I haven’t written anything about the ongoing US election, which I guess is strange as I am supposed to be a politician, have lots of opinions, and it appears to be the only story that matters. It’s not like I’m disinterested; I watched all three debates, I have been compulsively checking FiveThirtyEight for the last couple of weeks, I have had been in many conversations that veered over towards the dumpster fire election, I have even occasionally engaged with Vlad, New Westminster’s Facebook Trump Fan Extraordinaire. It impacts my life, my planet, I care. I just haven’t built up the will to write about it.
Three days out, this is all I have to say.
Many commenters and pundits suggest that both parties ran terrible candidates. That any Democrat not as universally hated as Clinton would be running circles around Trump, and that if the Republicans had run a more mainstream candidate (insert Rubio, Jeb, or even Romney) then they would be running away with this. I disagree.
First off, it perpetrates this false equivalency notion: that they are both equally terrible candidates for President. We have demonstrably the most qualified candidate in the history of the presidency, a lawyer who spent her career in public service fighting for the rights of the disenfranchised, who spent years being not a passive, but active member of the Arkansas Governor’s mansion and White House, who was elected to the Senate and served with huge public support and success, who served as Secretary of State at a time of great conflict. No-one in the country can claim to have a better understanding of what the job of President really is, and what it means, or is as prepared to fill that role. She is running against a blowhard serial criminal and scam artist who doesn’t just lie pathologically, but lives in a universe of his own truths, who has a life-long history of putting his over-inflated fragile balloon of an ego in front of any other consideration, has failed at business, marriage, and friendship more times than can be counted, and displays Fascist tendencies towards the very institutions of democracy, including the vote, the courts, and the media. These are not equal humans by any measure.
I would argue, however, that Trump is the only candidate who would have this level of success against Clinton. Recognizing her complete and utterly dominant resume, he is the only one with the willingness and ability to fan the flames of misogyny and hate that have undercut the campaign. The only one who can tell the only demographic firmly against Clinton – white males – that it is OK to call her a bitch, a whore, fat, ugly and conniving, “Jezebel” if you are of the Alt-Christian Right persuasion, and all the misogynist language and thinking that forms the undercurrent of the campaign.
Any mainstream candidate would have had to disavow that type of language, that type of thinking. They may have tried the dogwhistle arguments about her “weakness” or “lack of stamina” or “bad judgement”, but those are easily refuted with the record, play against the idea that she is some existential threat, and is perhaps too subtle for the low-brow target market. Trump (and the people he surrounds himself with – men and women) are more than happy to let “Shoot the Bitch” T-shirts be circulated at their rallies, to drag out victims of her husband’s alleged sexual deviancy two decades ago to bring into question her competency as a spouse (which is, of course, a metric only applied to women), to fill the minds of lower and middle class white guys who have been victims of long-term stagnation, liberalism and globalization with a list of “others” to blame – coloureds, “Chuy-na”, and women not fulfilling their roles as sexual possessions. This is the base upon which Trump has built his support, and perhaps the only thing more disgusting is the stunned-into-acquiescence mainstream of the Republican Party, who are not willing to take part in fanning those flames, but are happy to receive the warmth. And some, I assume, are good people.
There are other forces this election. People are disenfranchised, have been told for a decade that the country they are supposed to be so proud of is a laughing stock, there doesn’t seem to be much good news on the perpetual-war front, they are sick, poor, and underemployed. The “economy” is no longer serving them, as individuals, with few prospects ahead. It has been a long and winding path out of the flaming crater of the 2008 financial crisis. Of course, it is patently ridiculous to think that the person who has benefitted the most from laissez-faire capitalism, dysfunctional courts, globalization and a corrupted tax system – Donald J Trump – is somehow going to take apart the systems that gilded his world with the sweat equity of the beleaguered American worker. The American voter may not be smart, but they are smarter than that. Trump’s hate message is not as directed as it could be, but without hatred of Clinton’s biggest crime – being a woman in power – his campaign would have been buried months ago.
I think Clinton is going to win, solidly, but not by the landslide she deserves. She will then be subjected to 4 (or 8) years of unrelenting misogyny and personal attacks while she tries to do the job as best she can within a damaged political system. She will do it with strength and dignity, perhaps lacking the eloquence and charisma of (either) Obama. Like she has for the last couple of decades, she will continue to rise above it all to do the hard work of governance, and those who will benefit the most will rarely feign to thank her for it.