I, like millions of Americans, was disheartened to see Hillary Clinton lose. I thought she was grossly maligned. I may have offended some by posting comments on Facebook that Joseph Smith withstood some 40 court appearances, and yet, nonetheless, has been revered by multitudes for generations as a prophet of God. So, by comparison, just because she has been investigated numerous times by hostile, partisan committees does not make Mrs. Clinton a criminal, either, especially because she was largely exonerated. I bristled at all of the phony propaganda postings against her and other liberals. After reading Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power by the Washington Post's Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, I wanted to shout to the world, metaphorically, "Lock up your daughters!" I couldn't believe people could be so thoughtless as to elect this amoral confidence trickster, this clearly sociopathic, perhaps even psychopathic, person to the highest civil office in the land. I campaigned diligently the final weeks before the election, hoping to elect Hillary Clinton and other local Democratic candidates, knocking on doors, handing out literature, making phone calls. I like to think that many local canvassers at least got out the vote in Salt Lake County, judging by the performance in local elections. However, I didn't try to go elsewhere in the state, where Democratic supporters are admittedly sparser. Nor did I do much during the summer, when it might have made more of a difference.
I have tried to understand the passion of conservatives. I have posted previously that I considered myself a conservative during my adolescence in the very liberal San Francisco Bay Area. When I moved to Utah in 1979, I slowly gravitated leftward until I finally switched to the Democratic Party in 1986. Most of my family are of the rightward persuasion. so I at least come in for occasional taunts. No one has asked me to eat crow this time around, perhaps because I believe they have learned to accept my political beliefs as an integral part of my eccentricities. They have learned to humor me, that is, since I seem to be lacking in credibility elsewhere. It allows me to still be invited over for dinner occasionally, for which I am grateful.
Because I think I understand conservatives, I am easily misled by prejudice, by stereotypes. I don't like to sit through right-wing put downs of liberals, even when they leave themselves open to attack. I miss what are undoubtedly a lot of funny jokes that way. It is paradoxical, but I'm not similarly put off by put downs of Mormonism. Perhaps it is a degree of confidence. Perhaps I still struggle with understanding why the masses seem so unpersuaded, so manipulated by (what I perceive as) palpable lies. I also assume that other people read as much as I do, or listen to audio books as much as I do, or follow the news online like yours truly. I, on the other hand, don't watch TV news, don't listen to radio, don't read newspapers and magazines like I used to. I am on Facebook, but haven't used other social media platforms. I don't listen to many podcasts or watch that many viral video clips. I am still out of touch, assuming I was ever current with the zeitgeist to begin with. I don't go through the process of surveying the many for their opinions, beyond doing canvassing for others. So, this is little more than just another opinion, based upon my limited observation and reading.
- I viewed the widespread dissatisfaction with Hillary Clinton as the fruit of numerous vicious memes, as a well-orchestrated campaign of slander, lies, distortions and misrepresentations, as childish ad hominem attacks, as the products of well-financed dark money lobbyists committed to her destruction. I wondered repeatedly how people could be so gullible. This defensiveness blinded me to legitimate concerns many had about the neoliberal policies she and her husband had espoused, including GATT and NAFTA, which did make it easier to ship jobs overseas; the get-tough-on-crime policies, which disproportionately incarcerated black and Latino drug offenders; the deregulating of the financial markets, such as abolishing Glass-Steagall, which paved the way for the Great Recession in 2007; the endorsing of Workfare, which provided inadequate resources for working mothers; and supporting the bailout of Wall Street, without commensurate aid to the millions who lost their homes and employment. While she and her husband in the Democratic Leadership Council steered the party towards a more centrist position, it seemed like it was too easy for them to abandon their core constituencies along the way, especially working class Americans. There was continued outreach to minorities, but labor and immigration policies continued to be skewed in the interest of the financial sector, not towards the broader industrial and service sectors.
- I wondered if the widespread hostility toward Mrs. Clinton and Barack Obama was mainly a product of racism, sexism, and ignorance. I thought if people stopped imbibing the evil brews from the right-wing noise machine and took an objective look at their accomplishments, they would be won over. I thought it was a personality issue, that they weren't as charismatic as other leaders out there. Instead, their social agendas were suspected by many. For all the recovery of the economy over the last 8 years, the working and middle class hadn't seen their standard of living improve substantially, were still saddled with crushing debt from home and tuition loans, still couldn't afford their medical insurance, for which the marketplace was less than generous.
- For all the problems which could be laid at the feet of an intransigent GOP, including the lack of expansion of Medicaid to cover those in the insurance gap, their lack of support for infrastructural projects to provide employment, the irrational fears stoked by Charles and David Koch and their many, many wealthy partners influencing public policy over the past 40 years (see Jane Mayer's Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right)--even the skillfully choreographed takeover of state legislatures and the Congress since 2008--one still had to look why their message played so well with so many Americans nationwide. It wasn't just a matter of fear and smear, or the corrosive ramifications of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 (which opened the floodgates to limitless campaign contributions in the name of corporate personhood). Rather, the sense that President Obama, and Hillary Clinton, in particular, weren't talking to white working and middle class voters hadn't lessened over the past 8 years. They courted certain key demographic groups (educated urbanites, new citizens, large ethnic minorities), but seemed to ignore, or write off, all the underemployed working stiffs out there. They took it for granted that they had enough women, blacks, Latinos, Asians, union workers, and college students supporting them to compensate for disaffected whites, especially white males. They also haven't courted religious conservatives uncomfortable with secularism, encroachments upon religious liberty, and issues of sexual equality and abortion. The perception of many whites that they were being passed over because they weren't immigrants or minorities, were paying taxes for everyone else, weren't college graduates, lived in rural areas, or were evangelical Christians, cannot be easily refuted. There is also the plight of millions of ex-felons who are unable to vote, obtain government benefits, or find suitable employment.
- While I, like many Americans, view our new president-elect as nothing less than despicable, as someone who has proved himself hardly exemplary as either a human being or even as an entrepreneur, he is, indisputably, talented. He is very good at getting people to pay attention to him, to even respect him. He does have some charisma. He does seem to have a well-founded reputation as a tough negotiator. He has, over the years, shown himself to be naturally talented as a mass media presence. He is very good at improvisation, practically to a fault, since he doesn't like to work with a script. In this great age of shameless self-promotion and self-worship, he would be considered a pioneering mentor for younger generations of narcissists. His unfiltered viewpoints seem refreshingly candid to others. He seems genuine and empathetic to them. He says the outrageous things that others fear to disclose beyond close family and friends. He seems comfortable in his own skin, unlike the many burdened by self-defeating behaviors and self-reproach. He talks like he is a doer, even if he has left a long list of failed projects and unhappy investors in his wake. For, I sincerely believe, many Americans think they could be as successful as Donald Trump if they stay focused, have a clear vision of success, repeat positive affirmations constantly, pursue persons of influence, and work really hard. They don't think of him being a spendthrift, or an heir to his parents' wealth, or prevaricating about his net worth. They see him as a Horatio Alger figure. After all, who can argue with success? You must be doing good to have achieved so much. They want to be famous for being famous, too.
- There is the populist factor. The GOP establishment fielded 16 opponents against Trump. They fought hard. Trump dispatched them with astonishing ease, almost tantamount to the victories of Joshua and the prophet Muhammad. Or perhaps the spectacles at Agincourt or the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Trump, who has switched party affiliations 7 times in the past 14 years, doesn't seem driven by ideology. He has become a real power broker in the GOP. Bernie Sanders shook up the Democratic Party. The party bosses retained control and got their candidate nominated. Many Sanders supporters felt baited and switched. Hillary didn't have as difficult of a field to contend with as Trump. Many felt she came to the campaign with a sense of entitlement. No matter your experience in today's politics, one still has to earn respect. Younger, more progressive voters felt her brand was stale. Trump, in spite of being a media fixture for almost 40 years, still seemed fresh. My guess is that many Sanders supporters did not warm to Hillary's neoliberalism. They viewed her as too much of a part of the old establishment, and either stayed away from the polls, or voted for someone else. The deal wasn't clinched. The Democratic Party wasn't shaken up like the GOP. It should have been. It still may be.
- Hillary Clinton, for all of her professionalism and intellectual gifts, for all of her experience, was unable to match Trump's spontaneity and brashness. I felt she won her debates. But the Trump supporters didn't care about those. They were already convinced of him, regardless of what he said. Basically, all he had to do was show up, and they would have supported him. Because they were convinced that Hillary is corrupt, venal, old school, proven and found wanting. They thought of Richard Mellon Scaife-generated conspiracies, of Benghazi, of State Dept. emails, of DNC Wikileaks, of having her philandering husband back in the White House. Some thought of derided neoliberal policies of her husband, of her being too cozy with Wall Street. Somehow, they trusted a billionaire with a shady business record more than a dedicated public servant. They wanted to give Trump a chance, because of his usual hyperbolic promises. They trusted a showman. They didn't trust a politician.
- Finally, there are a lot of voters who still believe in governance, in the practicalities and mundanities of statecraft. They saw what happened when they chose Barack Obama twice. In other words, not much, or not what they expected. They thought of putting in another Democratic president, running up against another implacable Congress. They have waited patiently for 8 years. They decided to give in to the Koch-selected, Tea Party-driven, establishment. They don't think of Trump as just another George W. Bush. They expect big things to happen with this impresario, this brash man, who seems like a modern, uncensored entertainment version of Ronald Reagan. They will, at least, see some movement. He has shaken up the GOP establishment. He speaks to them. They bought his pitch. They are trying something new, with someone with no experience in public life. With someone who, unlike many past, non-politician presidents, also didn't serve in the military. They are desperate to gamble with this man of outsized ego, because he makes them dream of making America great again. I shudder to think of what this will mean for refugees, immigrants, women, Muslims and others who aren't part of his rarefied composite image of America. Time will tell. It is frightening to think what would happen if Pence, a true ideologue, succeeded Trump as president. Trump's true relationship to the Koch brothers' faction, to organized crime, to Vladimir Putin's circle, remains opaque. Will he act independently, or as their stooge? Will he ever be as committed to public service as he has been to money and Donald Trump? Time will tell. In the meantime, we should all work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Stand in holy places and be not moved.