Trump’s victory is America’s Brexit. A victory for narrow-minded populism. Again, even though not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist bigot, every knuckle-dragging racist idiot believes half the country agree with them, and minorities will pay a bitter price for the swagger in their step.
But just like Brexit it was an avoidable tragedy caused by a complacent liberal establishment out of touch with significant parts of their own nation.
Here’s Thomas Frank writing in The Guardian
What we need to focus on now is the obvious question: what the hell went wrong? What species of cluelessness guided our Democratic leaders as they went about losing what they told us was the most important election of our lifetimes?
Start at the top. Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.
She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.
We’ve had months of Hillary supporters endless repeating the mantra that if you don’t love Hillary it’s because you’ve sexist. And it didn’t work. Hillary Clinton did not lose purely because she was a woman.
The roots of Trump’s victory lie in the dirty way in which the Clinton campaign fought Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. All those lies and smears painting him and his supporters as misogynists. Those malicuously dishonest hit-pieces by toxic ideologues railing at the “Bernie Bros” who never actually existed.
We’re about to endure a fightening four years, but it’s four years in which to build a movement to defeat Trump or his successor in 2020. Perhaps we should take comfort in these words from Stephen Tall written a few days before the election?
I remember how important the 2004 Bush-Kerry election seemed at the time. Here, after all, was a chance for America to deliver a slap-down to its neo-con president. Matthew Parris wrote a typically shrewd article arguing that a second Bush win was the best outcome, that his ideas had to be allowed to reach their logical, failed conclusion so that voters could see they’d been tested to destruction. Indeed, his victory set up Obama’s in 2008. I say that to console myself in case Trump wins. Sometimes bad things happen for a reason (or, more rationally, Good Things follow Bad Things because reversion to the mean). Besides if we think the 2016 election has been gruesome, think how much worse 2020 might be. Chances are Hillary will be a one-term president. Chances are, if she wins tomorrow, the presidency will revert to the Republicans after 12 years of Democrat incumbency. Then imagine a Trump with some self-control, a Trump capable of pivoting, a Trump who understands how to organise a campaign. And then keep your fingers crossed a Republican emerges who can put Trump’s proto-fascism back in its box.
He may be optimistic, and may be underestimating the harm four years of Trump might do. But the only rational response to electoral defeat must be to begin the work of winning the next one.
And if the tide of right-wing populism is to be rolled back, the liberal-left needs a compelling alternative vision. At the moment, it has none, and that’s a massive part of the problem.