Quietly released on a Friday Night
Part 3: VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
It’s All Your Fault! And why it isn’t
By Dean Heagle
In writing on the subject of the 2016 presidential election, I found that exploring any one topic, consistently shed light on more and more details. Gladly, the passage of time has helped solidify and expand these ideas. Thus, what was originally intended as a short article has become a four part series, replete with sidebars and additional analysis.
This election was about an American public that was apathetic, unexcited and a more than a bit lazy. It was also about a mainstream news media that offered unclear choices and often contradictory messages. And even more curious, there was interference via hacking and “news” leaks originating from the Russian government. And this was all rounded out by an abundance of clearly “FAKE”, sensationalistic news, which conveniently showed up in the social media platforms of almost everyone.
But while this election was about all of these things, it was decided by a significant non-majority of the population who clearly believed that the only way forward was to decisively cast their vote against the status quo.
Although their politics could not have been more different, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump attracted some of the same voters. Both men took a populist vantage point. Both candidates spoke of a system that was broken and promised to work for the people who were left behind. They professed that America needed to stop out-sourcing and bring its jobs back home. Both men were perceived as champions of the working class.
This year, while Trump played the role of the populist, Hillary was the status quo candidate who promised to continue the steady progress made under Obama. She didn’t seem to offer anything new or exciting. At the same time, Trump continued to court the disaffected and drew large crowds.
To say that the media (“mainstream” and “FAKE”) treated Trump and Clinton differently is an understatement for the ages. Trump received free coverage for nearly every gaffe, indiscretion and temper tantrum. He went un-fact-checked and was not held accountable. At the same time Hillary’s character was consistently diminished. She was painted as un-exciting, self-serving and untrustworthy and was held to interrogation for the slightest misstep.
It is true that Hillary started out this race with an extreme baggage problem, linked more closely to her husband than to herself. After all, right wing talk radio had its beginnings during the Clinton impeachment and to this day talk radio remains a major influence in the echo chamber which has become our “mainstream” media.
And the usual accusations and taunts against Clinton were only amplified during this campaign by the advent of inflammatory “gotcha” agencies such as Breitbart and the various producers of “FAKE” news. As it stands, Bill and Hillary have been so vilified over the years that to this day, for some conservatives just the mention of “Clinton” is considered “fightin’ words”.
This election was about a Democrat who had the support of the Democratic establishment and a nominal Republican who was largely dismissed by his party as an embarrassment. But what Trump had going for him was his populist message. His disregard for political correctness and perhaps even this tendency to be rude, crude and lewd oddly worked to help humanize him to some voters. People saw Trump as someone who was not afraid to speak his mind and this led to the perception that he would shake things up and not proceed with business as usual. So ultimately, the distance between him and the Republican party only worked in his favor. At the same time, Clinton’s standing in her party’s orthodoxy only served to hurt her.
JUMP TO SIDEBAR 4: MIXED MESSAGES: HILLARY VS. BERNIE
THE USUAL SUSPECTS AND THE RENEGADES
Trump could not have won without significant support from the Republican base. While Trump was never fully embraced by the Republican party, ultimately much of Trump’s support came from the usual suspects in the Republican coalition made up of small government, pro-business libertarians who may or may not also have held anti-immigrant beliefs and/or a “southern” viewpoint on race relations. And this base was ultimately joined by the Christian right which did a lot of backpedaling to embrace Trump as their only viable option but only after he already had the nomination.
But it was another group of voters whose votes were decisive his year. They were largely lower middle class who had lost hope in the system. They had been foreclosed, forced to sell, outsourced, phased out, downsized and were generally ill at ease. They were the ex-factory workers who jobs had been become obsolete or globalized. And those who could find work, worked longer hours for less pay, with no benefits or job security.
JUMP TO SIDEBAR 5: THE DIMINISHED MIDDLE CLASS
These disgruntled voters had been marginalized and sidelined for years. They were hit by the recession but overlooked by the recovery. They were knocked down a rung on the economic ladder and were feeling poorer by the day. At the same time, they saw bankers bailed out, big corporations given amnesty and the wealth of the rich expanding exponentially after the recovery. While they, the forgotten, still got nothing.
They couldn’t see hope in the future of a government being controlled by insiders of either party. They needed an outsider to take on the system. There could be no more business as usual. So, this year they went out on a limb and voted for the one person that they saw as the biggest political outsider, someone not even very well-liked by his own party, someone they felt would at least shake up the system. They were desperate and their desperation influenced their votes. And this year their votes would prove decisive.
Importantly, two important right-wing memes were also at play during this election. Both memes were planted over 20 years ago by right-wing talk radio — as if they somehow saw this moment coming — and they came to fruition during Trump’s campaign. The first meme has to do with the “myth of the liberal media”, which holds that the majority of mass media is run by liberal interests who highlight and even propagandize secularist liberal ideas while tamping down all other (read conservative) viewpoints.
JUMP TO SIDEBAR 6: THE MYTH OF THE LIBERAL MEDIA
The second meme is related to the first, and could be called the “myth of the liberal elite”. It holds that the people really in control of the country, its economics and its government, are rich college educated liberals who really don’t care about non-elites, poor whites, the working class, their viewpoints or circumstances.
Trump artfully used both of these memes during his campaign. By sowing the seeds of mistrust in the mass media he caused some to seek information from other sources such as alt-right and “FAKE” news. The myth of the liberal elite was useful to Trump because that it set up a classic us vs. them dichotomy.
REBELLION IN THE RANKS
The voters who were attracted to Trump did not see themselves as elite in any way, but instead saw themselves as average working class Americans, a cause of pride for some. And they were tired of the people in charge, the liberal elite, telling them what to do. If the liberal elite wanted them to vote for Clinton, they would do the opposite, even if some of these voters may have realized that Trump was the least qualified candidate.
So now we enter into at least a few years of true Republican rule. Not only do Republicans now control all three branches of government but they also hold the majority of state houses. And due to the gerrymandering by state governments, it is unlikely that the House of Representatives, for one, will turn over to the Democrats anytime soon.
It’s likely that many viewed their vote for Trump as a crap shoot anyway. So, who would you vote for? Should you vote for the person with a level head and years of experience with the promise of more of the same or vote for the person who was clearly ill-tempered and unqualified except as a bomb thrower who had promised to shake things up?
This year, the bomb thrower won and one cannot help but believe that this was an act of extreme desperation on the part of some voters. It was a roll of the dice. People believed that things couldn’t get much worse for them. So, they took a chance on Trump.
The middle class has been losing ground in this country since the 70’s. The effects of globalization have been devastating and multi-generational. One cannot blame the middle and lower classes for feeling left behind. And one cannot blame them for their sense of desperation which undoubtedly was involved in their roll of the dice for Trump. In this election, the people who voted against the status quo were decisive to Trump’s victory. And this must become a huge wakeup call for the Democratic party.
If there is a silver lining to this election, it is that it has spurred many people to become more active and for many to become active for the first time. We will still have to survive the Trump years as best we can. And we need to keep moving forward. This is not the time for tears. Don’t mourn, organize!
LINKS: (Part 3 of 4): VOTING AGAINST THE EMPIRE
NEXT: Election 2016 Analysis (Part 4 of 4)
THE PURPLE REVOLUTION