I am inviting someone knowledgable to explain something to me.
This whole election year has already been a crazy ride. We have the Zodiac killer fighting against a failed business man for the GOP nomination, while the other side has an old woman and old man fighting over who’s more radical than the other. That’s a bit of sobering assessment, but it’s not entirely false. There have been some insane moments, but there are two that stand out to me. It’s not that they are crazy, it’s that one of them I understand and one of them I don’t
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump is a racist bigot who never fails to frustrate me when I hear him speak. He doesn’t deserve peoples’ attention and he doesn’t deserve the Presidency. Yet, when I think about the nature of his campaign, the people that support him, and the man himself the emotion that comes to mind is disappointment.
Because I understand how it works.
I can completely understand how his campaign is so popular. I’ve heard people from the Left say they’re bewildered as to how Trump could have the following he has when he’s so clearly an idiot. The same people also scratch their heads when they think about his support system, they had no idea so many people in the country could get behind a guy who’s best success so far has been publicly firing people. I have to admit, I’m surprised myself, but it doesn’t confuse me like Hillary’s campaign does.
When we get right down to it, America is racist.
It’s not something indicative to the states, many other countries have their own race problems. But we have a cultural history surrounding it, as well as a cultural understanding of denial. We like to think those times are in the past, but like anti-vaxxers bringing back Polio, it’s stuck with us like a horrible disease. Americans are racist, as much as they love the Stars and Stripes and apple pie.
But as we moved further into the 21st Century, people had to be more careful about where they could be racist and sexist. You had to choose your battles, be more subtle or risk public ousting and profit cuts from angry customers.
Then along comes a guy with goofy hair, a bad attitude, and a lot of money. And he tells people that not only is it normal to be racist, but they should be shouting it from the rooftops. Years ago, some redneck on the border wished with all of his might that they would just build a higher wall. Not so that he could keep his job, that wasn’t in any danger. Not to bring the crime rate down, he knows that legal immigrants create way more crimes than illegals. No, the reason he wants the higher wall is something he really couldn’t say to anyone before; he deosn’t like Mexicans. Not just Mexicans, all brown people. To him, they’re dirty and foreign. He hates listening to them chattering on in another language, he doesn’t like that he can literally see Mexico from his house where they’re coming from. He doesn’t like them and he wishes they would just go back where they came from so he can make one more futile attempt to recapture his youth where everyone was white and spoke English, where everyone was racist and no one cared.
Now the goofy looking guy tells the racist that the wall that he’s been dreaming of, he’ll build it for him if he can nab a vote. Promising a fantasy to someone makes them a zealot, and for another thousand years and all the money in the world, that man would never change his mind. All of those thoughts he’s had since the 50s about keeping women in their place and keeping the foreigners out, this rich guy says is okay and that he should share it with all of his other shitty friends.
No matter what Trump says, he has the ear of the audience. He’s an idiot on some things, like human dignity, but he can read a crowd, which is its own kind of intelligence. He thinks about what he says, and he has plans if he says something that goes over the line. He insults people who take him on and challenges people to let out their inner bigot and join his merry band of white hoods. It’s a calculated strategy for a willing audience, so I can completely understand how it’s so effective. I’m disappointed that Americans can’t be bothered to think critically or care about the dignity of other races, but at least I understand it, so that’s all I feel.
The Clinton Effect
This is the one that I can’t wrap my mind around, and every time I’ve tried in the past few weeks, it’s made me just a little more angry trying to unravel it. Hillary Clintons campaign is an enigma wrapped in a riddle baked into a mystery; I just don’t understand the appeal.
No politically minded person worth their vote could have missed, or predicted, the rise of a candidate like Bernie Sanders. Yet the man is honest and his message infectious with new, young voters struggling with student debt and social justice. It’s true that I endorse Sanders, but I also check myself to make sure that I’m not just buying into the rhetoric. I’ve looked through Bernie’s tax proposals and picked through his stances and political career. There are things that I don’t like, but no one’s perfect.
So the message that Sanders puts forward makes sense to me. When I turn around and look at Hillary Clinton, it all falls apart, and I’m left angry and confused
How could so many people like someone so official that only talks down to them? Is that something that people are looking for? I get that Republicans really like that kind of person, they want to be told what to do and what to think; a strongman that enforces and makes them feel safe like Ronald Reagan. Democrats are supposed to be the Mavericks, to use the infamous term. Liberals are the ones that should be wanting to change things up, to defy and challenge authority rather than submit to it.
Bernie Sanders fits that model pretty well. One Payer Healthcare, free two years of community college, increase in domestic spending, reducing military spending, breaking up big banks and getting money out of politics; it’s all pretty revolutionary. It’s the kind of thing we would expect for a candidate wanting to really make a shift, and the people are responding.
So there’s an outcome I expect when Hillary goes before the podium and lists all of the things we can’t have to the American people. With Sanders saying all the things we can have, for someone to be different than him, they have to say the opposite. So Clinton’s stance have to be that free college is too expensive, free healthcare is too expensive, money in politics isn’t an issue (it is), and big banks gambling with your money isn’t a big deal (it caused the crash back in 08). With someone saying that, I assume that there would be outcry from the Left. Something akin to a crucifixion.
She draws these huge crowds, she keeps winning key states in the primaries, she swept the South and cleaned up in the Northeast. Sanders isn’t down by much and is keeping pace, but Clinton still has more in the Northern states where it mattered. She’s loved by the African American community and white liberals alike. And I just… Don’t understand.
For one thing, everything she says sounds so disingenuous. The positions that she took on social justice only came after Sanders had been preaching the same for months before. She’s well spoken, but when she talks about issues of justice and equality, it never feels like it comes from the heart. More like she’s reading from a script written to sound like what the “hip millennial kids” are saying these days.
Sanders gets into it. None of that pandering “thumb in forefinger” nonsense. He waves his hands around, he hunches over, his eyes get wide. No matter who you are, it’s easy to see that he cares about what he’s talking about. And that’s something that voters are talking about. They don’t want another normal politician. They want a change, and it’s not coming from the government. Someone that is anti-establishment is going to be the favorite for the nomination.
Hillary is the definition of an establishment candidate. She’s got donors from big banks and Wall Street, and though her career isn’t as long as Sanders, it’s been in support of the established order.
So for an America poised on the brink of political revolution, for good or for ill, how does someone so obviously in bed with the old order possibly bring in the votes? There’s no denying that she’s winning, and it’s not a fluke. People are voting for her, and much to my frustration, I can’t figure out why.
If I had to make a guess about where he popularity comes from, it would have to be two sources, one more likely than the other.
The Clinton Campaign runs on the idea of pragmatism. We need to get things done in the government, no more gridlock between parties. I can’t really argue with that, I would really like the government to work with me rather than against me. I can see how people could get behind that idea, but it’s the way that Clinton presents that idea that confuses me.
To stand in front of a group of people, young and old, and talk down to them is no way to win the heart of America. Yet when she’s giving a speech to millennials and she says, “Sorry, no free two years of tuition”, there’s thunderous applause. She speaks in front of seniors and says, “Sorry, no one payer healthcare”, more applause. I’ve never heard so much support for a candidate that’s main stance is to be contrarian to Sanders, listing all of the things America would be too entitled to have.
And why can’t we have these things? Apparently they’re too expensive, it’s not something we could reasonably pass through a deadlocked congress. But I thought the campaign was supposed to get the gears turning again? You mean to say it’s impossible to throw some kickback in there somewhere, or is that just too hard? So which is it? Can we not get congress moving again or can we? And once we do, what is it that they intend to do?
And it feels like a difference in ideology. We can’t have these things almost because it isn’t American. The United States just doesn’t have those things, that’s not what we’re about. It just too expensive. We could never pay for it.
So then how to countries that have significantly less GDP manage to pay for their two years of free college. How do supposedly “developed” countries in Europe manage to pay for one-payer healthcare that’s owned by the state? We say it’s impossible, but they’ve managed these systems for years, and the people enjoy them and benefit from them. There are flaws, no system is perfect, but it shrinks the disparities between opportunities, of who gets healthcare and education.
Maybe it’s as much a matter of priorities as it is an issue of money. Those governments prioritize helping people more than we do, we can already see that. We value cost, and not the cost to the American tax payer, but to the top percentile, who know they would have to forfeit some cash in order to fund the system. Or there’s always the military budget, but heaven knows if we touch that, the US will immediately fall to those dirty Communists, right?
All About that Brand
As important as the ideology is, and it is vastly important for her campaign, I have to concede that perhaps the other reason people like her is because they recognize the name. As we’ve said on this blog before, people are superficial. They care about image and having name recognition is apparently enough to get you elected in this country, rather than your values or policy positions. People just know who Clinton is since Bill, and like a 90s Kids Facebook page, we all want to relive the 90s as best we can. The world was a little bigger back then, money was coming in and things were simple. You still had to call people on the telephone but you had computers that worked for us rather than owning us. Or at least, that’s what the baby boomer would say about the time.
And perhaps it’s because of Bernie that people are voting for her. This cycle is so polarized, people aren’t really on the fence like they have been in years before. People know who they like and they can’t be changed, and to Hell with anyone who disagrees. Thus might be the case about Bernie Sanders; people just may not like the guy. I could count off a million reasons why they could trust him, but for people who don’t want to know, they won’t know. They won’t learn his positions or take him seriously. After all, he does kind of look like a Brooklyn Troll right? Well sure, but no one ever said the President had to be pretty (Except Canada). But rather than voting for Hillary because they like her, it might be because they don’t like him. There’s plenty of that going on in the Republican campaign, it stands to reason there would be the same kind of environment on the other side.
But even understanding those three things, I still can’t imagine that it would be enough to garner this much success for her Primary campaign. I have to give her some credit, she did work hard, I have no doubt of that. But I just can’t see it in this political climate, it all just seems so backwards that Democrats would back someone so far to the Right. If you want to have a discussion, people can let me know. I’m not looking for a fight, but I would like to understand what part of this I’m not seeing.
It just doesn’t make any sense to me.