On November 8th, for the first time in two hundred and forty years, the people of the United States will send a woman into the White House. They will elect Hillary Clinton as their president.
We can say she has won with near certainty. The only question will be by how much. Despite a media landscape that is invested in having a close contest, the polling data is emphatic. In a race to win 270 electoral college votes, she has at least 300 in the bag. There’s maybe another sixty votes she could yet win. Barack Obama crushed John McCain eight years ago and right now Clinton is poised to win by an even bigger margin.
It was after the first presidential debate concluded that we knew it was all over. There would be no Trump pivot to appeal to those outside the base. Trump supporters planned an October surprise in the form of a Wikileaks email hack that revealed the contents of her speeches to Wall Street bankers and her private emails with her strategists and planners. They turned up empty handed. Trump had his own October surprise in the form of an Access Hollywood video tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women. It was the nail in the coffin for his campaign.
For those people who live in America and have been in Trump’s firing line during this marathon election season (and as we can see from a recent New York Times compilation of his abusive tweets, it is an exhaustive list), this has been a sickening and disheartening time. Trump’s divisive rhetoric and prejudice towards women, minorities and anyone else he decides to paint as an ‘other’ has strained the country’s social cohesion and left one of the two major political parties of the United States in ruins.
Hillary Clinton is recognized by political commentators as a savvy and vastly experienced campaigner and twelve months ago, she probably would have anticipated pitting her talents against a Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush. But then that Republican primary happened and the country has been robbed of an election that had any meaningful exchange of ideas. Climate change was not mentioned a single time during the three presidential debates. Clinton should’ve been pushed on how she would address income inequality and ensure the long term viability of the Affordable Care Act. Instead of challenging her on these fronts, Trump accused Barack Obama of literally founding ISIS and his attacks on Clinton never got more nuanced than yelling about her emails and Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct. The campaign became a war of attrition as Clinton patiently soldiered on and watched Donald Trump sink his own campaign in gruesome fashion.
Trump represents the American Conservative id. He is their darkest desires laid bare for all to see. No wonder so many establishment Republicans, who for years worked to the Southern Strategy playbook, were shocked and appalled. They had their carefully crafted policies and slogans that approached the line but never crossed it. Trump started his presidential campaign by calling Latino migrants rapists and he didn’t tone down the rhetoric for the next twelve months. He didn’t just cross the line, he pissed all over it and then set the whole building on fire. He attacked and insulted women, Muslims, African Americans, war veterans, the disabled, journalists and judges. All to the unwavering, vociferous support of the GOP base who shed any last inhibitions about their views on the rest of the country.
During some of the uglier exchanges that took place when Republicans campaigned against Barack Obama, I felt I had a pretty reasonable understanding of the darker side of the American conservative movement. Most of it is predicated on the fear of the other and the erosion of White Privelege. But I was taken aback by how far they were willing to go with Trump. It wasn’t the prejudice. The prejudice I expected. It was the wholesale support of a demagogue who boasted of silencing the press, restarting the nuclear arms race and locking up his political opponent. That took it to a whole other level. By the end of the campaign, when the party faithful were cheering at Trump rallies where he boasted of ignoring the election results, the Republican base had given up on the republic itself. In supporting Trump they had ceased support of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and believing in the fundamentals of free and fair elections.
By and large, I’ve been satisfied by the American media’s coverage of this election which I understand puts me squarely in the minority. Trump’s opponents during the Republican primary bemoaned the massive amount of coverage he was afforded for each and every repulsive statement he made with reliable (and measured) regularity. I think the press has every right to cover these statements. It’s newsworthy not just because he made so many outrageous remarks but that they so clearly resonated with the Republican voters. He wasn’t some fringe candidate shouting into the void. It also wasn’t ‘media bias’ when the press continued to cover what he said and had said in the past once he secured the Republican nomination and suddenly had to turn his attention to winning over the rest of the country.
I felt this coverage was fair and reasonable as the mainstream news outlets were quite explicit in pointing out when Trump was lying (too often to list) or proposing a policy that was unconstitutional (banning Muslim migration) or implausible (building a border wall and charging Mexico for it). As long as the news media maintained that standard – and I believe they did – then I think they absolutely did the right thing.
The biggest concern I had over the lasting influence of Trump’s campaign was if the media were to try and normalize and humanize his views and beliefs. This happened once during the campaign when Trump appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight show and he was treated as a regular guest. Fortunately, the public response was scathing and we haven’t seen anything like it since.
Understandably, there has been a lot of soul searching over the course of this election campaign and more think-pieces than you could possibly count trying to come to grips with the very idea of Trump’s candidacy and that he should appeal to nearly 40% of the electorate. There has been a lot of column inches devoted to dismissing Trump but extending an olive branch to his voters, trying to understand how they could support such a man. How had the country let these people down? It was the economy wasn’t it? These were middle Americans, factory workers in the Rust Belt, who had been left behind in modern America. Ignored by career Republicans in D.C who spent too much time focusing on roadblocking Obama and abandoned by Democrats who once championed and proudly represented blue collar workers. Or at least that was a common idea posited by columnists at the Guardian and the New York Times.
As further studies have been conducted and more data has become available to us about the voters of this election, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we are giving Trump supporters too much credit with that idea.
On average, Trump supporters earn far more than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporters. Very little of Trump’s flagship policies are focused on bettering the lives of those on the poverty line. If anything, Trump’s mantra on inner cities has been to introduce a police state to tackle a non-existent surge in crime (homicide rates have been in decline nationally for decades).
So what does unify and bring together Trump supporters? The answer is simple as it is obvious – racial resentment. Not unlike Brexit voters in the UK, this election has become a mandate on multiculturalism and white people coming to terms with sharing their country with others. More specifically, old white Christian men.
Which brings me at last, to the good news.
Donald Trump is losing. He is losing a lot. It’s nice to think he shouldn’t have gotten this far in a presidential election and shouldn’t have the support of 40% of the voters but it’s important to look at the context here. 40% of the voters isn’t the same thing as 40% of the total population. Only about 20% of the country will vote for him. And they are the last gasp protest votes of the Baby Boomer generation, not the youth of the nation. By every major voting demographic of the future, Democrats are the choice of the people.
Not only is Trump losing, he has stripped away the veneer of respectability from the Republican’s political stances and wrecked the fortunes of more polished representatives of those views. The hit list reads like a who’s who of Republican presidential hopefuls – Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Carli Fiorini. They’re done. They’re a laughing stock. No wonder some observers wondered if Trump was actually a Clinton insider. Longstanding Republican stalwarts such as Newt Gingrich and Rudy Guliani are also smearing the twilight of their political careers trying to salvage and spruik the Trump campaign.
The smoldering wreckage that is the modern conservative moment in the United States stands in stark contrast to their fortunes elsewhere in the Western world. Plenty of far right political parties are on the rise in Europe. In the United Kingdom, the anti-immigration movement is not just on the rise, it actually represents the will of the majority as evidenced by the Brexit vote. In Australia, Pauline Hanson was voted into the senate this year and nearly half the country shares Trump’s views on Muslim migration.
But in America? People with these views exist. But they are shrinking in number. They’re disorganised. They’re turning on each other. Better still, the Trump brand has become toxic. I believe the best tonic for discrediting someone with the views of Donald Trump is complete ridicule. To not even given them the courteously of being taken seriously. And to that end this political season has served up plenty of entertaining material that has shaped the public perception of Trump as a ‘small fingered vulgarian’ who is irretrievably stupid, bad with money and barely able to string a coherent sentence together.
Come November 8th, the American far right going to lose. Again. And when you look at the state of things in the rest of the world, that’s a victory worth celebrating.