This Is Not A
Trumped: Part 2
In yesterday's digital fish'n'chips wrapper, I sought to explain why I felt that the outbreak of screaming and soiled knickers on the part of the bien-pensants at Donald J. Fart-euphemism's victory was - to put it mildly - so far over the top that it was tunnelling back up from underneath.
I have to say that the sight of so many self-described 'liberals' and 'progressives' on both sides of the Atlantic losing - as I believe they say - their shit over this has been not merely instructive but mildly hilarious, even in the case of people with whose views I would normally concur. To see so many pained expressions - indicative of seriously twisted ideological gussets - on the faces of the punditocracy is a sight to lighten the darkness as autumn clamps its cold, damp hands around our throats once again.
The agonies of doubt, regret (feigned or otherwise) and horror (appliquéd or not) observable in the comment columns are instructive from a number of points of vantage, not least in the fœtid odours of denial and cognitive dissonance they give off. I intend to return to this point a little later.
But first, let's have a look at some of the possible reasons why Trump won. In fact, let's just concentrate on the main reason.
It wasn't because the voting population of the US (and once again scarcely more than fifty per cent of registered voters bothered at all) are racists, homophobes or nativist exceptionalists. In this, at least, it was a cognate of sorts of the 'Brexit' vote over here.
(Despite the way it may look from what I've previously written on that subject, I do not believe that the majority of those who voted 'Leave' in June of this year are racists; that would be silly and insulting. What I am sure about, however, is that all the actual racists who bothered to vote would have voted 'Leave'. This is not the same thing, and the worst you can say about the rest is that they should have been more wary of the company they were keeping).
What Trump spoke to (if not actually for) was that substantial proportion of the population which has been left behind by the neo-liberal macro-economic policies of the last twenty-odd years. The blue-collar workers in the mid-West who have seen Bill Clinton's NAFTA result in their jobs being offshored to Mexico; those of low skills, prospects or luck whose daily existence consists of having to do two, three or more jobs over an eighteen-hour working day just to earn chump change; the lower middle-class office people who see their pay falling further behind the costs of putting food on the table and a roof over their heads, and who see what few employment benefits they may have being reduced or removed by their employers.
Now, it may be pointed out with some validity that Trump is, in matter of actual fact, unlikely in the extreme to do anything much that will be of real practical benefit for these categories of people. But that doesn't matter: the perception that he just might do something for them is what matters, and in a highly mediated campaign that perception has been crucial. Exit polling seemed to indicate that people who had previously voted (in some cases twice) for Obama were instead switching to Trump because they felt that with him, there was at least a possibility of change.
That there was a deep dissatisfaction with the political establishment was clear enough to anyone who cared to stick their heads out from under the comfort blanket of ideological and media uniformity; that people were sick to death of the continuation of 'more of the same' from those who had effectively forgotten their concerns and their plight; and that, the first opportunity they got to vote for someone who seemed to be outside the golden circle (which Trump is, at least in political terms), they would take that chance.
So why then, in the light of this, did the Democratic Party expend so much effort, time and money - even to the point of perverting their own internal electoral procedures, and shafting much of its activist base in the process - in ensuring the selection of a candidate who was irretrievably part of that 'business as usual' class?
To put it briefly, it was the result of a coccooned, self-isolated, arrogance born in part from the assumption amongst the 'liberal élite' (of which the Democratic Party has long felt itself to be the central, if not the sole element) that those in the general population who wanted something more genuinely radical - or even just mildly progressive - would either vote Democrat or not vote at all. This notion of "they've nowhere else to go", you may recall, has been part of the ideological DNA of the British Labour Party for even longer, and the same forces which have destroyed the Democrats in 2016 have already fatally (possibly terminally) undermined Labour not only in Scotland, where a very similar groundswell of contempt has led them from being the 'natural party of government' to third place behind the Tories and one Westminster MP, but also increasingly in the north of England, where the upwelling of disaffection has manifested itself in burgeoning support for the superficially plausible quackery of UKIP.
To put it more briefly still: people wanted the possibility of change, however illusory that possibility might turn out to be in practice, and they felt very definitely that that is what they were never going to get from Hillary Rodham Clinton, representative as she is of that most curious thing to be found in a nominal democracy; dynastic succession. Added to the disillusionment felt by those who enthusiastically followed Bernie Sanders when, first of all, they were stiffed by the DNC's vote rigging and then saw their Great Hope meekly support Clinton (in return, it is said, for a future cabinet position), when nearly all the polling data suggested that Sanders would have beaten Trump hollow, this was always going to be toxic for the Democrats.
What didn't help was that Clinton elle même was also a deeply unsympathetic character. Not only were there constant doubts - justified by a substantial body of evidence - about her probity and ethics, but that - simply as a person - she visibly lacked any ability to be simpatico with anyone apart from the inner circle of the high priests of the triangulated fake consensus which has dominated American political life since the 1980s. She seemed to be unable to communicate anything remotely resembling 'the vision thing', and thus made an unattractive contrast not merely with her predecessor but with her own husband, as slippery and dishonest as he was.
And so it was that Donald J. Trump - a consummate egomaniac and belligerent show-off - was able to ride the perfect wave of anger and disillusionment all the way to the front door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Not that you could tell this from the anguished howls to be found emanating from the inner circle of the nominally 'liberal' or 'progessive' columnists and opinion-mongers here on the eastern shore. From Freedland, Toynbee and Freeman in the Guardian, via Rent-a-tool in the (b)Independent to many of the more prominent political bloggers, the wails are rising like ululations from beyond the curtain of darkness.
But, because even they are not so brass-necked as to seek to deny that what has clearly happened has clearly happened, they have gone straight through to Kübler-Ross Stage Two, that is, to look around for someone to blame. And, so wedded to the same games of identity politics which caused their heroine's downfall, they burn incandescent with haughty righteousness as they blame Trump's triumph on, successively, white racism (when more black and Hispanic Americans voted for Trump than would ever have voted for a Republican candidate on any other occasion), white male misogyny (when Clinton's share of the women's vote was far lower than might be expected, even given the guilt-tripping indulged in by many of her fan-girls before the election, who suggested that any woman not voting for Hillary was a gender-traitor), and the media (particularly rich, this, when the overwhelming majority of US media came out for Clinton).
In short, it was - as it was with 'Brexit' - the fault of the voters for being nasty and dumb, and the one remaining facet of Kübler-Ross Stage One has been their adamant denial of their own rôle, one in which they - the titans of commentary - were complicit in the perpetuation of the cosy conceit that This Is The Way It Is and This Is The Way It Must Stay; the very people who excoriated Sanders (and Corbyn) for being 'unrealistic', 'too radical', 'extreme' and even 'delusional'.
Yes, yes, they say, people wanted change. But because they didn't want the only change we were willing to allow them, then the people are to blame. The kindest thing you can say about this is that it displays a shocking lack of self-awareness about their own involvement in the mal-informing and patronising of the general public; the least kind thing is to lay bare the sheer hypocrisy of pundits who are unwilling to see or hear any evidence which could shake them out of their own complacent assumption that - because they are paid huge sums of pelf to issue their sententiis ex cathedra - they know better than anyone who lives in the actually existing world. Their discomfiture is, therefore, a delight to behold, and just as one can hope that Clinton's dismal failure will lead either to the Democratic Party rending itself asunder or - for preference - being taken over by its remaining genuinely progressive activists, one may just hope that the credibility of the Clinton-Blair Tendency of columnists and soi-disant analysts will undergo a cataclysm sufficient either to bring them to their senses or to replace them with those who see things far more as they actually are.
After all, hope is all we may have left.