The Coming Right Years, Colltalers
Barely a few hours after Donald Trump was declared the next U.S. president, the soul-searching process of finding out the causes for his stunning win was already at full steam. The thought of having him as the leader of the free world, though, may take considerably longer.
But while the autopsy of this election may last all four years leading to the next (oh, dear), it’s likely that a strong answer may not be among the top possible reasons considered by American pundits for Hillary Clinton’s defeat: the disturbing rise of the political right in the world.
We’ll get to it, but since it’s been less than a week, let’s briefly review a few of the most discussed factors Clinton’s supporters, and an increasingly wisdom-challenged class of political analysts, see as the bottom line for one of the biggest upsets in the history of U.S. politics.
Obviously, we must start by the candidate herself. It’s been a constant of this campaign to blame her for lacking arresting proposals, even as she was well articulated, substantive, and remained focused on issues till the end. Of Clinton was said that she was aloof, slow to respond to fast-moving situations, and too obsessed with programmatic minutia – and that is ignoring poorly-factual charges from her opponents.
Since winning a contested primary against a way more charismatic, and arguably morally unflappable Bernie Sanders, she never achieved the level of credibility her long and, ultimately, positive public trajectory should’ve entitled her to receive, and would’ve assured her the White House. Skirmishes between disgruntled Sanders’ supporters and hers plagued her campaign and certainly hurt her with voters.
Throughout these past two years, she was often caught deer-in-the-headlines like when events on the ground proved too volatile to respond without pausing first to consult her base. For instance, the most significant mass movements of the Obama era, the Occupy Wall Street and the Black Lives Matter, received no meaningful attention from her campaign, except for pre-fab statements of vague support.
She did change her Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement stance, but as we speak, a Native Americans-led, months-long protest against an oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, with serious
risks of a violent confrontation with law enforcement, has had no backing from Clinton. The issue is pertinent because oil and gas pipelines are at the heart of so called free trade agreements such as the TPP.
There are other issues, of course, specially her flawed proposal for a resolution of the Syrian bloody impasse. But she can’t be crucified for defending a misguided approach to a conflict that no one seems to offer a sound solution. Being wrong isn’t the problem; not admitting is.
And that’s one of her underrated qualities: that she’s changed positions and admitted to errors. Moreover, in this campaign, she was pretty much left to fend for herself by her party. At some point, as in the phony issue of emails, it was her, Bill, and the president. No one risked their neck on her account, except for the self-interested, careerist-minded Democratic Party leaders who are now finally being confronted.
The party has not just failed Clinton in this campaign, from inside out and in Congress, but also has failed its constituency, and has been failing, by extension, the American people for years. No wonder working class voters, and minorities, abandoned it in mass last Tuesday.
We should mention here the almost criminal role of broadcast media in this election. Its appalling lack of fact checking, investigative reporting, and independent analysis, combined with ratings-hungry debates, and a deceiving habit of equating verifiable reality with self-serving fabrications, the false equivalence, clouded rather than shed light on the issues. Too bad that no one will be held accountable.
The big networks and cable news channels have conspired to tainted the outcome of the contest, and thus betrayed their constitutional duty to provide clarity while educating the electorate. Unfortunately, the chance of having a Congressional hearing on their role is absolutely nil.
And finally, it’s fair to say that it was ultimately Americans who missed the historical opportunity of choosing not just a woman, but one of the most prepared candidates of any party to seek higher office. Not unlike Al Gore, also crushed by the mediocrity pervading our politics. Then again, that’s not new: the better candidate lost; how many times that happens everywhere only in the course of a single day?
Speaking of mediocrity, of the dangerous kind, it is also responsible for the fact that, instead of discussing whether Trump will do what he promised he would (he will and he won’t), we’re not having the conversation about an overriding fear the election spiked: that the U.S.’s turned to the right will ease Europe to follow suit, with upcoming elections in Austria and France being possible starting points.
As a wave of ‘measured’ conservatism has been sweeping South America – after a unprecedented period of popular socialism-led prosperity -, the rise of authoritarian leaders, identified with strong government concepts and fewer civil liberties, has become a disturbing trend. Ironically, it’s a German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who seems to stand in opposition to such trend. Different times indeed.
This wave could’ve not come at worst time. After years of impasse, the world has finally step up efforts to address climate change, the single most important global issue of our time, but many countries may elect deniers that the problem even exists, as the U.S. just has.
It’s also a dramatic time in what income equality is concerned, as a dwindling minority is controlling ever more world resources, while the majority sees their meager wages and faltering health worsen. As a state of permanent war, fueled by the weapons and defense industries, consolidates itself in vast swaths of land, it’s also expected that hordes of refugees will be greet by even more racism and xenophobia.
Fear is also the operating word, as it’s now freely associated with software, technology, privacy and surveillance, and the fight to keep the Internet free. What’s scary is that none of those leaders to be, and again, ours truly, considers those issues a priority. Their rhetoric actually runs contrary to promoting humanistic values, such as peace, a health environment, and the right for individuals to be left alone to thrive.
And that, we argue, goes beyond the fact that voters can be so utterly manipulated as to betray their own best interests, and embrace causes with absolute no relevance to their well being and survival, such as patriotism, racial supremacy, moral zealotry, or political allegiance.
Yes, the world became a notch more dangerous with someone who tweets at 3AM messages of hatred in control of the world’s top nuclear arsenal. To Americans, perhaps even more so than another terrorist attack in home soil. But the cumulative risk of having leaders with authoritarian sympathies in the American and European continents, let alone the Middle East and North of Africa, is really terrifying.
These past few days saw growing anti-Trump rallies in the U.S. and some major Western cities. Their core legitimacy rests on concerns sparked by the fact that the president-elect has explicitly singled out a nationality and a religious ethnicity as sources of American problems. And that he has demonstrated throughout his public life contempt and an objectionable attitude towards gender and racial minorities.
Rallies may be a healthy way of expressing discontent but are hardly an effective tool to exercise political pressure, specially when open ended as these are. The harder part will be to make the transition to action before the feeling consumes itself, and reality settles in. As it stands, there’s no questioning the validity of the president. And the institution he now represents still deserves our civil respect.
Now it’s the time for community organizing, to work for specific causes at a local level. Time for a third party, perhaps, as long as it doesn’t show up only every four years to spoil the election for everyone in the name of over ambitious agendas. It’s time for high school students to come out and participate. And for housewives to support indigenous rights, for instance, or fight police violence and racial profiling.
This intermingling of different resistance groups is our best hope. For the good guy or gal to win, we’ll all have to be the good guys and gals. We’ve lost but not our hearts or our compassion. Sadly, we won’t be able to count with yet two other great musicians that this troubling year has taken: Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell. May they rest in peace. As for us, let’s keep at it, it’ll hurt less, and enjoy the Supermoon. WC