The Conundrum of the Battleground States

First, lets just get this out of the way. Hillary Clinton won the election. She got more than TWO MILLION more votes than Donald Trump. Clearly, voters rejected neither her not her message. Liberals who were disenchanted with her moderate-right policies and who had backed Bernie Sanders clearly turned out in droves to vote for her; Jill Stein got less than 1% of the vote and the libertarian candidate appealed mainly to disenfranchised conservatives rather than liberals.

Now, some conservative die-hards are shrieking that those popular votes “don’t count” because they were obviously cast by “illegals” and dead people in massive California voter fraud. This is a falsehood based on a lie, but facts will not change the minds of anyone clinging to this malarkey and people who are devoted to the alt-right hysteria are patently not the undecided, unaffiliated voters that influence elections. They and their delusions are not what this post is about.

This post is about how Hillary won the election but lost the presidency, thanks to the electoral college and the voters of three states.

The electoral college, bastion of white rule that is was created to be, means that the next POTUS is largely decided by who wins a few so-called battleground or swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Before the election, most of those states were polling in favor of Clinton. However, on the big night an unexpected number of them regrettably went to Donald Trump:

ElectoralCollege2016.svg

The unexpected reds were Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. If the “normally” blue states above the Mason-Dixon line had gone blue, Clinton would have won the presidency as well as the popular vote. The Presidency was lost within just three states. So, what happened in those states?

I think Trump’s win in those three states hinged on four pernicious factors; poppycock, Comey, the DNCs shift to the right, and racism (but not the way you think).

The first and most profound problem was poppycock – outright lies about Hillary Clinton spread by the GOP, fake “news”, and alt-right misogynists. Susan Bordo does an excellent job of explaining how these lies developed a life of their own, and although I disagree with her assertion that Bernie Sanders was a key component in destroying Clinton’s credibility, I cannot possibly expound upon the topic of Clinton’s “gender crimes” more concisely or more profoundly. As Bordo says:

“It’s not just sexism that created her. It’s not just politics. It’s not just the triumph of the consumable product over the complexities of the real. Rather, it’s the specific historical intersection of all of these.”

Directly aiding and abetting the poppycock that Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy was FBI director (and GOP loyalist) James Comey’s obvious ploy to come out eleven days before the election with a report implying Clinton had done something shady with her emails, and to wait until two days before the election to clear her of these false charges. This provided fodder for those prone to distrusting Clinton and probably tipped enough voters to skew the results. Certainly Hillary Clinton thinks so.

Nonetheless, I think Clinton could have overcome the lies about her and her sins against gender (which don’t mean diddly to the majority of generation X, Y and the Millennials) if she weren’t being hoist upon the Democratic petard. The Democrats have spent the last few decades scurrying under the refrigerator of “moderation”; fleeing the light of “liberalism” for a safer middle-ground toward the right. However, people tend not to like things they find under their refrigerators. It’s mostly moldy food and cockroaches. Those of us in our 40s and older remember the “compromises” that hosed the working class in the 90s and (unfairly) Bill Clinton’s mistakes from that era stick to Hillary. Worse, we watched the Democrats in Congress roll belly up for George W. Bush for eight long years. There was no obvious FIGHT in the Democrats. They were all too busy trying not to be accused of being liberals. This has been nothing more or less than a massive betrayal of the working-class (who are now the working poor) base that sustained the left. The Democrats left the workers to be eaten alive by the right-wing – why should they be enthused about us? “We will screw you LESS” isn’t much of a battle-cry.

The popular swell behind Bernie Sanders was the masses railing against the left-wing abandonment of the New Deal, and Clinton – a devoted Democrat – was seen as “more of the same”. She became a lightning rod for populist dissatisfaction with the LEFT for no longer being LEFT, even as she was fictionalized into a one-woman monstrous regiment by the right. It wasn’t that Bernie Sanders turned the younger voters against Clinton. It is that the DNC and Clinton turned the younger voters off and these disenfranchised younger voters found a figurehead in Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a manifestation, rather than a cause, of dissatisfaction with the status quo in the Democratic Party, and by extension, Clinton herself.

The Democratic presidential candidate that has been most successful since 2000 has been Barak Obama, who ran on the idea of hope and change. The promise was that HERE was a Democrat that wasn’t afraid of going left! Of course, he was center-right moderate, but that looked positively Marxist compared to the far-right and alt-right. Hillary Clinton, who ran against him in the primaries, correctly warned that DC was impossible to change without a whole lot of meet-you-in-the-middle but it was still lovely to hear someone wanting to stand up to Republicans instead of being one in all but name. Americans knew they were getting screwed and they wanted to vote for someone who said there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Hillary Clinton ran on moderate and reasonable goals, but that lacked visceral appeal. Clinton neatly avoided the topics that tapped into popular appeal from Sanders (and even Trump) – such as no more international trade alliances that sent jobs overseas – because (here’s the irony) she knew she may have given in on them in the future as part of wheeling and dealing in Washington and she didn’t want to be dishonest. Seriously, the IRONY is amazing. Nonetheless, people wanted someone to say they were willing to TRY to making things better for the working poor, someone who at least CLAIMED to have some answers.

It comes down to hierarchy of needs – and Joe and Jane Doe NEED economic security and hope of economic safety more than anything else. There is no ideology that can outweigh the desire for food on the table and a roof over one’s head. As a baby boomer, Clinton has been used to working toward the upper levels of needs (like self-actualization) for years because her generation had the luxury of a minimum wage that was a living wage. That is no longer the case, and making a living is the single most pressing concern of the majority of Americans. More than half of the US makes less than $30,000 a year – and they were willing to let Trump grab them by the pussy if voting for him meant there was a chance they would no longer work two jobs and barely scrape by.

And then there is the racism. Most white Americans are clueless about racism. They think that if they wouldn’t ever join the KKK or be actively racist, then they cannot be racist. They literally do not understand that they can be nice people, but still be racist and at minimum benefit from systemic racism. They feel sincerely hard done by when their racism is pointed out to them because they perceive it be an accusation of evil. They aren’t evil; QED accusing them of racism is just name-calling by “elites”. Because Trump says he isn’t racist they give him the same benefit of the doubt they give themselves. I’ve got relatives on my Facebook feed who are racist as shit and yet are very, very butthurt if someone (usually me) calls them out on it. How can they possibly be racist if they wouldn’t participate in a lynching?? How can Trump be racist if he “has black friends”?

not a racist

This denial of racism is particularly pernicious in white educated voters who have almost a solid white social group. They voted for Trump because his racist rhetoric about “making America great again” appealed to them, but their self-justification of non-racism will allow them to turn logistical summersaults rather than to admit to themselves or others that what they really miss about the 1950s was that being white seemed to make life easy-peasy.

rose colored glasses fallacy

Educated or not, many Trump voters see no connection between the rise of hate crimes after Trump’s election and the fact they voted for Trump. They are very emotionally invested in not seeing it. They get really, really upset if it is pointed out they support the same candidate neo-Nazis support and that it was possibly for the same reason. They maintain that it isn’t their fault – it isn’t Trump’s fault – that those people like him! Again, facts will not change their opinions about either Trump’s racism or their own. Instead, facts about the matter will make them even more determined to defend him. He is, after all, the one who is going to throw out “illegals” and make jobs come back from China!

It is the working class voters and the ethnically insulated voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan that swung the election for Trump. The working poor and those psychologically invested in the denial of their own white privilege make up a large portion of the population in those states. The Democrats (and thus Hillary as the Ur-Democrat) are no longer “on their side” from an economic standpoint and Trump’s racism isn’t really going to effect them. Those voters, inhabiting those three states in sufficient numbers, have doomed us all to a Trump presidency.

Of course, Trump was lying about how he was going to help anyone but himself. Most of the drivel that pours from his wrinkled orange lips is a lie.  And now Trump is going to screw working Americans blind.

       

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