© Josh Sager – November 9th, 2016
Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States.
This short, yet terrifying, sentence marks the day that the United States elected an orange fascist con-man and reality TV star to head the most powerful military on the planet, influence the world’s largest economy, and have the final say on policies that affect the welfare of 300 million Americans. If the next 4 years go as many of us fear, this could literally be the day where the flaws in our country’s political system begin to swamp the nation in much the same way that all past empires have fallen.
We are officially living in the unscripted sequel to the now-documentary Idiocracy.
There is no silver lining in this election. Trump won a commanding victory against Hillary, capturing just under a majority of the popular vote and between 290 and 306 electoral votes (270 required to win). The Republicans retained their control over the House of Representatives and the Senate, giving them virtually uncontested control over the federal government.
For a minimum of two years after he is sworn in, Trump will have the ability to pass essentially any demented policy that the GOP wants to support. Realistically, there is little chance that the Democrats will be able to regain any real political power until 2020, where they will have to beat an incumbent Trump while dealing with the gerrymandered electoral map.
The Impact of a Trump Presidency
A Donald Trump presidency represents a great many changes, none of them positive.
- Trump will eliminate the Affordable Care Act, throwing millions of Americans off of their healthcare and destroying all of the progress that the ACA has achieved;
- Trump will deregulate Wall Street banks by repealing Dodd Frank and letting them continue the very same disastrous policies that led to the 2008 crash;
- Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and will not only fail to address the crisis (e.g. the Paris Climate Accords are essentially dead), but will actively make it worse by deregulating polluters and pushing more carbon energy consumption (e.g. increasing fracking).
- Trump may decide to enforce draconian anti-drug laws and prevent states that have legalized marijuana from continuing with their successful legalization programs. Even medical pot isn’t safe from him and there is a possibility that these programs will be stopped as well.
- Trump will try to torture terrorist suspects and couldn’t care less about the number of civilian casualties we inflict in the “war on terror.” Additionally, his incompetence may result in the decay of international organizations like the UN and the NATO, destabilizing the international community.
This is only an incomplete list and there is a near-endless series of terrible policies that Trump may decide to pass into law. Millions will be harmed in multiple different ways and there is virtually nothing that the Democrats can do to stop these consequences in the short term. Even if progressives rally during future elections, some of these consequences are irreparable (e.g. waiting 4-8 years to address climate change) and we will be dealing with them for generations.
How Hillary Lost
Hillary lost because she is a terrible candidate. While she is experienced and intelligent, she has been on the wrong side of a number of issues that make her politically toxic (e.g. NAFTA and the Iraq War). Additionally, Hillary has demonstrated enormous arrogance in her pursuit of big money, giving millions of dollars in speeches to big banks (most of which were inculpated in the destruction of the US economy) mere months before she was set to run for office.
The morning of the election, I wrote an article detailing my worry that African American and young voters may not turn out, while disaffected white voters in the working class would be hyper-motivated to turn out. These fears were proven correct, although I was actually underestimating their impact on the election (I identify Florida, North Carolina and Michigan as danger zones, but failed to predict that Wisconsin or Virginia were up for grabs).
The polling was clearly wrong in many of these states, possibly due to the social desirability bias that I wrote about last month. In short, Trump may have beaten his poll numbers because a lot of Americans who support him are unwilling to claim him publicly, thus voted for him even after declaring their intention not to. While this is extremely hard to confirm scientifically, it does appear that either the polls dramatically misjudged the electorate (and this was the case with some polls) or this effect had a significant (maybe as much as 4% in some areas) impact.
It is important to note that Hillary’s loss is not a function of some genius plot by Trump (he is an idiot), but by self-inflicted wounds that can be avoided in the future.
During the Democratic primary, Hillary worked with the DNC to depress the millennial vote in several states (e.g. New York) and supported closed primaries because both of these policies benefited her over Bernie Sanders. Sadly, this may have contributed to the significant drops in millennial turnout in many key states, as well as the defection of nearly 10% of young voters to 3rd party candidates. Put simply, the very tactics that helped her win the primary weakened Hillary in the general and alienated key groups that she needed to win.
Additionally, 2016 was a clear outsider’s year in politics, and Hillary’s choice to run as the establishment “no change” candidate was a truly horrible choice. Americans may have rebounded after the 2008 crash on paper, but wages are stagnant, employment numbers don’t take into account those on the bottom who have dropped out of the labor pool, and Americans are angry.
As previously mentioned, Hillary also fell into the trap of assuming that her support among the moneyed elites would necessarily translate to victory. She and Bill took millions from big money before the run in personal income, focused much of her summer campaigning on fundraising rather than rallying, and ran her campaign using large amounts of dark money. While most Americans cannot articulate the specifics of this corruption, there is a general sentiment that this big money is screwing the average American. Unlike Bernie, Trump is actually no better on this issue than Hillary (merely less competent in arranging big money donations), but he managed to latch onto the anti-corruption sentiment in the nation to hit Hillary hard.
I think that the totality of the reasons why Hillary lost was succinctly summarized by Michael Moore several weeks before the election:
“Trump’s election is going to be the biggest “fuck you” ever recorded in human history—and it will feel good…Whether Trump means it or not is kind of irrelevant because he’s saying the things to people who are hurting, and that’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called the middle class loves Trump. He is the human Molotov cocktail that they’ve been waiting for, the human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them.”
There is a great deal of blame to go around in this disaster, and it can be apportioned in a roughly tiered manner:
On the highest tier of blame are the Americans who voted for Trump in the primary and general elections, directly leading to his election. These people may be foolish, racist, ignorant, misguided, or simply crazy, but the impact of their vote is the same regardless of their reasons—humanity as a whole will suffer from their mistake (e.g. failing to react to climate change) and history will look back at these people very poorly.
On the 2nd tier of blame are the establishment figures who helped create this disaster. This includes the GOP establishment tools who refused to call Trump out for his hatred and stupidity; the Clinton campaign and Democratic establishment tools who conspired to give the election to Hillary (who is now demonstrated as the weaker candidate in the general) and who worked behind the scenes to “elevate” Trump because they thought they could beat; and the media elites who gave Trump billions in free advertising and legitimized him to the millions of Americans who ended up voting for him.
On the 3rd tier of blame are the disinterested Americans who refused to vote in contested races during this election cycle. Regardless of how much they may be disgusted with the system, these people took the cowardly way out of abstaining from the process and letting other people decide their fate. Anybody who refused to vote has no right to complain when Trump causes a disaster that affects them—they had a chance to stop him and they refused to take it.
On the lowest tier of blame are the Democrats and progressives who worked against Trump and the embattled liberals in red states—these people bear virtually no blame for Trump’s election, yet will still face some of the worst consequences of his presidency (e.g. African Americans in the south and young college students with debt). Bernie and Stein supporters who worked against Hillary during the primary but who bit the bullet anyways and voted for her in battleground states deserve to be in this tier, despite the media working to paint them as guilty for pointing out real flaws in Hillary’s record that may have hurt her.
What Progressives Need to Do Now
Put simply, now it the time for progressives to fight like hell and hold a line against the insanity that the GOP is about to unleash on the American people.
In the short-term, progressives need to prepare for 2018 state and Congressional fights to possibly wrest control over state governments and vulnerable Republican House districts. In addition to targeting Republicans, progressives need to purge the corporate candidates within the Democratic establishment, primarying them and replacing them with progressive populists.
In the middle-term, progressives need to draft a strong politician to run in 2020 against the GOP and corporate wing of the Democratic establishment—personally, I support Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard or Keith Ellison for this position, but it is simply too early to speculate who will step up. Additionally, progressives need to build upon any 2018 gains at the state level, while making a massive push to gain control over purple states so that we can reverse the 2010 gerrymandering that the GOP pushed after the last census.
Regardless of the 2020 results, progressives need to keep mobilizing on all levels (federal, state and local), gradually replacing corporate Democrats with progressive populists during primaries and picking off vulnerable Republicans during general elections.