Donald Trump should have been the dream opponent. A narcissistic blowhard opposed by his own party. He should have been a walk over
And yet he won. Admittedly he got less votes than Hillary, but he won within the rules of the game, a game the Democrats thought they had mastered. He won because Hillary lost. And she lost the election because she presented herself as the candidate of continuity, that she would deliver a third term of Obamaism. Hillary harped on about her great experience, her many years in politics and her long proximity to the levers of power, all the while not realising or not believing the evidence, that this was what the electorate disliked about her
Trump meanwhile portrayed himself as an outsider, a maverick, his campaign an insurgency against the status quo. Of course the idea of Donald Trump as an outsider is outrageous, as the pictures of him in his golden lift or of him and his wife living it up with the Clintons shows. He is a billionaire and very much part of America’s ruling elite. He is not the solution; he is just a nasty demagogue. Many realised this and voted for Hillary as the lesser evil. But in a way he turned out to be politically astute and more in touch with reality than his opponent. He realised that most Americans felt poorer and more insecure now than at any time in living memory.
And they are. The figures suggest household income for most American’s have only just crept back to where they were a decade ago. At the same time in the years of the Great Recession many of the rights at work and entitlements from the state were swept away. Millions lost their homes whilst the banks which misled them were bailed out. This year’s poll was a race between two of the most unpopular candidates in history. The foul end product of the “Greatest Democracy”.
Whereas many disbelieved Donald’s anti-establishment shtick, and feared his outright racism and misogyny fewer still really believed that Hillary was “on our side” as her slogan claimed. In the end she won more votes. But lost the election because she lost key states, states she should have won and expected to win. The key losses were across the so called Rust Belt, Mid-Western states were thirty years of neoliberalism has swept away manufacturing industries and replaced the jobs lost with either no jobs at all or insecure, low skilled and low skilled ones.
When in response to Donald’s “Make America Great Again” Hillary said “America’s still great” the people of the Rust Belt must have wondered whether she was living in the same country as them. In a way she isn’t, in fact she lives in a different world. She lives in the world of the elite which she was spent her whole adult life trying to gain entry to and be a part of. Her crowning achievement (as it was her husband’s before her) would have been to win the presidential election as the candidate of the establishment, the official candidate of the Democratic party and unofficial candidate of the Republican party establishment, some of whom openly called for her election. Her chosen vehicle, the Democratic Party, did not just make a mistake in choosing her as his candidate. It isn’t just that ‘they should have picked Bernie Sanders, he would have beaten Trump’ (and he might have done).
The Big Wigs of the Democrat Party used fair means and foul to make sure that it was Hillary that was on the ballot and not Bernie because the Democratic Party is fully committed to the maintenance of the status quo and the untrammelled rule of one of the most rapacious ruling classes in the world, and in fact is just one face of that ruling elite. That wasn’t what ‘the Bern’ was about though. His campaign, quite unexpectedly, started a prairie fire of radicalism, it had to be contained and neutralised, and it was, at least for now, by Bernie’s total support for Hillary as candidate. An equivalent to the Labour Party they are not. The Democrats are in fact to the right of the Tories on most questions. The dissimilarities between our countries’ political systems cannot blind us to the similarities between what has happened there and here.
The very kind of states which voted for Trump, or failed to vote for Hillary, mirror the areas in the north of England which voted to leave in the referendum or the depressed parts of northern France which are turning towards Marine Le Pen. These are all symptoms of the crisis caused by the Great Recession and austerity which followed it, the systematic transfer of wealth to the rich from the rest of us. If the left, as the old Labour Party establishment wants, its message is one of defence of the status quo they will either demobilise their own keenest supporters or actually drive some into the arms of a populist right best represented by Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in this country.
Also it must be added that the ‘realist’ solutions offered by all parties in the wake of the recession, the hokum of ‘paying of the credit card’, simply haven’t worked. The Western economies are stagnant and living standards falling. Fortunately these policies are the ones that the Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party is moving away from. The party cannot either ‘win from the centre’. In fact the centre is disappearing as our rulers move right wards in ever more desperate attempts to distract from their failure. But we cannot just wait until the next election, either here or in the States.
The assaults which will be launched by the right on both sides of the Atlantic have to be resisted. The spontaneous wave of demonstrations against Trump is a good start. They have the possibility of bringing together the many millions who voted for Hillary as the lesser evil with the millions more couldn’t bring themselves to vote at all (a shocking 45% of the electorate stayed home).
In this country the same spirit of resistance which so brightly animated the Corbyn rallies of the summer, and won him a crushing victory must also be organised onto the streets. We must win the battle for hearts and minds if we are to see a radical change.
More articles from this author
- Class and community: backing the Evonik workers
- Brighton bins win: GMB victory helps set the stage - News from the Frontline
- Making saving life a crime: the brutality of the Nationality and Borders Bill
- The billionaires and the race to the bottom: why Sage care workers are fighting on
- ‘Striketober’: the new militancy sweeping the US
- Welfare that makes you ill: the cruelty of the DWP
- Antigone: a shining example of disability-inclusive arts and thought-provoking theatre - review