Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Not so much losing as failing to win ...

Only 25.5% of  US electorate voted for Trump. 25.6% voted for Clinton and 3% or so for other candidates. 46% of eligible voters distrusted/disliked Clinton and Trump, or were disengaged from the political process or were unable to vote - and it is they who made the difference. 

The burning question is WHY were almost HALF of the American electorate unwilling or unable to vote in such an important election?  Add in all the people who are not eligible to vote - mainly working class and disproportionately black - and Trump is President-elect courtesy of about one in five adult American citizens. 

This was NOT simply a victory for conservatism and bigotry; it was NOT simply a racist, misogynistic white working class lashing out at more privileged and/or progressive people or immigrants any more than the Brexit vote was simply about that. Of course there is an element of that but it is a far more complex issue. 

At the forefront was the abject failure of the Democrats to provide a viable alternative, to capture people’s imaginations, to make them believe in the possibility of a better future. They dumped the candidate who might have done that. 

For some in the Democratic Party that was done for the same reasons the party machine cynically manoeuvred to dump the very popular left-wing candidate for Vice President in 1944.  Others clearly believed that the significance of Clinton being the first woman president, combined with her credentials for the job would be enough to win a majority of the hallowed middle ground. 

There was a wide spread belief that it was as morally right as it was politically inevitable  the first female president should follow the first black president.  No doubt there are powerful conservative forces which were opposed to that happening and which were a factor in the election but you have only to look at Thatcher to see that simply being a woman has long since ceased being the barrier it used to be.  The rightwing in the US had swallowed the reality of one of the stupidest people ever to hold political office standing as VP.  

The Trump machine played to sexism and misogyny of course just as they played to race but the problem was not simply the conservative backlash, not simply racism or sexism or other expressions of the generalised bigotry whose messages of hate still run through the middle of the American candy stick - the problem was also that too many Democrats had their own versions of smugly supremacist attitudes.

The person who said in a tweet I read,  that the American working class is made up of "stupid and uneducated bigots" exemplifies a widespread knee jerk reaction to the election. In its own way it is as reactionary and ill-informed as a post I read on Facebook from a Trump supporter. 

”…We saw what was happening under the Obama and Democrat party administration. We were being led into a socialist form of government. We were being ignored on the world stage. America was less safe and becoming more so by the minute. Clinton wanted to increase the number of immigrants tremendously and thereby increase our taxes to support them. Did you know that they are given more subsidies than an American citizen? Clinton also wanted abortions to become legal up to the moment of birth. We're not talking about medical emergencies. Everyone is afraid of Trump. I think this is unfounded. He cannot act alone you know. When he assembles his team of advisors we may see the greatest potential in a president, ever! We will see what happens but for now, give him a chance. My country was being led in the wrong direction and now we have a chance to get back on track. 

I've read some awful statements from Trump supporters but equally some pretty awful stuff from affluent, educated Americans about their fellow Americans who are neither affluent nor well educated. Folk who would not dream of making jokes about people of colour, women, disabled, gay or trans people - in fact who would throw the most almighty hissy fit at anyone who did - will make derogatory comments and jokes openly and freely about 'white trash', 'trailer trash' and 'rednecks'. 

I realise that being white confers its own privilege but I am working class enough in my origins to feel aggrieved when affluent, educated, socially mobile people speak of white privilege as if it was an absolute. Poor white people in the USA have only to open their mouths for their class origins to be immediately evident - not in their accents but in the state of their teeth. 

When Garrison Keillor -   the voice over for the Middle American Dream - claims that the children of a waitress in the USA can still become physicists, novelists or paediatricians - he is wilfully ignoring the grim reality of the poverty trap.  That trap is holding proportionately far more people of colour but numerically it's got its vice-like grip on many more white people.  It may allow a few out of its grip - the exceptionally gifted or the exceptionally lucky - but the vast majority can never tear themselves free. And if they do, very often they leave a part of themselves in it. 

I know that poor white people in the US have always been the shock troops for those who benefit most from racial division - but the best strategy is to recruit them to progressive politics - not drive them into the arms of the likes of Trump by alternately ignoring and mocking them. 

I would like to know how much of the $1billion Clinton raised to spend on her campaign went on ensuring that people were registered and able and willing to vote.  Perhaps she believed that too many of the 46% would vote for Trump if they were registered.

Hard though it is for many people to swallow - Trump did not win so much as Clinton lost.  She lost because her party alienated a lot of people over the nomination, because it believed the pollsters, because it did not do enough to address the lamentable level of voter registration, and because it has done nothing to redress the effects of the continuing demise of the organisations which could have helped to mobilise the working class vote - the trade unions.  

Only 7% of US workers in the private sector are in unions; 11% overall.  Obama did nothing in 8 years to address the issue - in fact he, like Bill Clinton before him, was committed to the very economics and ideology that have resulted in the loss of so many US jobs and with them, the unions. 

The destruction of working class collectivism was necessary for the neo-lliberal project to succeed.  Why would the controllers and the servants of corporate capitalism be prepared to yield on the many demands arising from identity politics when they have been so implacable - and at times, vicious - in their opposition to trade unions?  Why have certain sections of the population been rewarded with significantly increased standards of living and opportunities when a majority of the working class face under-employment or unemployment? 

It's just too easy to label the heartlands of the USA as Dumbasfuckistan - with the urbanised fringes on the east and west coasts as the real America. You know that America - the one that's cool, cosmopolitan, sexually liberated, post-modern - and inhabited by a disturbing number of people who seem not to realise the awful price being paid by others for their privileged existence. 

Rainbow coalitions cannot and will not survive alone if the storm clouds of fascism roll in.  If there was ever a time to unite all the progressive forces in the world it is now -  but how to unite when neo-liberalism has been so successful at individualising, isolating and compartmentalising?  I  can tell you how it won't happen - and that's by the privileged, educated and affluent alternately ignoring, patronising and mocking the poor.

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