The popular analysis by the usual suspects is to blame the triumph of Donald Trump on anti-immigrant feelings, racism, authoritarianism, provincialism, misogyny, et al. There is also the more strategic approach which involves blaming wikileaks and/or FBI Director Comey for the eleventh hour reintroduction of Hillary Clinton’s email server.
I studied to be an historian and these kinds of critiques ignore the underlying issues. It is the usual ahistorical moralism that provides easy answers. While the above may have been contributing factors to Clinton’s defeat they do not fully explain how this country that elected Barack Obama twice now has Donald Trump as its President-elect albeit it seems by way of the electoral college. Indeed it does not provide any insight into why, for instance two counties in Ohio that Obama had carried twice went for Trump on Tuesday.
I would argue that the anger, maybe rage would be a better term, has been building for the last decade. We, in Saratoga Springs, are fortunate to live in something of a bubble. One does not have to drive far, though, to pass through the small towns that are decaying shells. The inflation adjusted wages of most Americans have been declining for decades. The once thriving industries that provided people willing to work hard with good wages have been vanishing. The epidemic of opiod addiction and rural meth labs are an expression of the despair that is eroding this country. Good, well paying jobs that provide futures for those currently employed and their children are vanishing at an alarming rate.
In the meantime, people have not only had to endure the 2008 crash in terms of their loss of jobs and homes, they have had to suffer through the knowledge that the bankers who brought this all on and were bailed out by these same struggling people’s tax dollars are enjoying huge bonuses and golden parachutes.
They also must suffer through a culture that touts “smart” people who are making out handsomely as deserving of their great success while ordinary people working two and three jobs worry about their own future and that of their families. The “smart people” are the winners in the globalization game. You see them on TV in shows about lawyers and doctors, and young professionals.
In spite of all the retraining programs, without good paying jobs for modestly skilled and educated people, the vast majority of people must suffer the sense of being losers and the even deeper indignity that no one really cares.
The reality is that in Washington, with a few exceptions, no one really does care. The Republicans promise that with tax cuts for corporations and the shredding of regulations (the basic agenda of all the lobbyists who shower money on them) the jobs will flourish. The Democrats claim that with education and retraining programs along with more tax incentives for the same corporations, the jobs will come. Well, for the people living in Gloversvile, Malone, and Amsterdam, nothing has changed. There is, in fact, no significant sign of even a government presence doing anything in places like these across the country.
It does not take a degree in political science for many of the trapped Americans to see that the road they have been traveling is one that involves diminishing resources and hopelessness.
I do not share the same demonization of Hillary Clinton that many of my conservative friends do. I do see her as someone who had and probably still has, no real sense of just how bad things are in America. Donald Trump’s zinger asking her what she has been doing for the last thirty years has been dismissed by my friends who strongly supported her candidacy from the beginning. The fact is that the needs of all of these Americans have been very low on the priority list. Every four years the “promise machine” goes into high gear and some vapid slogan with the word “change” in it is trotted out for the campaigns.
Hillary Clinton would have lost even if there had never been an issue with her server. It was seized on as a symbol to be exploited. The real issue was that she was the poster child for “more of the same.”
I kind of enjoy using this metaphor. In 1968 people marveled that black Americans, burned down their own neighborhoods when Martin Luther King was assassinated. People wondered as to how they could do something that was so self destructive. On Tuesday, angry Americans burned down their country when they elected a narcissistic conman because in their rage they wanted to send a message to Washington.
This brings me finally to a local issue which is what my blog is really about. The Democratic Party in this city is cut from the same cloth as the leadership of the National Democratic Party. They see their responsibility as electing Democrats period, rather than as speaking as a party to some of the major issues facing this city. The threat to the greenbelt posed by Saratoga National Golf Course’s plan to build a huge resort? The Democratic Party has no position. The threat to the neighborhoods posed by our hospital’s expansion? The Democratic Party has no position. The threat to neighborhoods from the Witt Project “Downton Walk?” The Democratic Committee has no position. The pathetic ethics code of this city and the Ethics Board’s violation of open meetings law? The Democratic Party has no position. The attempt by Sonny Bonacio to convert Moore Hall into micro apartments with all the issues of parking and the exorbitant rents he wanted? The Democratic Committee had no position. The on going abuse of the Zoning Board of Appeals decisions to grant variances? The Democratic Committee has no postion.
Is it any wonder how angry people are at the traditional political parties? Is it any wonder that this country could elect Donald Trump? The answer is no and no.
After writing this I came on Glenn Greenwald’s piece on the Intercept web site. Readers will note many of the same points but I am no Glenn Greenwald. I highly recommend his piece.