In the vast ocean of words which have been written about the US Presidential election it is important to hold on to one single fact: Donald Trump won primarily because Hillary Clinton lost.
Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate, and absolutely the wrong person for the Democratic Party to propose for President. I have previously discussed her background in some detail, and have said why merely on the strength of her public record she was a completely unsuitable person to become President of the United States of America
“Her catastrophic misjudgements about the Iraq and Libyan wars, her public gloating over the public torture and murder of Gaddafi, the utter failure of her attempted health reforms during her husband’s Presidency, and the email scandal, in any remotely well functioning system ought to have disqualified her for the highest public office.”
Beyond that there were the well-founded stories of political corruption, with the Clinton Foundation operating as a kind of combined slush-fund and laundry for what can only be described as a system of legalised bribery organised on a colossal and global scale.
Then there were the disastrous policy positions, eg. the neocon foreign policy at a time when the American people are sick of neocon adventures and the wars that come with them, and the continuing commitment to deeply unpopular turbo-charged neoliberal globalist economic policies, at a time when they have become widely despised and discredited.
Last but not least there were the obvious character flaws: the arrogance (calling people who voted for her opponent “deplorables”), the paranoia (the “alt right conspiracy”), the compulsive secrecy (the Goldman Sachs affair, the attack of ‘pneumonia’), and the obsessive habit of manipulation (too many examples to list), all of which came together to produce a campaign of ‘dirty tricks’, vilification of her opponents via a bought and controlled media, and boring and ultimately irrelevant bashing of Russia.
The extent of Hillary Clinton’s tone-deafness to the American people is for me exemplified by the way she let her attack dogs loose on FBI Director Comey when all he was doing was his job. How Hillary Clinton thought she could sway the American people onto her side by publicly attacking whilst herself under investigation the head of one of the few institutions left in America that most Americans still admire continues to baffle me, and shows what a wretchedly bad politician she is. The result – as I predicted – was that when she was eventually cleared the American people gave her no credit for it.
The point however to remember about this election is that this absolutely terrible candidate still managed to come first in the popular vote.
This is not a reflection of the continuing doubts many Americans still have about the personality of Donald Trump. I find the claim that a more conventional Republican candidate – a Marco Rubio or a Jeb Bush – would have done better than Trump completely unconvincing. Trump ultimately won the Republican nomination precisely because his mainstream Republican opponents were so much less popular than he was. Unlike Trump none of them ever gained the slightest traction with the American people, which is why in the primaries he was able to steamroll over them so easily.
I would add that whilst it is true that opinion polls showed that Trump suffered from large negatives, in my opinion that is less an indicator that he is unpopular, but rather that he is a deeply polarising and controversial figure. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who many Americans voted for negatively because they saw her as “the lesser evil”, millions of Americans voted positively for Donald Trump because they enthusiastically supported him. By contrast, had the choice come down to one between Hillary Clinton and any one of the lacklustre Republican candidates who in the primaries had been Trump’s mainstream opponents, I have no doubt she would have won.
The point is that if the Democrats had nominated a halfway decent candidate who was not Hillary Clinton, they would have won whether their Republican opponent was Trump or anyone else. This was the Democrats’ election to lose. By nominating Hillary Clinton as their candidate they contrived to lose it.
There has been much nonsense written about how supposedly terrible it is that the America of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln has voted for President Trump – as if Donald Trump with all his flamboyant and sometimes vulgar outspokenness was not an authentically American personality of whom there have been many examples in America’s history.
A far more valid and pertinent question is how the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to nominate someone like Hillary Clinton as its candidate for President. The party of the common man and woman, the party that once claimed to represent the working people of America, went into this election with a charmless, arrogant, out of touch, widely mistrusted, deeply unpopular and visibly corrupt elitist as its candidate.
The short answer is that the Democratic Party has long been captured by a neoliberal/neocon elite focused on grandiose geopolitical adventures abroad and self-enrichment at home, of which Hillary Clinton was both the standard bearer and the embodiment. The result is that all alternatives to Hillary Clinton were systematically blocked out, so that she was in the end the candidate, creating the conditions that made it possible for Trump to win.
Joe Lauria has written for The Duran how Bernie Sanders might have put up a serious challenge for the Presidency if he had had the courage and the confidence to defy the Democratic Party machine by standing as an independent. I would add that every single opinion poll that I have seen also shows that if Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic Party’s candidate instead of Hillary Clinton, he would have won the election by a landslide.
The lesson of this election is that there is an America that is prepared to vote for a left wing candidate, but that it is increasingly refusing to vote for a neoliberal/neocon Democratic party elitist machine candidate. Instead, if denied the option of a left wing candidate who shows some genuine concern and understanding for its needs, it will consider voting for someone like Trump, who at least repudiates the elite it despises, even if he does it from the right.
The biggest danger to democracy in America today is not Donald Trump (for the record, I don’t think Trump endangers American democracy). It is a Democratic Party which because of its entrenched institutional power in the US political system is able to block the emergence of any left wing alternative to itself, but whose own long decayed and corrupted structures prevent it from offering any genuine alternative of its own.
The result is a political system which leaves millions of Americans disenfranchised, which in a country that claims to be a democracy cannot be a good thing, and which can only store up serious trouble for the future.
In the meantime the departure of Hillary Clinton and hopefully of her husband from the US political scene can only be a good thing.
Though I personally doubt that the Democratic Party is any longer capable of renewing itself, I am absolutely sure it cannot happen whilst the Clintons are around exercising their malign influence.
The departure of the Clintons is indeed one unequivocally good thing to have come out of this election. It is now up to those who really care about offering the American people a genuine alternative to build on it.