Three weeks after Donald Trump’s election victory, many of his opponents are still struggling to come to terms with it. Jill Stein’s attempt to overturn his wins in certain states so as to deny him the White House is just one sign of it.
Much of the problem comes from the way Hillary Clinton fought her election campaign (discussed previously by me here).
Instead of fighting the election positively by proposing a programme the American people might support and by focusing on those issues that genuinely concerned them, Hillary Clinton sought to win a ‘fear’ election by framing Trump as a misogynist racist Kremlin stooge.
The result is that when Trump won the election, his victory was interpreted by Hillary Clinton’s liberal supporters as a victory for misogyny and racism, and – exactly as I predicted – as the result of sinister meddling by the Kremlin in the US’s electoral process.
A detailed survey of Donald Trump’s statements undertaken by a US psychiatrist, who is clearly no supporter of Donald Trump’s, has questioned the claims of racism and misogyny in his campaign. He has pointed out that many of these claims are based on selective quotations and evidence often taken out of context. Even the claim that Donald Trump used ‘dog whistle’ tactics does not really stand up.
As for the supposedly sinister role of the so-called “alt right”, it has become clear to me over the last few months that this term bears many different interpretations depending largely on who uses it, but to the extent that it means “white supremacist” or “neo-Nazi”, this same survey suggests its role was insignificant.
As for the claim of a vast Russian conspiracy behind Trump’s victory, it is bizarre that a claim which is so fantastic and which is supported by so little evidence has been given so much credence.
It is not in fact difficult to see why Donald Trump won. Quite simply, despite claims from Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s supporters about how Obama has managed to turn the economy round, an Edison Research survey found that 60% of those surveyed thought that Obama’s handling of the economy was a failure
“Three in five voters said the country was seriously on the wrong track and about the same number said the economy was either not good or poor. Two-thirds said their personal financial situation was either worse or the same as it was four years ago. About one in three voters said they expected life to be worse for the next generation.”
In an election where Donald Trump focused on the economy and corruption, and where Hillary Clinton chose instead to focus on identity issues and ‘Russia’, it is not surprising that against the background of these sentiments Donald Trump won. Indeed that is exactly what I predicted would happen months ago.
Nor is it surprising that according to a University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index the immediate response amongst the American public to Donald Trump’s election victory has been a surge in optimism about the economy
“The initial reaction of consumers to Trump’s victory was to express greater optimism about their personal finances as well as improved prospects for the national economy.”
These facts expose the disastrous damage to the fabric of American democracy done by the way Hillary Clinton conducted her Presidential election campaign. Not only has she fostered a dangerous paranoia in America and in the West generally about Russia, but her abuse of identity issues to shore up her support has hugely magnified what were already existing divisions within American society to stratospherically dangerous levels, so that one half of the American people now believes that the other half is made up of misogynists and racists.
There has been a huge amount of nonsense written about this election concerning “fake news” and “post-truth” as if exaggeration, hyperbole and misrepresentation were not a normal part of any Western election process, and as if the American people – upon whose good sense American democracy ultimately depends – were not capable of seeing through it.
For the record my opinion is that the grossest lies by far were said during the campaign not by Donald Trump and his supporters but by Hillary Clinton and her campaign – about Donald Trump’s personality and about Russia – and that Hillary Clinton in the end paid the price for them.
However if the Democrats and the liberal current in America they purport to represent really want to understand why they lost, then it is they who need to put aside the “fake news” and “post-truth” of which to be clear it is they who are the main practitioners.
If they do so they might finally recognise the simple truth: Donald Trump won the election because Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate whilst he managed to convince tens of millions of hard-pressed Americans that unlike her he genuinely cares about them and is going to make their lives better.