. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, Black vote turnout was just as large as it was for Obama.
Some are faulting Clinton for rejecting her husband Bill Clinton’s plea to pitch her campaign more to white working class voters : her base in the 2008 campaign. But it’s rarely smart to campaign to the opponent’s base, and in this election white working class voters were Trump’s base. She chose instead to concentrate on HER base : voters of color, young people, women. The results support her decision. Clinton did not lose because she aroused the wrong voters. She lost because a key group of her own voters succumbed twice : first, to the Comey letter’s suggestion that Clinton’s e mails — as substance free a scandal as any I have seen — were, in fact, illegal; and second, to the constant talk about stuff dumped into the media’s lap by WikiLeaks.
If anything, the WikiLeaks gossip — all of it private correspondence stolen from people — was even less material than the e mails business. But the damage it did to Clinton’s vote reminds us that, where scandal is concerned, the more trivial the narrative, the more damaging : because petty stuff, people can understand, where truly major stuff overwhelms the mind.
Clinton was nickeled and dimed to political death.
That is how it is done, and to her it was done masterfully by her Russian enemies.
How,then, did Donald Trump manage to assemble the Southern, Jacksonian coalition ? How did a New York City tycoon who hobnobs with the big celebrities become a backwoodsmen’s hero ? Very simple : he dumped on everybody and everything, including his rich friends’ lifestyles. “Corrupt,” he called it and them, and his devotees believed him, because HE Knew. HE HAD LIVED IT.
And so when he insulted everybody and everything– when he called Mexicans rapists and John McCain a coward — when he mocked a disabled reporter and attcked a Muslim Gold Star mother –0 when he decried a Federal Judge for being “Mexican” — when he said he was smart for not paying taxes — when he openly praised Putin — when he spent a week slamming a beauty queen he had mocked: when he said he’d refuse to accept the election if he lost: when he said all this, his supporters loved him all the more, because they too hate all of these. Revenge and blood is what they want, and in Trump they had a leader willing to say so.
Until Trump came along and said all the things they had been told were uncool to say, things that if they said, would get them ostracized by right thinking society. And Trump ! Big time celebrity, famous, and rich as six Croesuses ! We all know that a celebrity can do no wro9ng; so, to hear Trump the celebrity talk like a jerk, well, that was all that was needed. Jerks are cool now ! Jerks were once in the social penalty box but here was Trump telling them they could get back on the ice and skate again, skate in the spotlight !
Trump gave his supporters fame, power, approval. Is it any wonder that they flocked to him ? Then came the condemnations from “the elites,”: the “city people. This was gasoline poured on a fire ! The more angrily our city elites condemned Trump’s mobs, the more devoted to him they became.
That is why it didn’t matter one whit that Trump has no policy papers, that he seems to know nothing about anything, that he gropes women, that he doesn’t pay taxes, that he hobnobs with Russian spies, that he treats Hillary Clinton as if she were his cleaning lady. None of it mattered to his voters because the one thing that did matter is that he was their enabler, their get out of social jail free card.
But if it is easy to enter into the mindset of Trump supporters, it is equally easy to view the consequences. Support for Trump is like burning one’s bridges. Good bye to social norms ? Good bye, social acceptance. Good bye to the society itself.
After all, if you dive into a bath of insult, a pool of bile, a river of slime, you can’t expect to emerge nicey nicey. Voting for Trump was a crap dump, nothing more. It was a pie thrown at. someone’s face, a flame of blame, tricycle hydroxide with no steering bottles.
Voting for Trump existed in the moment only; no tomorrow, no what’s next. After all, for his supporters, their vote doesn’t count, because the powers never listen anyway, so why should one vote judiciously ? Just throw the pie.
What DOES come next ? his voters don’t know and neither does he. He ad libbed much of his campaign — went into the debates with evidently zero preparation, winged it for as long as he could — and he will probably ad lib his presidency, assuming he gives a damn. I think he will disappoint his believers. They want change ? OK, WHAT change ? They talk as if they want it all destroyed, even the Constitution (except the Second Amendment), but I’m thinking that once they see the specifics they’ll say “WHOA, NO !” or else they’ll just tell Trump to bur it all down. Either way, the outcome can’t be good.
I have been tempted, these past many hours since the result was clear, that Trump will act on his vile bullying : that he will unleash his mob of gun toters, his anti Semites, his racists and immigrant haters, his followers who want to lynch jou7rnalists and apply the “2 A” to Hillary Clinton; and that would, of course, mean Nazism in America. But perhaps that is not what he will do. Perhaps he has no idea what he will do or who he will do it with. I can just as easily see Trump giving us bumbling incompetence as vicious violence, maybe more likely even. And what of the upcoming trials he faces ? Trump University and the rape trial ? Trump may find his time — and his political capital, such as it is — taken up with these matters.
I hope for incompetence. The nation can survive that. It cannot survive his fascist streak. It cannot survive his campaign chairman’s anti Semitism, his own anti-Muslim loudmouthing, his anti-immigrant scapegoating.
His limitless ignorance, it may end up turning the nation’s business over to the Republican Congress, whose goal is to repeal every social progress measure we have enacted since the 1950s, maybe since the 1850s. Of poor people and those of color; of LGBT people and immigrants, the Republican Congress cares not a whit. If said people exist at all for the Republican Congress, it is to fear them — to want them gone or powerless. Voting rights ? Not for them, they only vote Democrat.
I see nothing good in an incompetent Trump, nor anything good in a fascist Trump. And what of Supreme Court nominations ? The bad exhaust of a Trump jalopy will infect the nation for 150 years, maybe longer; we still live with the bad consequences of Andrew Jackson. Trump’s vote confirms the Jackson movement’s continuation probably into the future of America as long as the nation exists. It cannot be good for anyone, not even for those who vote for it. Maybe even especially for them.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere