Many Americans wanted big change this year. A majority of voters in a nationwide Election Day exit poll by Reuters/Ipsos agreed that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”
They agreed that “it is increasingly hard for someone like me to get ahead” and “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.”
Donald Trump portrayed himself as the “blue-collar billionaire.” He promised to create 25 million new jobs in the next decade. He said he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare like other Republicans.
By contrast, he said “Crooked Hillary” was a puppet of the “globalist elite.” He reminded us that she and Bill received $153 million in speaking fees from big banks and corporations.
Many in the corporate media claimed the election was a revolt by the “white working class.” Actually the story is more complicated. Sixty-two percent of white Trump voters had a higher median family income than Clinton voters. They were also richer than those who voted for Sanders in the primaries.
A lot of white working class people in the Rust Belt who had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 decided to support Trump. He reminded them that NAFTA was passed during Bill Clinton’s administration and that Hillary had promoted the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as Secretary of State. She came out against TPP during the primaries after being pushed by Bernie and a massive coalition of civil society groups (particularly labor and environmental).
There is another factor. President Obama insisted on pushing the TPP. He wanted a vote on it in the lame-duck session of Congress. This is after the election and before the start of a new administration. This is the best time to push something that is unpopular with the public.
Two leaders of the anti-TPP movement, Lori Wallach (director of Global Trade Watch) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) feel that Obama’s push for the TPP helped elect Trump. “In those states, where we lost by a point or two, it was all about trade,” DeLauro told Politico.
Trump posed as a fiery populist who would fight the Republican establishment of Wall Street and the multinational corporations. But, as Willliam Greider of The Nation noted, he dog-whistled reassuring coded language to that same establishment. He gave a number of little-publicized, Paul Ryan-like speeches on the economy advocating big tax cuts to the rich and deregulation of business. There are indications he really supports privatization of Social Security and Medicare.
Clinton had many popular progressive proposals. They were on her website and she mentioned some in her speeches. But her TV commercials were completely negative, pointing out Trump’s character flaws.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake was mad that the Clinton campaign didn’t present an economic vision to contrast Trump.
After Trump’s victory, the big winners in the stock market were pharmaceuticals, defense contractors, petroleum refineries and for-profit prisons.
On the day after the election, Hillary Clinton gave her concession speech. It was broadcast on television screens at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. CNN Money reported that “loud booing rocked the floor” and traders chanted “lock her up!” as Clinton spoke. “Ding-dong, the witch is dead,” a trader reportedly yelled.
Some polls showed that a majority thought Trump was more trustworthy than Clinton. However, fact checkers judged that her truthfulness was about average for a politician while Trump was a shameless and promiscuous liar. He’s a bullshit artist who benefitted from the rightwing alternative reality created by Fox News, Breitbart News and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh.
Arun Gupta, a journalist who covered the Trump campaign, argues that “the governing strategy (of the Trump presidency) won’t be like the disinformation of the Bush era. It will be more disorientation, confusion, demoralization, conspiratorial.” If a recession happens, he will pivot to scapegoating those (fill-in-the-blank). Right now, there is an explosion of violence, intimidation and hate crimes directed at blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, gays. Much of the time, the thugs identify themselves as Trump fans.
All of Trump’s promises (good and bad) are suspect. He’s a slippery demagogue. But it would be foolish not to expect repression. Our democracy will be put to the test.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.