Trump won because democracy failed
Andrew S Tanenbaum makes this assessment of the US election:
"Everything we thought we knew about campaigning was apparently in error. Conventions? Don't matter. Debates? Don't matter. Endorsements? Don't matter. High-profile defections? Don't matter. Missteps? Don't matter? Commercials? Don't matter. Ground game? Doesn't matter. An All-Star team of campaign surrogates, including one former president, one sitting president, and a wildly popular first lady? Doesn't matter. The 'blue wall'? Not a thing."
However, a few things clearly did matter. Slate's Jamelle Bouie argues that race was the big decider:
"With his jeremiads against Hispanics and Muslims—with his visions of dystopian cities and radicalized refugees—Trump told white Americans that their fears and anger were justified. And that this fear and anger should drive their politics. Trump forged a politics of white tribalism, and white people embraced it."
Add in, for good measure, the reports of voter suppression and the disproportionate impact that voter ID laws had on African-Americans.
Yet also include a weak candidate in Hilary Clinton. It appears turnout fell from 2012 and 2008 and particularly in states that trend Democrat. If this is the case, it suggests that Hilary lost the election more than Trump won it. Perhaps a star, like Michelle Obama, could fire up those voters in 2020? What a perfect antidote to the feeling that racism and misogyny helped decide the election.
Or perhaps not, since race and sexism are bound up by class. The split between college and non-college educated voters appears every bit as important in electing Trump. How would another Obama win back the steel worker from Ohio? This election was the ultimate repudiation of the New Democrats and the middle-of-the road policies espoused by the Clintons and the establishment. Thus, the Democratic challenger in 2020 will need a progressive message and be separated from that establishment. Another attempt at dynastic rule would be counter-intuitive.
The forces at play in this election seem to be similar to those that ended with Brexit. Those who feel that their national identity is under threat and who are less comfortable with globalism broke for populist figures who listed their grievances in a simplistic, no nonsense manner. The other team utterly failed to present alternative solutions and into that void came fear, vitriol and race-based messages.
It is hard to see how centrist blandness will prevail, even if it does come with the star power of the Obamas. The challenge for both Labour in the U.K. and the Democrats in the US is to align charisma to a radically progressive programme delivered with clarity and empathy. Corbyn lacks the former but his rivals for the Labour leadership, along with Clinton in 2016, lacked both.
The Guardian's Dan Roberts builds on this point:
"The bottom line was that Clinton simply failed to articulate a convincing defence of modern American capitalism... Stagnant wage levels and soaring inequality were symptoms of the malaise felt by many voters. Trump successfully convinced them to believe this was caused by bad trade deals and a rigged economy."
"Despite being pushed in this direction by Sanders in the Democratic primary, Clinton never really found a satisfactory response. Her volte-face on trade sounded – and was later proved by leaked emails – unconvincing at best; deeply cynical at worst."
Jamelle Bouie concludes his piece by placing the election in historical context:
"Here’s what we need to understand: This has happened before. For 10 brief years after the Civil War, a coalition of ex-slaves and white farmers worked to forge democracy in the former Confederacy. With the help of the federal government, they scored real victories and made significant gains. But their success spurred a backlash of angry whites, furious at sharing power with blacks and their Northern allies, murderous at the very idea of social equality. Those whites fought a war against Reconstruction governments, and when they won, they declared the South redeemed."
Thus, this "historic" election is just that - a do over. Racial and rural animosity towards the cities and people of colour has never really gone away, and neither have the institutional barriers of gridlock at federal level that robs progressives of the ability to enact tangible change. The same can be said of a gerrymandered Congress that creates safe seats with no incentive to compromise and of the states rights' agenda of intolerance. Equally, the Electoral College forces campaigns to concentrate in disproportionately conservative areas that leads to the dilution of progressivism into meaningless "Yes We Cans" or "Stronger Togethers". Since the beginning, the republic has been dominated at any one time by just a few men who are well connected and very rich. Trump's election merely reminds us 'twas ever thus.
In my view, these fetid, systemic realities best explain why Donald J Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.