Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Accidental President

What the hell happened anyway!
A day or two after the election, we were still in shock, driving home on Alemany, near the farmers market.  There was a guy on the median with a cardboard sign asking for money.  Now, I'm one of those people that doesn't give money to panhandlers, I'm not even sure why, and I actually kind of admire people who do, but that's not what we're here to talk about.  We're here to talk about the election.  So, then this guy started yelling at me, telling me I'd give $5 to the panhandler across the street, who was working the traffic in the other direction.  I said no, I wouldn't give him any money either.  He then said yes I would, because the other panhandler was white, and they guy I was talking to was black.  Mind you, this is all happening in just a few seconds, while waiting for the traffic light.  As I started to realize what what going on here, the shock was setting in.  I argued with the guy that it didn't make any difference to me, but he wasn't having any of it.  Now maybe I'm making too much of this; it could just be that this was this guy's shtick to get some more money.  I have no idea.  But what I felt like at that moment was that the horrible election results were tearing us apart.  Here in liberal San Francisco, we were coming apart, not together.

The Blame Game
So it seems like everyone has a theory about what happened.  I think it's way too simplistic.  There's a phrase "The straw that broke the camel's back."  The problem I have with that is it's so unscientific.  When the camel's back breaks, it's from the combined effect of ALL the straws, not any one straw.  In fact, considering the fact that Hillary Clinton won at least 2.9 million more votes than Trump, I'd say the cliché that's most appropriate would be "knocked me over with a feather" instead.  The margin was so thin. It's actually more akin to one of those chaos theory clichés about butterflies and tornadoes.  In short, a strange assortment of factors, and blind luck have put one of the most dangerous candidates into the most powerful office in the world.  Donald Trump, Accidental President!

In no particular order, here are a few of the 'feathers' that knocked us over:

This is more like an undercurrent than an actual event.  Trump gave people the permission to let their Ugly American freak flag fly.  Enough white women stayed in their abusive relationships with the GOP to provide the margin.  But wait, don't stop there.  Muslim-bashing has its benefits too, not to mention the initial scapegoats: Mexicans.  I wrote about The Bradley Effect 8 years ago, and I think the polling was just off enough due to people not admitting they were for Trump.  The polling led to a certain amount of overconfidence.  I mean, there's no way someone as ridiculous as Trump could be elected President, right?

Unbelievable.  Caving in to rogue agents inside the FBI and other GOP agents, FBI Director Comey released a non-statement 11 days before the election, in defiance of long-standing policy, as well as laws that forbid members of the government from messing with elections that close to the date, that maybe, just maybe, there might be some new emails to look at.  Many think this might be the biggest factor, but it's hard to say.

The Media
Yes, we can certainly count #FoxNews as a factor, but that's not news.  They always take the most hair-brained side, if it's against the Dems.  But the other media sites, even including #MSNBC (I watch too much) were suckered into giving Trump billion$ in free press.  Any time he happened to give one of his free-association word salad stump speeches, the networks ate it up, like it was real news.  Trump even started bragging about all the free press he was getting, even while vilifying the media at every rally.  Click on this graph of news coverage (so you can see the detail) , from digby's blog:

The media was mesmerized by the whole reality TV show that was Donald Trump.  Before anyone could spend enough time to really dig into the most recent gaffe/scandal/outrage, Trump would hit us with another gaffe/scandal/outrage.  This had the effect of constantly distracting the media from anything deep, with the latest superficial outrage.  Even now, after the election, Trump misdirects by talking about burning American flags, to keep us from focusing on the cabal at Trump Tower.

The Russians
In the time I have been working on this blog, more and more has come out about the Russians trying to hack the election.   This is potentially the most shocking story, but hard to prove the exact amount of effects.  What seems clear is that Putin wanted to help Trump, and hurt Clinton.  The Intelligence community tried to tell us this earlier.   On Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The USIC is made up of 16 agencies, in addition to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  But, October 7th was the same date of the release of the infamous Hollywood Access tapes.  What do you think American TV viewers would rather focus on?  Russian cyberhacking, or Trump admitting to sexual assault, in graphic, crude language?   The short attention span wins again.  

Fake News
Something that has increasingly come to light since the election was the effect of fake news.  Most of the fake news stories (and by fake, we mean the entire story is fake!) were aimed at Trump supporters.  This was mainly because they were more gullible, not necessarily that the people creating the fakes cared about Trump.  Many of the videos came from a small town in Macedonia.  Mixed in with this random fakery were fake news stories promulgated by the Russians to sew more discord.

Voter Suppression
This is probably one of the biggest reasons, but is not getting the press most of the other reasons get.   There has been news about the states' efforts to restrict voting rights since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act a few years ago.  What is less reported is the use of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, where a database of voting names is shared between states.  You say your name is James Brown?  Well, it looks like James Brown already voted in Virginia!  We're going to throw your name out so you can't vote at all.  This system threw massive amounts of minority voters off the rolls, even though that kind of voter fraud has been shown again and again to be almost non-existent.  We're talking large enough numbers to change the outcome of states like Wisconsin, for example.

These are just a few of the reasons, none of which have anything to do with the issues, or what's important to the American middle class.  I'd really like to have your comments on this.  Vote for your most important factor, or mention some obvious ones I missed.  In the meantime, God help us all for the next 4 years!


Tom Mulhern said...

The genesis of all this can be traced back to the 1970s, when Rupert Murdoch started acquiring newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations in the U.S. He latched on to the "conservatives," or they latched on to them, in a way that made it sound as if they were a fringe element that was poorly served. Media consolidation accelerated and then Citizens United sealed it. Now pundits from the far right have as much voice (or more) as the average, rational, sensible person. To say we have been slowly, surely had is an understatement. Look at North Carolina for a worst-case scenario.

Anonymous said...

Everything you say makes sense - a myriad of factors came into play. I would add something else - a terrible campaign run by Hilary, the baggage she carried into it, and include truly biased media - one way or the other. This election, as reflected even by Bernie's popularity, was a protest against stagnation in government, against the status quo and the fact there are millions of Americans out there who do not feel they have a voice (see the great movie, "Hell or High Water"). People were looking for change, and the Donald offered it. No one on the democratic side took the time to really address these people. We spend much time on minority rights (and rightly so) that we can miss the target sometimes when it comes to winning elections. Instead, the focus of Hilary's ads and the media, especially CNN and MSNBC, was on Trump bashing, which only fueled the anti-establishment conspiracy theory messages. And what did Hilary promise? A continuation of the Obama administration, i.e., more strangled governmental paralysis. Don't get me wrong, the people really responsible for the election results are those who voted for Trump against any common sense or rational reasoning. But he ran a campaign based on emotion, and the Dems could have done better with a little more empathy-driven policy rhetoric that at the very least, would have countered rather than reinforced some of the misogynist flavor some of these people have in their mouths for Hilary. It was a close election - almost anything could have made a difference. We go home losers, but now must study the film for next time.

Bob Mc said...

Anonymous above is Bob Mc , who screwed up the validation process. Merry Christmas and GHappy Holidays to all!

lsc said...

Well said, and definitely worth 2 weeks (or more) of effort. Add to your list the extremely clever re-districting efforts done far in advance of this election by the GOP....Can it ever be undone?
On that note, Merry Christmas! And let's all pray for a healthy, happy new year,

Geoff Gould said...

I guess I'd put gerrymandering under voter suppression, but it's so big, and so important, it deserves its own category. I don't think the American public realizes how perverted gerrymandering has made our democracy. Democrats went to sleep in 2010, and the Koch brothers and their astroturfed tea party crazies swept state houses. The Congressional districts were so gerrymandered after that, that even though a majority of voters voted for Democrats in Congress, we get a GOP majority. We get another chance in 2020 (Census year), but we need to be working hard on 2018 now!

Lightnin' Rod said...

And there is this...

I remember watching Hillary's acceptance speech. As it went along and she appeased (as best she could) the Sander's supporters and then went into celebrating what a Hillary presidency does for the LGBTQ community, the Latino community, the African American community, and most especially Women... a little voice in the back of my head spoke up: "What's in this for me?"

Now, I'm not very proud of that voice, nor would I have listened to it for very long. I am all for the equality for groups of people mentioned above, plus the Muslim community and Americans I don't even know (or care) to categorize. And there is no way in all the possible hells I would have ever voted for Trump. But still... there was a voice in the back of my head: What is in this for me? Where is my piece of this pie?

My piece of pie is pretty much not a problem. I have a good career, I'm not "disenfranchised". So I got past that little voice in my head pretty quickly. But there are a lot of people some might group me with (white, male, middle class) who are struggling towards what they think the American dream is. And that little voice of mine that whisper in depths of the core of my self-preservation, shouts at the surface of their desperation.

And Hillary did nothing to assuage their fears. Nothing to convince those on the fence between selfish needs and grander, altruistic goals. She never convinced the masses that "Stronger Together" didn't mean some were going to become weaker. Or, even if that were true, it didn't mean weaker couldn't be as good or better. There was no guarantee that her new world would be better for everybody.

"What is in it for me?" It's a basic question for any decision. And Hillary's campaign focused more on those who need more, and ignored those that were already (in some opinion) privileged. But there were a lot of those people, and privilege doesn't always ensure prosperity. And they voted.

I've always felt amazed and amused at those who vote against their own best interest (Gay Republicans comes to mind). Many of those who voted for Trump in this election did just that.

But Hillary did not do enough to convince a certain portion of America that the inclusive nature of her campaign included them, and that voting for Hillary was not necessarily a vote against their own best interest.

Call it racism, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny - whatever. Self interest is basic, even if it's arrived at with faulty logic.

Lightnin' Rod said...

Dangit! Rereading my post above and... by Clinton's acceptance speech, I meant "at the Democratic Convention".

All other bad writing, you'll have to deal with on your own. That's why posting on the Web sucks, re-writing is hard.

Also, btw, I think Hillary would have made an excellent president. Not just the lesser of two evils. She's more liberal than I am, but not so much that I don't think her intelligence, determination, experience and, most of all, dedication to a better America (not just a great America) wouldn't make up for. She would likely have been the best president since FDR.

But we will never know.

Geoff Gould said...

I think your comments are right on. Yes, it's an incredible loss to the country. As far as the white people's thing goes, I think you're very close. I think the flaw perhaps was that yes, the whites were left out, but not just another group looking for a payout. This makes me think of Martin Luther King's speech in 1965 in Montgomery, AL.. Jim Crow and white supremacy did not always exist. The poor whites and blacks were not as divided. Basically, the idea of Jim Crow was to keep whites from complaining too much; no matter how lowly the whites were being treated/paid, the blacks were worse off. Perhaps all Hillary had to do was reach out to the whites and invite them to the party. But that's not likely to happen. The last thing the Trumps of the world need is for working classes to get along with each other. To be honest, "Stronger Together" pretty much nails it. And now, it probably sounds like some hokey discredited slogan, even though, it's the real deal, it's what we really needed.