Yes, there was an election with a result.  Everyone is dismayed.  And everyone has an opinion.  I thought I’d let the dust settle before I wrote something.  Instead, I’ve read so many articles on what happened: it’s this, it’s that, it’s her, it’s him, it’s the populace, it’s the ‘basket of deplorables’, and so on, I can’t say that helped much. So I’m setting out my stall but that doesn’t mean I have any easy answers.

OK, Donald has been elected and we’re all very shocked. Really?  After the UK’s referendum experience and the vote to leave the EU?   And with such small poll margins for Hillary at 3%, even 1%?   That’s far too small for the error you have to allow for.

Outside the US, there was a deep intake of breath on the 9th November.  I woke early and watched the results come in live.  I felt sad when the Democrats were told to go home and I cringed at the sight of Donald and his almost conciliatory acceptance speech.  And we, in the UK, in Europe, around the world said why? Why would anyone vote for such a person?  Yet, there are good reasons for Trump’s victory, and this is what I want to look at.

First. The underlying ethos of neglect and subjugation of forgotten ignored populations has consequences.  And no party in the UK has the answer to this (I’ll write about whether Corbyn and his Chancellor have the answer in another post) and neither has any party in the States. Well, until this US election, and Bernie, and possibly Trump, but more about the last part of the sentence below.   Yes, Obama has created more employment than you think, but are they call centre, courier, and carer jobs as they are in the UK?  And wages? Where are they for ordinary people in America?  They have stagnated is the answer.  From 1973 to 2015 productivity rose by 96.7% while wages rose by only 11.1%.  Meanwhile the 1% prospered and an American CEO on average earned 20 times what a worker did in 1965, but by 2013, the number was 296 times. (LRB 14 November 2016)

Here in the UK we are witnessing the de-professionalisation of the middle classes and their consequent low morale.  Have you heard that many UK university lecturers are to be paid hourly?  And apparently we can’t afford libraries.  If they aren’t being closed their hours are being drastically cut.  Our civil service is shrinking with 100,000 of them due to be cut soon.  (Maybe they could be re-recruited for the Brexit fiasco where an extra 30,000 are needed.)  I give these UK examples because I know more about them.  You, in the States, you know all about library closures and the disappearing jobs happening in your country.  Where you lead, we are rapidly following.

It’s an ethos that has become the norm.  Industries go missing from your neighbourhood – that’s globalisation and is only to be expected.  Jobs vanish – a shame but what can you do? Look, let’s be blunt this is capitalism and while it delivers goods, it’s also vicious, cruel and cut throat. Benefits go to the rich not the poor. And it is not unnoticed.

Second. The Hillary factor.  A woman.  With a husband, with a history.  In a particular set of society.  With some issues about emails.  Over here in the UK there has been a lot in the media about the illegal emails that Hillary sent from a private server, which apparently are not illegal, says the FBI.  For me the more interesting emails are the leaked Wiki Podesta emails which show the Democratic party machine in thrall to big business. And then the Clinton Foundation, etc, etc.  Yes, who knew.   And yes, I know there’s been a conspiracy around her ever since she began to be noticed in the political sphere decades ago, mainly because she’s a woman and doesn’t know her place (I’ve read those articles) but even so. Why choose someone so controversial?  Why. Was. Hillary. Chosen? Yes, she was competent.  But people, competency is not the only factor – you have to be liked or at the very least respected.  And yes, of course, some people do respect her. But so many did not.  And you have to swing votes.  Here’s the thing. Class comes into it.

One of the articles that came to my notice was from a journalist whose family came from the rust-belt working class America.  (Classifications in the UK and the US are different – but one parent had a good job in a factory until it closed down and the manufacturing disappeared abroad).  In his parent’s milieu competent professionals were barely tolerated and generally looked at with disdain and contempt.  Why?  Because professionals like doctors, teachers, social workers told you what to do with your life, usually when you were down – what do they know?    And the elite in Washington? It was so far removed from their lives that what they said about politics and life in America wasn’t worth thinking about. It was meaningless to say stuff about jobs and equal rights for blacks, women and anyone else.  Who was going to speak for them?  Hillary hob-nobbing with all those wealthy celebrities right at the last minute – was that going to sway these voters?  No.  But rich people who’d made their money through business, now they, they’d worked for their money.  ‘I’d give them respect.’

And a candidate who is a businessman, who speaks his mind, who shoots his mouth off  – now that’s different.

Third:  Just like there is an ageist assumption in lumping everyone over 65+ as ‘older’ (a lazy categorisation) equally you cannot put everyone into neat categories of ‘stupid’, ‘baskets of deplorables’, ‘forgotten peoples’. It is too simplistic.  So many categories other than the forgotten in Detroit (and Muncie, see below) voted for Trump. Rather than go into a lengthy explanation of intersectionality (because that is the key to understanding how the vote went and I might just get back to that in another post) I give you a little anecdote.

We went on a cruise – don’t judge!  The passengers were 80% American.  We had long conversations with about 20 of them.  One couple were definitely Democrat and one other couple were obviously Republicans (they froze with horror when we said we liked Obama). The rest didn’t say what party they favoured, but every single couple said they intensely disliked both candidates, and gave their reasons, mainly Hillary was too much of the Establishment (even the Democrat couple thought her a tainted candidate) and Trump was a boor and a very unpleasant person.  But without many exceptions, as they got up and were leaving our table or just moving on, they’d turn around and tap your arm, and say, ‘But of course, he is saying what we think.’  If I managed to get any more out of these people it was about the Establishment not knowing or caring about America and not listening to their needs. And that’s interesting, as these were not the forgotten of America, they were comfortably off people from all over the States.  These were certainly the ‘shy’ voters.  Make no mistake I bet they told the pollsters, ‘no we’re not going to vote’, or I haven’t made my mind up’.  But they had, really.

American people appear to have wanted, and I would say, needed something different. And let’s not totally dismiss this need or the Donald saying he’ll bring back jobs to the mid-west. He may not get the big industries back, but he could build roads and bridges. I hear he’s promised an $800-$1tr programme of infrastructure investment financed by bonds plus a corporation tax cut aimed at creating 25m new jobs.

As Lord Skidelsky points out this is so Keynesian. And in my view, is what’s achingly absent here in the UK as well as the US, so enamoured are the main political parties with the neo-liberal view that what simply must happen is austerity and deficit and debt reduction, because it’s the only way that sensible people should think.  It’s the norm, it’s common sense.  But of course, it is not, it is an ideology of a small wealthy elite who have seriously bamboozled us all into acquiescence and acceptance.

However, so dominant is this elite, and so disconnected from other people’s lives it begins to not respond to its electorate.  And I’ll give you a UK example. If the deteriorating working conditions of the majority in the UK are not enough the elite is bent on destroying an institution that everyone, of every colour, creed and political party loves, our National Health Service.  We all love it, without exception.  But the current government and Gordon Brown’s government and Tony (neo-liberal lite) Blair before that are/were all bent on the privatisation of this beloved institution, which no one wants, privatisation that is.  The NHS is still effective, just. It is still free at the point of access, for now.  But behind the scenes public money goes increasingly to private contractors, viz, a recent award to Virgin healthcare, otherwise known as Richard Branson and his shareholders, of £700m to run a council’s community health and social care.

We don’t want this to happen, but it’s happening. We don’t want CEOs to earn huge sums, but they do.  We don’t want wages and pensions frozen, but they are.  We want a better life for our children but will they? We don’t want an abandoned, harassed workforce (anyone seen the film I, Daniel Blake?) but we have one, and more so, I think in the States.  We can all see what is happening but no one in Washington or Westminster says anything different or steps up to the plate and acknowledges the needs of the population, apart, that is, from Bernie, Trump and maybe Corbyn.

Because Trump did say something singular and distinctive about jobs.  And if he gets America working through labour now that would be something.

What to do? The question to ask is, ‘Democratic Party – where are you going?’  In my view Hillary lost the election rather than Donald won it.  Trump was lucky to have her as his opposing candidate. Pull your socks up, Democrats. Find the Bernie of the 21st Century.

And of course, despite my view that a few infrastructure builds is a good thing – we await with baited breath the next four years because Trump is everything that we should worry about. He is a boor, he is crass, he is racist, he is sexist, he is unpleasant and probably not all that competent.  It’s quite frightening to watch who he’s appointing to his administration. It is clearly something to be anxious about.

However.  I quote from George Monbiot Those who tell the stories run the world.” We have a responsibility.  We cannot, we must not pull the duvet over our heads. We must dig deep, uncover bias, cut through the crap, recognise false stories and half-truths, verify, and triangulate.  Because we must tell the stories.  And through the cracks that we make in the walls of untruths, we must shine the light of rationality and reason*.

It is up to us.

Penny Kocher 17th November 2016

P.S. There are a couple of links in this piece for you to look at but if I referenced everything I’ve read the post would be almost entirely pink!  However, to get a good over-view I highly recommend Gary Younge’s articles on The view from Middletown. Younge is a Guardian journalist who spent a month in Muncie, Indiana, a town made famous by a team of researchers in the 1920s, who gave the town its reputation as the epitome of middle America.

*RIP Leonard Cohen

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7 thoughts on “Shining a light on the Donald

  • November 19, 2016 at 2:13 am
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    As far as Hillary goes. They were emails. Big. Fucking. Deal. Let anyone throw the first muthafucking stone if they have NEVER, EVER sent a personal email through work. AND she was cleared. This is such bullshit.
    And remember. We in the USA are NOT a true democracy. If we truly were a democracy, Hillary would be our President because she WON THE POPULAR VOTE! The electoral college voted Trump into office and it is an archaic and outdated way of electing a President.
    ONLY IN AMERICA COULD A CON MAN WHO HAS NO POLITICAL SAVVY, WHO IS A REALITY STAR AND WHO HAS A MAIL ORDER, PORNO STAR WIFE BECOME PRESIDENT. AND IT AMAZES ME BECAUSE THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT WHO HAS CONSTANTLY CONDEMNED MICHELLE OBAMA FOR WEARING SLEEVELESS SWEATERS PUT DONALD’S SOFT PORN WIFE ON A PEDESTAL.
    Trump is the second coming of Hitler. The KKK has had rallies praising him. Racial crimes and hate crimes are now the norm since this vicious pig has been elected (not by me). Our country is about to be flushed down the shitter because the uneducated and undereducated who know nothing about economics or politics felt Trump is a savior.
    He isn’t. Our wonderful Obama was stymied by the vicious and vile republicans. These are congressmen who publicly stated that they would do anything in their power to knock Obama down.
    Now we have the neo-Nazi’s running America and all the morons who voted for this human shit will soon find out that their taxes on their menial jobs will be raised and Trump will do nothing to make their miserable lives any better. In a way, I’m glad. I’m glad that these morons will not reap any benefits because that is what they deserve for voting for Trump. I need to stop now because I have a headache! #heisNOTmy president #Imstillwithher

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    • November 19, 2016 at 11:00 am
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      Catherine, my friend (you are). You are so angry. OK I’m not apologising for saying one single word including the stuff about Hillary (more in a minute) but apologies for the tone because, the post is sarcastic in a kind of British way. I see my writing as akin to journalism and my role model is Marina Hyde who is the ultimate sarcy writer. See this https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/18/ivanka-trump-iron-throne-america-politics?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

      With my favourite phrase in it being, it’s all “a bit too weird, thanks”.

      So first of all, what’s happened to you in the States is a carbon copy of the British Brexit thing which APPALS me. And the caps are saying how aghast I am at what we did and how horrible I think it all is, it is the worst thing that’s happened to the UK since Suez. And you think we live in democracy but you don’t? Well, was the UK referendum advisory or binding to Parliament – apparently binding. Really? And now with your election you’re going to get a whole load of incompetent politicians in place. Join the club, because here in the UK behind closed doors there’s a whole lot of incompetency going on, I can tell you. Mind you, I admit that your new politicians in the new administration are likely to be more dangerous than ours, though. And I shudder at that.

      The thing I’m most interested in (and the email thing does not interest me one bit) is why was Hillary the candidate? Something, I believe to do with super-Pacs which I don’t understand at all. But competency, which she had in buckets, is not the key to winning elections. Only US Democrats can answer that one. And really, there does need to be some reflection on the party’s place in the States and above all, who the party represents. Again only US Democrats and other thinkers should grapple with that. Hopefully the Democratic Party won’t tear itself apart as it does this, as our weakened Labour party here in the UK is doing. We need strong oppositions more than ever now.

      And you. How are you going to turn your anger? I despaired at Brexit but decided I wasn’t going to retreat and say ‘I can’t be doing with this’ or ‘I hate politics’ or ‘I don’t want to know’ as a lot of people are saying. No, I think we have to know. We have to participate. So I hope you use your anger to turn the Democratic party to the left ( or liberal as you say over in the States). Go find a younger Bernie, now that would be such a good thing. In the meantime, my friend, we stay vigilante and prevent any move toward fascism in both our countries.

      And I write. And so do you. We do what do, we do what we can. We shine a light. Because we must. x

      Reply
  • November 22, 2016 at 12:25 am
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    Hillary was the candidate because the Democratic party did not want Bernie Sanders. The Democratic party shot themselves in the ass. Was Hillary perfect? Hell no–but she was a lot better than Trump.

    I’ve signed up to work as a volunteer with our local Democratic committee because at this point I feel the need to do something. Every day is a struggle with that bastard Trump. I can’t even…..

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    • November 23, 2016 at 7:54 am
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      I so wanted Hillary to win. But you can vote Trump out of office in 4 years time. I guess you have to hold on to that. So good to hear you’re volunteering in your local area. Tell me more about what goes on there another time.

      Very best to you and yours xxx

      Reply
  • November 30, 2016 at 5:01 am
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    An excellent post, Penny. I agree with you. Right now I am sickened by the blatant racism, sexism and xenophobia manifested by persons emboldened by Trump, even before the election. I can’t help but feel that Clinton and the DNC handed the election to him. Sorry, Hillary supporters and other “reasonable” persons, but I am truly disgusted.

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    • November 30, 2016 at 8:44 am
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      Thank you so much Carmen. Yes, I refuse to pull the duvet over my head but it is very worrying seeing the calibre of people being put into post in Trump’s administration. Waiting with baited breath to hear who is going to be Secretary of State.

      Reply
  • December 28, 2016 at 5:44 am
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    Looking on, or down, from Canada, it seemed to a great number of us that Obama was a fine president, brought the USA back from the brink of the financial crisis of the Bush era, arranged medical care for millions who had none, who said on his first day as President, to the youth of the USA –those without High School Diplomas… take a 10 month course to become carers for the aged and infirm,…jobs with decent wages and pensions, jobs which would be needed for his new medicare program. But clearly he was absolutely stymied by the Republicans for 8 years. It also seemed obvious that Clinton was a person who simply was determined to be president right from the start of her career in university campus politics. Nothing wrong with that, but this particular time was not right for her. And, despite knowing she was not the person to win out over Trump, the Democrats backed her. We were stunned. It had nothing to do with her being a woman…she was simply the wrong person, too much baggage, too much attitude, against this particular Republican candidate. Yet so much did we hate to think the USA would actually elect Trump, we would have far preferred Clinton to Trump…the US is our biggest trade partner..our closest neighbour. To us, it was Bernie Sanders who seemed the Democrat, the only real Democrat running…but not enough Democrats felt the same way. So they supported Clinton…who appeared literally to talk her way out of the presidency with her cold diction, her sense of superiority, which did nothing to endear her to the enormous numbers of disadvantaged voters in the world’s wealthiest country. She rubbed the electorate the wrong way. That’s all. I am not saying I am right, and I am being overly simplistic, but that is how it looked from up here.

    Reply

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