America Burned Down Its Own House

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.

Link To His Piece


19 thoughts on “America Burned Down Its Own House”

  1. Re local Democrats: I will add an issue on which they did have a position, but the wrong one: caving in to the City Center to permit construction of a single-use parking garage, in violation of every criterion of intelligent city planning. Bravo to Mayor Yepsen & Commissioner Franck for doing the right thing & refusing to go along.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I disagree with Jay. Parking garages are vital to the sustainability of cities. They allow motorists to park their vehicles near their inner city destinations and then leave them there while they patronize events, hotels, retail establishments, etc. Parking garages have their place and the City Center garage will be an important addition to that complex. The success of our City Center is crucial to the year around vitality of our downtown mixed use district. Our ‘City in the Country’ concept depends on a successful urban core.

      Chris Mathiesen

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Although I tend to dislike and dismiss articles that string together quotes, I found a link in the article you linked to that was good.

    Shockingly, I also appreciated several related videos by Michael Moore, including: There are several more.

    *Richard* Richard Sellers Saratoga Springs, NY

    On Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 5:38 PM, Saratoga Springs Politics wrote:

    > John Kaufmann posted: “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” >


  3. Your analysis rings true. Trump’s win came from the significant numbers of working class voters in the “rust belt” states of Ohio, PA, MI, and WI who have abandoned the Democratic Party after years of being taken for granted and therefore abandoned by the Dem leaders. Many had voted for Obama but became disillusioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Johnny
    You put together what could have easily been two separate topics for your blog. The national politics and the local. I will comment later, but you have written a good one. I sensed that you were busy writing, noting the lull in activity here.
    One quick comment: I wonder if Ms Teachout has made it back to NYC yet, in that little motor boat she has been driving for a month or so. Let’s hope she can’t motor upstream and make a return visit for the next election. Enough!!


  5. Excellent article (as usual).

    And let’s not forget that our lovely mayor was MIA at her own party on election night & flew down to Manhattan for THEIR big party. Where is your allegiance, dear JoJo? John is abso-friggin-lootly right.

    Time to suck it up people.

    We survived the Gore-Lieberman loss.
    We survived Dubyah and the endless wars (still raging, mind you).
    We survived the 8 years of Obama.

    Now things are going to change.
    Looks like we’re going back to being a constitutional republic once again.
    All 10 amendments need to be reapplied.

    Socialism does not work.
    Obama proved that.

    Well, we blew it.
    Time for us to take back America.

    G-d save the republic.
    Baruch HaShem Adoni.


    1. Mr. Chase, isn’t it time for reactionaries like you to stop being coy and finish that iconic phrase by saying what you really mean, “Time for us to take back America from that nigger in the White House?”

      When the Biggest Loser of the popular vote is installed as president for the second time in 16 years, then it’s pretty clear that we’re not “going back to being a constitutional republic once again.”

      Obama is a socialist? Seriously? You are truly clueless and FYI, there is no God, only goddesses.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have advised Paula and Justin that their exchanges have become sufficiently personal that I will not post additional exchanges in this thread. I welcome them both to the blog and think their contributions are a valuable asset to the site. I want people to feel free to post on this site without fear that it will subject them to personal attack. In the case of Paula and Justin I have no question that they are tough enough to handle their exchange but I am concerned about its impact on others.


      2. My comment was directed at you, John Kaufman, for allowing a comment by Romana Clay containing an offensive racial slur in relation to our current President of the United States. The N-word has no place on this blog and should not be allowed in the comments.

        Furthermore, Romana Clay falsely attributed this offensive comment to Justin Chase, he did not use any such language or intimate any such thought or ideas. I may or may not agree with Justin’s political view’s but he should not be subjected to Romana Clay’s comment.

        I had no exchange with Justin about this posting.

        Please explain to your readers why I was banned and not Romana?


      3. I owe Paula Johnson a full apology. I do not know how I put her name in about the exchange with Justin Chase rather than Romana Clay whose comment I was referring to. It was her exchange with Justin Chase that I was referring to. I feel very badly about the confusion and hope that Ms. Johnson is generous enough to forgive me.
        As regards Romana Clay’s reference to the N word, I viewed this as an ironic reference to what she viewed as implicit racism. While I sympathize with Ms. Johnson’s concerns about the poisonous nature of the term, in that context I viewed it as acceptable.

        Also, no one was banned from this site. I was simply indicating that the particular exchange was ending and that no more comments for that thread would be published.


  6. Ah, dearest Ramona, Romana, et alia, circumstancia.
    To bad you resorted to vulgarity and such unacceptable colloquialisms of the peasantry.
    Your lack of strata (class, dear woman) is laid bare for all.
    (Gives me chills, envisioning such repulsive graphical imagery.)
    Shame on you.
    But — no biggie.
    Anyway…Thank you, Romana, My bride couldn’t stop laughing.
    And when she is happy, good things happen.
    I am in your debt this fine evening. (lol)
    I see a fine Malbec in the immediate circumstance.
    Too bad for you, eh…and your wretched lot.
    Alas, thank you.


    1. Go ahead, Justin, laugh all you want, but this is what you voted for and this who you’re really in debt to:

      Chug down all the Malbec you can now, because in four years, after the rust belt suckers realized they’ve been conned, you smug reactionaries will be getting drunk for a different reason.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey– ‘Pax Romana!’
        Has a clever ring to it, don’t you agree?

        It’s curiously entertaining that you believe that I, voted for Mr. Trump.
        Very assuming dear lady, very assuming.

        Back in the day, we learned that assuming, or assumption as premise, leads to the logical conclusion of the invariable, illegitimacy of fact.

        Remember that old frat lesson of days gone by?
        Allow me to elucidate:
        “Assume is spelled A-S-S-U-M-E.
        It makes an ass out of you and an ass out of me.”

        I always like that. Ha-ha-ha.

        I am proud to retain such a sense of humor for an old coot.
        And Romana: Feel free to challenge us in this forum with something more rousing than a sophomoric rant of little or no intellectual consequence. Unless, of course, you are not of the academic lot; and as such; have my condolences. (Insert tongue in cheek.)

        The written word is a poor vehicle of emotional exchange but the writer attempts, somewhat inadequately, to convey some levity as best as he can. In short: Stop being so depressing. Get a grip. Time for all of us to suck it up and get back to work.

        Seriously–I’ve heard it said that we will need all the energy we can muster to keep this new group in check far more than the last. And we failed miserably at that!
        Remember: You like your doctor? You can keep you doctor and on and on and on and on, again.

        You might like this:

        And this (One of my favorite Communists):




  7. Your analysis of Trump’s victory was great. Your insight into the true feelings of Trump supporters was right on target. No need to say anything more. You have said it all in the most eloquent way.
    This election has taught us a hard lesson -and we need to start looking at the real priorities of this community we live in.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks John. Apology accepted and all is well. Your write and run a great blog with a wide range of opinions and thoughts, it must be tough to ride the razor’s edge of decorum.


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