By Madison Irving
Hillary Clinton deserved to lose.
This needs to be stated explicitly and directly from the start. I don’t think anyone really deserves the Donald – but Hillary deserved to lose. This is a fact that far too few liberals seem to be willing to reckon with. There is a feeble attempt amongst those who want to look at every reason that Hillary lost without blaming her and her pathetic, narcissistic, incompetent campaign and it’s rancid collections of bootlicking, influence-peddling ignoramuses who preached models and data over people and emotions.
To hear the Clinton loyalists tell it from their distant echo chamber that is void from the reality in which millions live, voters in Barron, Burnett and Kenosha voted against Clinton only because of a cruel media, FBI director Comey, Benghazi (we can’t forget about that), her emails, and Vladimir Putin — and not because, by every metric, they hate her fucking guts and have for the past thirty years. Obviously the hatred for Hillary comes from many different sources, some deserved and others not. Misogyny undoubtedly played a role. Clinton was almost certainly right that her decades in the public spotlight have exasperated and multiplied the contempt for a woman who’s been playing what has historically been a man’s game.
But maybe it was because of her own irrational, egotistical hubris and the gross – dare I say, criminal miscalculations of her campaign staff. The way they always cited the “models” instead of listening to seasoned field operatives about where to channel campaign resources. Perhaps it was refusal to actually campaign in the states hit hardest by the corporate written and funded “free trade” agreements. The refusal to speak to the anger of those who have felt most left in the dust.
This is the reality anybody with any recognizable form of brainpower and a Rust Belt address might’ve stumbled across, yet has been seemingly impossible for Democratic partisans to ascertain.
However, there may be a more fundamental reason for loathing of Clinton. The Democrats, for anyone who cares to look, are plainly co-conspirators in the destruction of American life. They are the willing errand boys of the free-marketing Wall-Street criminals, of warmongers old and new. Clinton was basically bred to be an ignorant war hawk, with no actual conception of how her actions have destroyed the lives of millions, not just domestically but abroad. She is a fanatic in her pursuit for wealth. A lying hack who couldn’t, for the life of her sound honest or like anything more than a robot during her staged interviews that appear to be nothing more than a puppet show. Her blatant refusal to believe she should possibly be held accountable for her actions may be most what caused her undoing.
Whatever combination of hatred caused her inevitable demise matters not. What does matter is the outcome. And that outcome is Donald John Trump and the GOP holding more control of the government of the United States than any party since FDR’s Democrats in the 30s and 40s.
To be fair, not all of this was Hillary’s fault. It could be strongly argued that the year the Democrats faced their inevitable destruction was 2009. Barack Obama, for all the love he has received from liberals was nothing more than a Rockefeller Republican wolf in sheep’s clothing. Obama’s main strength to the Dems lay in himself alone. He was really the only Democrat over the last eight years to win anything of value. His idea of “change” was beneficial to he alone. Under Obama’s reign the Democrats loss of roughly a tenth of the party’s Senate seats, a fifth of its House and state legislative seats, and a third of its governorships, something that hasn’t been seen since the repeated routs of Republicans in the 1930s (see FDR above). The GOP now has control of 34 state legislatures and if they are able to win one more, will be able to amend the Constitution at will.
Clearly, not all of this could have been avoided, but the Dems and Obama certainly had a direct hand in much of annihilation. The Democrats unequivocal and down right criminal mishandling of the 2008 financial crisis can be seen as the most evident of their failures. They had full control of the government from 2009-2010, with filibuster proof supermajorities in both houses of Congress. Their refusal to offer more than a meek fiscal stimulus package and absolute negligence in fulfilling the campaign promise of preventing and making whole on millions of foreclosures was certainly the receipt for electoral desecration. The Dems first began to reap the seeds of their demise in 2010, when the party’s most vulnerable members — centrist Dems in the South —almost all lost in 2010. That loss, in turn, paved the way for many of the other major problems Democrats are having. That was a census year, and huge Republican victories allowed them to control the subsequent redistricting process, in which they gerrymandered themselves a seven-point handicap in the House of Representatives and in many state legislatures. This was only the beginning and was followed up two and four years later. The Democrats merely revealed themselves to be the party of losers that they had mostly always been.
An entire book could be written on the brazen misconduct of the Democrats once Obama took office, but that’s not the focus of this piece. It needs only to be simply stated that the Democrats inability to stand for anything, their lack of a guiding principal, their fondling and petulant persistence of pleasing rich donors and lobbyist (who wrote the Affordable Care Act). For electoral reasons, the Democrats must pretend they care about ordinary people’s well-being — that they are not a party of capital, as the Republicans obviously are. The Democrats haven’t been the party of the people since at least the 70s and arguably not since LBJ was in office (if ever truly at all). They have been nothing but neoliberal, triangulating cosmopolitan crooks with a penchant for symbolism over substance.
All of this gave rise to the monster that is waiting at our door. His name is Donald John Trump. This bust orange mule is being backed up by the GOP, who now controls every level of government. Trump, is many things, but unique and new is not one of them. He should be seen, not as some outside source, separate from the political sphere, but as the final culmination of what Barry Goldwater started, back in 1964. The crisis of President Donald John Trump is the bill coming due on a four-decade social, political, and economic project that has succeeded in worsening, coarsening, and ending the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans. This is the wild path that the GOP set out on back when Goldwater and his racist campaign were nominated. This shock to the system did not occur in a vacuum. This disease permeates the air in America, crystallizing into a constellation of pain: loneliness, vexation, despair, as immutable as the stars in the night sky — distant, implacable, and hanging over every town in the country.
That does not mean, however, that he is not one of the biggest assholes on the face of planet Earth, and an authoritarian fraud that might destroy the world. This maniacal oaf, who is now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.
What makes this so scary is not that he’s crazy or can’t make up his mind, it’s that the GOP, this radical insurgency of a party has made up theirs and is prepared to lead us down the path to destruction of all forms of safety and economic well-being among a majority of the country. They have plans, in no particular order; to privatize Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act, gouge Social Security, slash taxes for the richest American’s, increase military spending, rollback most financial regulation, defund the EPA, repeal almost all environmental regulations, shut down all climate change research at NASA, defund Planned Parenthood, privatization of public schools, further destroy the Voting Rights act, gerrymander as many states as possible to their liking, and warmonger aboard.
These are but a sample of the absolute assault on all aspects of public life that the Republican’s are prepared to inflict upon us. The GOP (and now this government) plans on making our existence, and especially the existence of people of color, women, children, the elderly and basically any one who isn’t rich, in this country, a living hell. Clinton was bad, but she was never this.
Oh and this is all real, by the way. You’re not asleep and this isn’t a dream. You’re not having a terrible, terrible nightmare. You’re also not dead and you haven’t gone to hell. This is your life now. This is our country. It’s real.
But it didn’t have to be this way. Most of us, on the left, know the truth, that this 75 year old, grumpy, unkempt, Jewish, democratic socialist from Vermont was the answer. Bernie Sanders could’ve answered Trump’s gold-plated promises with a better way, one that meaningfully addressed the pain of American life without illusions — without gimmicks and falsehoods and racist invective, without the bullshit woven into every Trump pronouncement. It was how he won in primaries like those of West Virginia and Michigan, states not typically thought of as hotbeds for revolution and socialization.
All available information at the time of the Democratic National Convention made this painfully obvious. Bernie was projected to absolutely destroy Trump in the general election. Even if one were to make the argument that Bernie hadn’t been sufficiently redbaited by the opposition and the Republican spin machine, I suspect it would have mattered not. Bernie is the most popular politician in the country and Trump is the most hated presidential candidate of all time.
Sanders, however prove no match for the corrupt and morally bankrupt Democratic primary apparatus and its favored queen, Hillary. Bernie was sabotaged from the moment that he basically tied Clinton in Iowa. The DNC and the Democratic Party cleared the way for a would-be plutocrat who couldn’t explain her email storage, much less contend with these same surging forces.
To defeat Trump’s populism required a full understanding of how he had succeeded in drawing his flock together. How the hatred he espouses is not one of shouting into the abyss but is one mutually reinforcing facet to the other grievances and disappointments of his voters.
This can all be seen as the result of kneecapping any attempt at reform of the system. The reform fails and the pain remains intact. But when the pipe finally bursts (and it always does) the blast on anger that is released will come through the only permissible path it can: the far right. As unbelievable as it may seem, our systems are better girded against a soft left than a hard right. Throughout the Western World, the elite consensus to destroy any left-wingers with gall enough to decry the state of things, in even the mildest terms, exists to preserve what their order has created. That is not a solution, and it is proving far more catastrophic in the long run. See, the thing is, when you destroy those people asking for a better way, you end up empowering men who do not ask.
Voters, at least a majority of them, contrary to popular belief, don’t sit down, go to candidate websites and look at their policy positions. They don’t go point by point, with a fine toothcomb to decide whom they like best. Voters need to hear a moral vision, a message that is easy to grasp and makes sense. That’s how it has always been and for better or for worse, how it will likely always be done. And let’s be honest here. Clinton had no message. She didn’t even have a compelling reason for running. It was never really clear what the hell she was doing on stage.
Donald Trump, for all of his disgusting remarks and downright fascist rhetoric, at least had a message. It was Trump’s hellish, authoritarian vision — that “our country does not feel ‘great already’ to the millions of wonderful people living in poverty, violence and despair” — which nevertheless verged closer to the unspeakable truth. Trump, in his restorative mode, of “making America great again,” unwittingly did what his opponents could not in any plausible sense display: he recognized that this country does not feel great to millions living in it.
Hillary’s response to this was “America is great because America is good”. Such a sheepish and nonsensical line would obviously prove to be no match for the vision Trump had laid out. Trump spoke to a deep seeded anger of the polity. To the rage of millions who felt like this country was no longer great for them. Clinton’s response was a slap in the face to those with legitimate grips and calls for help.
On the other end of the spectrum, you had Bernie Sanders. Bernie – Bernie had a message. His message wasn’t his traditional stump speech about the rise of income and wealth inequality, the decimation of the poor, working class and middle class, the deregulation and criminal activities of Wall Street, our lack of universal healthcare, or even the complete corruption of our politicians and the need for campaign finance reform. No, it was much more foundational than that. Those things were merely the branches to his true message’s roots, which was simply this: “The truth is, when you hurt, I hurt. That every hungry child, is my child, that every worker, seeking the dignity of a job, is my neighbor, that every senior citizen in need of care, is my parent, that an attack on anyone because of their race, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us. It’s when we truly care for each other, choosing inclusion and love, over division and hate, that we can finally make this country the great place that we have always been told it was”.
Bernie’s message was and is a message of solidarity: the interconnectedness of all people. It was always a movement and a message of love. This is something, I feel, that liberal partisans either can’t see or refuse to see. That when you call a group of people a “basket of deplorables”, as Hillary did, you are alienating people who are looking for an answer in a sea of empty promises. Yes, some of Trump’s supporters are undoubtedly vile, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of a decent life. Bernie could have and would have spoken to these people in a way Clinton never could. Not all of them mind you, but surely enough to win.
So the question you may be asking yourself is, “what would a Bernie presidency have looked like?” It’s honestly hard to know and would be foolhardy of myself to state, unequivocally, that I hold the answers. I do, however, think it would have been a first term that the American people could find some level of satisfaction with. This premise rests on the case that Bernie would have won soundly enough to take back the Senate and a large number of House seats. As previously stated, Bernie was projected to win by anywhere from 10-15 points. Now, with these being mandate levels of victory it’s fair to argue that Trump could have closed the gap some, but this seems predicated on the fact that Trump would receive the same level of support he did against Clinton. Clinton, as mentioned was deeply unpopular and Donald’s, um, mishaps, didn’t hurt him nearly as much because of this. Against Bernie, who is, by all measures, seen as extremely trustworthy by politician standards, would have likely been able to benefit from these downright vile and despicable acts.
So lets be conservative and say Bernie wins by 10 points. A margin that large would mean Democratic control of the Senate, with which would have the ability to appoint a true progressive to the Court as opposed to the milquetoast, half-assed bait that Obama threw into the ring. This would allow for the opportunity to overturn or at least alter the ability of money to influence our politics while also strengthening voter protections that we so desperately need. Sander’s would likely not be able to pass single-payer universal healthcare (which must be achieved when possible), but what he could do is force Medicaid expansion levels in all states, while also instituting a public option, which would further control healthcare costs. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that Bernie would be able to enact his full agenda, or even close to all of it, but there is direct steps he could take through executive action and federal agencies that could help promote the change he so passionately preaches. He could push to restructure federal student loan interest and payment structures, while also forgiving millions more through the Department of Education. We would be able to strengthen environmental protections through the EPA and replace the cap and trade measures with a real carbon tax and other highly aggressive methods for combating climate change and global warming.
One of the more important measures to get passed would be an infrastructure rebuild. Republicans aren’t actually opposed to infrastructure plans but the funding mechanisms would have to be stated in a way that didn’t involve raising taxes. This is certainly doable but would require effectively tricking House Republicans into it. This is vital if we are to not only rebuild our infrastructure, which is among the worst in the developed world, but also necessary for creating enough economic growth to fight off the impending recession. Bernie would obviously make one of his larger marks in his cabinet appointees, who would surely be one of the more progressive batches in history. Helping to further regulate the financial industry could be another action President Sanders could take without needing House GOP approval.
All of this is obviously speculation and it would be foolish to believe that massive immediate change would occur, but I think what Bernie being president would do is not so much tangible as it is inspirational. It would show that there is another way of doing politics. That it doesn’t have to be the triangulating, Clinton-third way style of neoliberal technocracy. Our politics could be of a genuine social democratic format. One that says “the lives of every citizen matter and not just the richest among us.” Bernie’s politics would be one that gives us hope. That says despite all the odds stacked against us, that the moral arch of history bends towards justice and that better days are ahead. And that’s what it’s really all about. This is just the beginning of a movement toward not just a better, more tolerant, egalitarian and inclusive country but also a better world.
So just remember, come January 20th, 2017, when the new President-Elect, Donald Trump is giving his undoubtedly blowhard and cringe worthy inaugural address, that the old, grumpy Jewish socialist, with his wispy uncombed hair blowing in the cold winter wind, could have been standing there instead. Remember that he could have been giving his standard stump speech for the whole country to see, that a nation could have witnessed his love for all of us, that we, as a people could have realized that we are stronger together. Remember this when you’re thinking about what could have been.
Madison Irving is a graduate student at Virginia Tech. He is studying economics education.