Hillary Clinton lost, but I failed. I failed millions of immigrants who’ve been assured they’ll be rounded up. I failed the Muslim Americans, African Americans and other minorities who have been reminded that they’re all suspects in their own homes. I failed the 20 million Americans, many of them previously uninsurable, who may now lose their health coverage, possibly forever. I failed above all to imagine that anyone would see Donald Trump as anything but a Macy’s Day Parade float filled with insecurities, greed and gas.
I couldn’t imagine that America would replace the first African-American president with a birther championed by the KKK and Chachi from Happy Days. I couldn’t imagine that more than half of white women would chose a beauty pageant nabob accused of being a serial groper over the first woman major-party nominee in American history. And I couldn’t imagine that the best polling, the best ground game, the best strategists ever assembled would get beaten by a guy who’d mastered little in his life but the art of firing people on TV.
I was so freaked out by Trump and his ability to lie, insult and contradict himself with impunity that I made the same mistake the Clinton campaign seemed to make. I thought outrage would be enough. Nope. Not compared to Trump — a walking nuclear reactor of white grievance. His own insufferable words deployed in ad after ad weren’t enough to destroy him. They might even have helped him with his bigger than life “tells it like it is” shtick that made him feel like the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man sent to save his fans from the threat of female Ghostbusters.
He promised his supporters that he was the antidote — or the poison — to the dynastic and incestuous world of Washington, DC politics personified by his opponent. Clinton promised us that she would save us from this maniac while keeping President Obama’s legacy intact. Trump promised his supporters a better life. He won, even if hundreds of thousands more Americans voted for Clinton. Now he has to deliver. And Democrats — for the first time in 24 years — must re-imagine our party without the Clintons.
This has to start with recognising the tremendous advantages Republicans have tailored over the past 40 years. They have their own media and their own majority gerrymandered out of a minority of Americans. They have a massive infrastructure of well-paid academics, organisers and functionaries. Thus their candidates and their staffs enter office far more prepared to make their power and policies permanent. Democrats need to replicate what the right as built as we prepare to resist any effort by Trump and the GOP to bash away at the few institutions that still protect the middle class, the climate and the most vulnerable.
Trump voters sure felt as if they were voting in their own interests — and that main interest seemed to be revenge. But do they have any idea how Trump’s actual policies will affect their lives? Did Trump voters know they were voting to give the rich trillions in tax breaks at a time when income inequality is near all-time highs? Did they know they were voting to roll back the Wall Street reforms designed to prevent the sort of crash we saw in 2008, which killed far more jobs than any trade deal ever could? Did they have any idea if Trump would sign House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a privatised system that resembles Obamacare?
How could they? The left and the media were so focused on the instability of Trump’s personality, and the psychodrama of his relationship with Ryan, that the reality of his proposals was rarely conveyed. America just voted to repeal most of 80 years of progress, and they didn’t even know that was on the ballot. For me, this failure of imagination was possible because I’d never accepted history’s oft-repeated lesson: This nation resists change the way Trump repels fact checkers. But this is just the past doing what the past always does — haunting those who expect the future to take care of itself. The writer is member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors and a columnist.
Courtesy: USA Today