A thoughtful analysis of what just happened

Elizabeth Drew, a longtime journalist on political matters, provides a comprehensive discussion of how Trump prevailed (NY Review of Books—might be paywalled). We should keep in mind that this election was very close. A very minor change in several factors could have easily yielded a landslide victory for Clinton.

That said, I was a Bernie Sanders supporter, though I felt it morally imperative to prevent a Trump win in the general. Yet, the criticisms leveled by Sanders against Clinton (and her damnable husband) still ring true. Moreover, we have to wonder if a president Hillary could have accomplished much of anything against an ever more intransigent Congress. Surely she would not have gotten any Supreme Court nominees confirmed.

Now, of course, Trump is poised to do so much damage. It could be huge. In a very bad way.

Simple hate

There is much evidence that people voted for Trump because they hate people of color, and Trump, as we all know, both exploited and fueled such hatred, coming out of the box calling Mexicans “rapists,” promising to build a wall along the southern border that would be paid for by Mexicans (?), and threatening to ban all Muslims from entering the country. For added measure, he exclaimed that he would deport millions of illegal immigrants. Hooray, said his supporters. Now that’s a man I can get behind.

Vile. Contemptible.

But, despite decades of bitterly fought struggles to remove the shackles of racism, it turns out that nearly half the voters of this country are indeed deplorable.They are our neighbors, inconspicuous here in Puget Sound, yet open, brazen, and crude in the region of America some call the “flyover” states. You know, all those vast red areas on the electoral map.

Writing for Salon.com, David Mascriota, a denizen of that region, shares his experience of racial enmity, opining that the election was not about the economy, stupid. It was all about race. He tells us first:

When Barack Obama became president-elect in 2008, it seemed as if the entire country had transformed. The progressive orientation of young voters, of all races, and the diversification of American demographics, along with the unique charisma and brilliance of Obama, made what was unthinkable in my childhood an undeniable reality. Now, another previously unimaginable scenario has become all too real. A black family moved into the White House, and another form of white flight took off – white flight from political sanity, white flight from reality, and white flight from responsible citizenship.

His region’s white population evidently clung to its racial animosity, keeping it under wraps, until Donald J. Trump invited them to let it all hang out. Show the world what you really think. And what they think is every bit as loathsome as the Ku Klux Klan or Hitler’s brown shirts. He writes:

It has little or nothing to do with economics. Studies demonstrated, in the Republican primary, that Trump supporters were actually wealthier than the constituencies for the Democratic candidates. Five Thirty Eight reported that the median household income among Trump supporters is $72,000 – not exactly the Joads. If “working-class angst” explains the rise of Donald Trump, why is that working-class black and Latino voters overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton? If the “white working class” feels “forgotten and left behind,” why do they hate President Obama, who extended health care to 20 million Americans, doubled funding for Pell grants, advocated for free community college, fought to raise the minimum wage, and signed the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau into law, helping to protect low-income home buyers from scam mortgages?

My wife and I would often shake our heads and curse the darkness when we would ride through our neighboring town of Griffith, Indiana, over the summer and fall. Trump signs in the yards of homes, and even in the windows of businesses, were a ubiquitous eyesore. In the entire Northwest Indiana region, Griffith has become a major success story. New restaurants, shops and breweries open on a monthly basis, and property values consistently increase. One of the major Chicago newspapers, along with Chicago’s most popular business publication, has profiled Griffith, offering it as a model for small-town economic vitality. Griffith, like Elkhart, Indiana, went from borderline bankruptcy to commercial triumph during the eight years of the Obama administration. In a lengthy profile of Elkhart, the New York Times revealed that when Obama took office in 2009, the unemployment rate was nearly 20 percent. Now it is at 3 percent, but the town solidly supported Trump, even resorting to taunting the Latino members of a visiting high school basketball team with chants of “Build the Wall.”

In Griffith, a woman who owns two bars — far from poor — actually changed the part of her business sign where she typically advertises specials and events to “Vote Trump! Grab ‘Em by the Pussy!” The town council asked her to remove the offending words, but she kept the worst part: “Vote Trump!” is still there.

Ugly in the extreme. Welcome to the America you may have thought had finally been defeated.

Stunned and shocked

Words can ere express my reaction to yesterday’s stupefying event. Everyone got it wrong, which is small consolation to those of us aching to press a more progressive agenda, one that tackled climate change, inequality, and economic security—for all.

But the people had a different idea, or at least half of them. They’d had enough, of what we’re not quite sure. All they knew was that their man Trump promised to fix things. Things deemed “corrupt,” “rigged,” and otherwise stacked against the “forgotten man,” and they do mean the male of the species. Add white to the mix, of course. Their vote was surely a middle finger to the America conveyed to us by the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and the political and economic establishments.

Before the presumed defeat of Donald Trump much was written about the demise of the Republican Party, which seemed fractured and struggling to define itself and its constituency. However, it’s surely the Democrats who must wonder what they’ve lost.

I’d begin with Thomas Frank’s critique of the party of Clinton, in his book Listen, Liberal to his recent columns in The Guardian, including today’s. He writes:

The even larger problem is that there is a kind of chronic complacency that has been rotting American liberalism for years, a hubris that tells Democrats they need do nothing different, they need deliver nothing really to anyone – except their friends on the Google jet and those nice people at Goldman. The rest of us are treated as though we have nowhere else to go and no role to play except to vote enthusiastically on the grounds that these Democrats are the “last thing standing” between us and the end of the world. It is a liberalism of the rich, it has failed the middle class, and now it has failed on its own terms of electability. Enough with these comfortable Democrats and their cozy Washington system. Enough with Clintonism and its prideful air of professional-class virtue. Enough!

The key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all secured by Trump, are populated by white men who used to belong to unions and make stuff for other Americans. They were solid Democrats. But the new party of Bill Clinton kissed them goodbye, as the Clintonites opened their palms to Wall Street seeking dirty ducats. Clinton and his New Democrats pushed “globalism” and “free trade” and a newly minted meritocracy long associated with the GOP.

Meanwhile, this party of Clinton paid mere lip service to people of color and their struggles. Bill killed “welfare as we know it,” kicking millions of African Americans from welfare rolls. Nor did the party lift a hand for labor. Indeed, unions were taken for granted, as their memberships declined. No wonder erstwhile union members cast ballots for the man who promised to make America “great again.”

Did Trump merely push the right rhetorical buttons to win support? Did he create 50 million suckers? Or, will he make good on what he said? Will he deport millions, end the Affordable Care Act, impose high tariffs on goods built elsewhere, scuttle the climate change agreement, rescind environmental regulations, build the damn wall, and unleash legions of angry white men to harass “others”?

We’ll find out starting January 20.

The horror.


Trump and Putin: mutual self-interest

Much has been written about Trump’s views of Putin and Russia. Even more has been written about Russian operatives, either directly or indirectly, hacking the emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, and releasing them to Wikileaks for public consumption.

It is illegal, of course, to steal digital communications. But Russia’s behavior is consistent with an overarching Putin strategy to engage in cyber wars as the preferred alternative to a conventional war. Using the Internet is cheaper and far less messy than actually bombing people and things, especially if your principal enemy is the U.S.A.

Zach Beauchamp, writing for Vox:

…Russian strategic leaders came to see the internal politics of other countries as a key battlefield.

Fisher points to a 2013 article, by Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, as key evidence of this new Russian thinking. Gerasimov argued that “non-military means” had eclipsed weapons in their strategic importance. Controlling the information and propaganda environment can inflict serious blows on one’s enemies.

“The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gerasimov writes. He advocates using “military means of a concealed character,” including “actions of informational conflict” in order to accomplish Russian strategic objectives.

Beauchamp rightly concludes that Putin would prefer Trump to Clinton. The biggest reason concerns NATO, which would essentially unravel should Trump occupy the Oval Office.

If Trump put his ideas into practice and actually renounced commitments that didn’t do what he wanted, it would destroy NATO. The alliance depends entirely on an ironclad guarantee on behalf of all allies to defend any one of them — that is literally what it does. If the US won’t do that, then NATO is effectively dead.

This is music to Putin’s ears. He sees the NATO alliance (correctly!) as a major bulwark against Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe, and would be thrilled if it fractured. That would make it far easier to install friendly dictators in small nearby countries, like Estonia, or even annex them entirely.