Paddy Power may have paid out on Hillary, but this is far from a done deal
'Why only an asshole like Trump could contrive to lose to the detestable Clinton'
The Donald Trump meltdown, or the outing of his odious character, principally by himself, has given liberals in America the opportunity to bask in triumphalist glee. Hillary Clinton, a deeply flawed and unpopular candidate, holds a lead that most pundits regard as unassailable. Pollsters and bookies have been estimating her chances of victory at over 80%.
In such a volatile age, this is nonsense. It’s widely regarded that 1980 was a sea-change election, where Ronald Reagan’s shock landslide win heralded in the neoliberal rule of elites, the attack the on workers’ rights, privatisation, financialisation, and the blistering upsurge in inequality. Back then people had been sold the lie that life would be better if the State got off their backs. This was never put to the test, as it immediately jumped on them, crushing the rights to assembly, withdrawal of labour and collective bargaining that had given their class a stake in the post-war society. Since then, the term ‘freedom’ has been mysteriously dropped by the right-wing, who admire Chinese political ‘efficiency’ over democracy and corporate oligarchical power over the quaintly idealised, historical vision of perfect competition in a free market, which they once espoused.
2016 could be another watershed election, indicating a similar paradigm shift. It may even be the one where the elites dispense with democracy altogether, ruling by authoritarianism, with a nativist fascism at ‘home’ providing angry distraction while the nation’s resources are hived off to the globalist corporate state, policed by the increasing plethora of transnational bodies.
Right up until the last weeks of the 1980 election, a solid victory for incumbent President Carter was predicted, the aggregate of polls over the 26-29th of October having him at 47%, against Reagan at 39%. The polls got the Reagan landslide wrong because many people were simply fed up with a 35-year consensus, and wanted to try something different. Something in many cases, they weren’t that sure about or didn’t even like very much. It’s astonishing that pundits continually reference ‘increasing voter sophistication’, this in an era where artifice has been elevated by our rulers to high moral principle, then expect the public to tell a stranger pollster a ‘truthful’ binary answer to a complex, emotional question.
A few people sense that 2016, like 1980, is a new paradigm, where the old rules do not apply. This is not so unlikely, given that we are in the midst of a technological revolution, one that operates against both paid work and profit. In Britain and America, aside from any rabbit-out-the-hat bubbles, we are at the wheezing geriatric end of capitalism’s life cycle, in an era of economic stagnation and heading for zero growth. In that scenario, people want change.
Probably the most revealing thing Clinton said during the campaign was with regard to a section of Trump’s supporters being ‘deplorables’. Yes, if you go to his rallies, there is plenty evidence of angry, confused people and an embryonic sad, bitter and twisted white tribe of neo-Nazis. But the ostentatious fools flocking to such events aren’t going to be Clinton’s problem. Many of them aren’t working class, but suburban nonentities, brought up to believe they were special, and thrashing out like beached whales as real-life experience in a declining capitalism sings them a different song.
The main obstacle Clinton and privileged liberals face is one of their own making. It is compounded by a smug, bourgeois media, which continually presents such racist, misogynistic losers as the total representatives of the proletariat. Meanwhile, the original working class in the rustbelt states of America, in formerly unionised and Democrat communities, who have been struggling since Reagan, are basically at the end of their tether with a system that has offered them nothing other than unemployment, low wages and debt for 30 years. Like many of the Brexit (also not predicted to happen by the pollsters and pundits) voters in the post-industrial communities of the UK, they’ve been crushed by a neoliberalism, represented just as much by the likes of Clinton, Blair and the ‘left’ political parties, as by Reagan, Thatcher and those of the right.
So the 2016 election will be far closer than it’s being called. I believe many people will vote Trump, and rightly be too ashamed and embarrassed to admit this to anybody, including the pollsters. But I’m equally certain they will relish the rare empowerment of being able to throw a grenade into a system that has shat over them for 35 years. There could also be a late surge in third-party voting, by the many who detest Clinton but hate Trump more; they may take their foot of the gas, look into Wikileaks and Haiti in more detail, and feel they have the leeway to opt for principle rather than pragmatism.
In a sane world, Trump’s racism (“Mexican rapists”), brutal sexism (“grab their pussies”) and patronising classism (“I love the poorly educated”) should be more than enough to disqualify him from getting anywhere near the White House. Before we even contemplate the broken system that has perversely let this elitist silver-spooned billionaire’s son posit himself as a man of the people, we should stop for a while to think about what these terms mean. Racism, sexism and classicism have been thrown around so much, we often forget their basis. They are founded on a mean, low belief that somebody should be treated better (or worse), because of their race, gender or social background. They are everything that is unjust and retrograde in humanity: a charter for inadequate bullies and cowards to powertrip over the rest of us. They go against all the noblest human beliefs of social progress, justice and freedom. And this is the platform on which this clown is running for President.
But, of course, this is a far from sane world, and it’s getting crazier by the day. So if Trump loses, it won’t be because of his racism or self-confessed predilection for sexual assault. It will be because he is an idiot, with no self-control. It will be because he is a mouthy, thin-skinned, blustering nonentity, who owes his exposure solely to the wealth and contacts he inherited from his antecedents. Without those, it’s no stretch to see Trump as the sleazy ex-middle manager of a retail outlet, now unemployed after doing jail time for sexual harassment; the narcissistic bore wailing in bitter, meat-headed saloon bar drunkenness about the sad injustices life has visited upon him. In short, he’s an asshole. And the ‘progressive’ centrists and leftists should be eternally grateful for that. Because only such an asshole could contrive to lose to the detestable Hillary Clinton, who, as sad it is, is probably all that is stopping us from sliding into a dark era of fascism.
Either way, Trump probably isn’t the person to ultimately lead us to that bleak place. For one thing, he’s too selfish to be a genuine fascist; they usually love their country (or their tribe within that country) much more than themselves. He would be bored in Washington, and would abscond to Trump Towers, to expropriate more chunks of America’s wealth into his coffers, delegating the affairs of state to faceless but more competent underlings. He’s gamed the morons, the bigots of GOP, the desperate and lost into supporting him, and has given a leg-up to the smarter and relentless, if one-dimensional, operators of the alt-right. Scenting opportunity in the fecal corruption at the heart of our corporate-run democracy, they are the real beneficiaries of both Trump and Clinton.
If Clinton wins, and I’m still not convinced she will, it’s imperative that she and her and ilk work with the Bernie Sanders people and other progressive forces, to fix America’s broken system of democracy. Continuing to preside over it as a fiefdom of the mega-rich for yet another four years with her customary smugness, will see her come up against, and be annihilated by, a more circumspect and formidable version of Trump; one who will be too smart to wear his dark, gargoyle heart on his sleeve. Then the industrial military complex, and the lampshade manufacturers, will be the only busy people in the country.