The dysfunctional American election
It strikes me that the election of Donald Trump to the presidency is emblematic of a much more complex issue than a Republican prevailing over a Democrat. One can ponder the reasons for his elevation and become perplexed as to what ulterior meaning to our society his election might convey.
As with many elections for president, a hopeful electorate tends to imbue the candidate with characteristics and qualities that he or she may not possess. Yet, hope springs eternal and we yearn for our leaders to be good stewards of our interests only to be inevitably disappointed time and time again.
Having recently read the two definitive books on the 2016 election, Election 2016 by John Kinsellagh and Unbelievable, My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur, I have come to some stark conclusions on where the sentiments of the American family may lie.
Most conspicuously, there appears to be a frustrated and angered “Voice of the People.” Seemingly since the Great Depression, there has not been such an atmosphere of despondency. So many fractured divergent voices were agonizing on why their lives have lost hopefulness. These unsettled voters were searching for someone culpable for their stagnant wages, their reliance on government subsidies in order for their families to survive, and their loss of dignity. They also suffered from the diminishing generational hope for a better life for their children.
During the campaign, the Donald seized upon the Hitlerian concept to pick common enemies and publicly hold them culpable for society’s ills redundantly. As a result, Trump gained stalwart idealistic supporters by way of this maniacal and illogical blame game.
It would be too simplistic to accuse the repellent and supercilious Hillary Clinton as an explanation of Trump’s triumph. Although Clinton’s insincerity was certainly a component of her defeat, her character flaws may not have been the deciding factor. Perhaps it was her manipulation of the Democrat primary process, which amounted to a stacked deck that hijacked the nomination from the true winner, socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. This underhanded treatment of Sanders, who actually galvanized a large portion of activist Democrats and young independents, may have alienated enough voters to take a chance on Trump to spite Hillary.
Nor would it be sensible to accuse Russian interference by way of social media as the reasons for the Donald gaining the Oval Office? The malevolent Russian government provably spread erroneous news about Clinton and other Democrats, but that factor had limited effect on the outcome of the election in my judgment. Readers who found credibility in Russian-generated posts on Instagram and Facebook would be too obtuse and gullible to cast a prudent vote on anything.
Nevertheless, unquestionably Donald Trump’s character deficits were exposed to a nauseating degree by the media and for that matter by his own reckless utterances. Yet, despite the avalanche of despicable information about both candidates, Trump won the Electoral College. Was this just a shot in the dark by voters? Or was this casting of votes an age-old choice of determining who was the supposed lesser of two evils? Or was the exercise of this election cycle a showcase of disgust and dysfunction in the American family?
In Katy Tur’s book about the election, she often refers to “Trumps’s Melodrama,” which is an accurate depiction of the sense of his campaign. The president’s run for the White House was much more visceral than contemplative. The downtrodden working class and lower middle class Americans who, in the new economy work two menial jobs to earn half as much as they used to earn with one, were receptive to melodrama. They needed someone to blame for their economic downfall and illegal immigrants, abject liberalism and globalism foot the bill nicely.
Steeped in emotionalism, Trump’s rallies sold erroneous ideas like building a fortress-like wall and circumventing established trade agreements by unilateral action. Even though the wall is unfeasible and trade agreements can only be modified through a complicated process involving international organizations and the congress, Trump’s wild assertions presented the illusion of hope to the beleaguered.
John Kinsellagh, in his work, cited the precise orchestration of Trump rallies where employed shills would stir chants of support and provoke men and women who were desperate for the promise of a receptive government. Despite Trump’s repeated fiction that “you are all going to be so rich” and “I am going to make America great again,” like baseball’s 1969 Miracle Mets – they wanted to believe.
The author also points out that Hillary’s political tone deafness regarding her lawyerly delivery of tired regurgitated Democrat ideas were not at all exciting or believable. Whereas, even though most of what Trump’s said was diatribe and dribble, he was effective because of his eruptive style.
Often castigated for being a reality star that ascended to the presidency, one must wonder whether the fact that Trump was a successful television personality is why he won. Perhaps we have reached a point in American society where presenting a pleasant fiction is more palatable than presenting facts and realistic plans for governing.
On the Democrat side Hillary was her own greatest enemy. She had long thought, since her defeat in the 2008 primary versus Barack Obama, that she was inevitably going to become president. Upon hearing that the Donald had clinched the Republican nomination, she and her campaign confidants rejoiced. They mistakenly perceived the bombastic and nonfactual Trump as infinitely beatable.
Not only did they underestimate the salability of Trump, but they did not adequately reckon how many Democrats would be alienated from the shabby and unfair treatment of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Case and point, former interim DNC Party Chairwoman Donna Brazile has cited in an excerpt from her upcoming book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the Whitehouse that Clinton “hijacked the party.” A deal was struck to ensure Hillary would be the nominee in exchange for Clinton campaign funds being invested in the DNC during the tenure of former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Verifiably, Brazile uncovered the truth of the fixed primary election and felt compelled to notify Bernie Sanders, “By September 7, the day I called Bernie, I had found my proof and it broke my heart,” she said.
As a result, the backlash within the party faithful further promoted doubt about Clinton’s veracity, which was already tenuous. One could postulate that two normally Democrat leaning states, Florida and Pennsylvania, might have swung for Hillary. Since both states held a great many Sanders voters, Clinton could possibly be president now if she did not act so underhandedly and had won the nomination legitimately.
Another misnomer regarding the election was that Russian interference through social media significantly swayed the election. Yes, the Russian government obviously wanted Donald Trump to prevail. Seventeen United States security agencies have unquestionably confirmed this Russian election adventurism. Suggestive ads, erroneous news sites and all types of manipulative submissions to anti-Democrat groups were posed in a concerted effort to discredit Clinton. However, Hillary already brought more baggage than the luggage carousel at T.F. Green Airport into the election. If the Russian smear campaign had any effect, it was minimal.
All in all, the most pressing interrogative provoked by the events of the 2016 election is not actually the results themselves. The utter frustration of the electorate compelling them to embrace the most far-fetched of notions simply so they could garner some sense of hope in the country’s future is the real quandary.
Overall our quality of life and our capacity for hope has severely diminished over the years. We no longer perceive our country as the enviable nation we once were. A decade’s long stagnancy in congress, coupled with two lackluster presidencies in a row has blunted the voter’s spirit. Furthermore, the election of 2016 gave us an impossible choice between a condescending prevaricator and a narcissistic madman. Alas, the madman won.
After eleven months of his administration, no hope has been restored. I pray we have better choices three years from now so America can once again be the beacon of opportunity it once was.