What the fuck, Secretary Clinton? Seriously. You had ONE JOB over the past two years, and that was to win the Presidency. No one is saying it was an easy job, but you had seven-hundred-million dollars at your disposal, the backing of the Democratic Party and all rational Americans, a popular sitting President, a growing economy, forty years of experience in politics, and you managed to lose to a buffoon who mocked the disabled, bragged about sexual assault, engendered racial division and underspent you by half a billion dollars. One thing is sure in these weeks after the elections: You colossally screwed up, and in a world as clouded and confused as this, one thing rings clear, you must now go away and take your whole damn team with you. You not only lost, you managed to lose while ceding what is left of the (white) working class to the Republicans while saddling the Democrats with the oligarchs of Wall Street. The profundity of your disastrous campaign may well be with us for the rest of our lives.
Off may you now fuck.
Some might find my stridency on this point to be indecorous, and you know what: Fuck them, too. If they can’t look in the mirror, that’s their problem. I’ll cop to being just like every other sentient monkey in this zoo: I’m looking to blame someone for the fact that my nation just took a hard turn toward actual, toss-the-Muslims-into-camps fascism. The difference is that I’m choosing — with reason — to blame the architect and the construction team who managed to deliver this impossibility from a kit labeled Easiest Goddamned Win In History.
If you want to blame voters for Trump, Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, have at it. If you want to blame those who stayed at home, that’s all right by me. If you want to blame Mark Zuckerberg for not policing false news or Jim Comey for putting his fingers on the scale during the endgame, then please be my guest. That is, so long as you recognize that the job of the Clinton team was to win against a cretinous reality-television star who promised jobs to frightened yahoos, while sitting on a heated toilet seat, in a gold-plated bathroom at three in the morning, by tweet!
All while tweaking his ass off on blow!
Voters had to choose, but you somehow made that choice difficult for them. You somehow ended up as the second pick in a race against a steaming pile of canine waste. There is no way around that fundamental truth, and I soooooooo want you to recognize that fact. I want you to understand that, so in the future you’ll appreciate just how little I want your counsel and how dramatically I’ll be moving away from everything you managed to screw up entirely. Plenty of us, the Surly Bartender included, were warning about the critical flaws in your candidacy over a year ago. You didn’t listen then, so we won’t be listening now. Please. Go. Away.
Also, apologists for Secretary Clinton, please don’t tell me that she won the popular vote. If that was her plan, then, wow, did she misunderstand her role. Getting to two-hundred and seventy in the Electoral College is a different beast than running up the numbers in New York and California. To not understand that is just further evidence of political malpractice; to brag about it afterwards is embarrassing. We told you in the early summer that Hillary Clinton didn’t match up well against any of the Republican candidates; you calmly and arrogantly patted us on the head and said that everything would be fine. Well, it wasn’t. You were disastrously wrong. We knew it then. You know it now. America on the edge of fascism is your fault, more than ours. Sleep with that for the next four years. Also, for the next four years, listen, don’t lead.
You know what is really despicable about this loss? Hillary Clinton lost a campaign of ideas to Donald Trump. Seriously. Think about it. Can you, quickly, give me Donald Trump’s policy ideas for immigration? I bet you can. He said it over and over again. He’s gonna build a wall and deport ‘illegals.’ What about his ideas for bringing back manufacturing jobs that disappeared over the past generation? What will he do if ISIS attacks?
We all know the answers to these questions. Terrible as his ideas were, he ran a substantive, policy-driven campaign. Hillary Clinton did not. She ran as not-Trump. Tell me, off the top of your head, how would Hillary Clinton address unemployment in communities that lost their jobs to globalization? How was she going to prevent the next terrorist attack?
Crickets. I hear fucking crickets.
Look, I have no doubt that she would have been a better President, by light years, than our Sociopath-Elect, but she didn’t make the sale. What Donald Trump realized, brilliantly, during this campaign, is that in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. He knew he didn’t need to give rational answers, so long as she was offering no answers at all.
I’m poor and frightened.
That’s okay, I’m gonna build a wall, you’ll be safe.
What kinda wall?
The best wall. It’ll be yuge! And it won’t cost you nothing.
What about my job? I don’t have a job?
I’m gonna bring your jobs back?
By making America great again!
He hit those themes, over and over and over again. While keeping the camera focused on himself with offense and drivel for the entirety of the campaign season. Throughout all the racist, xenophobic, sexist shitstorm, he made sure to hit those simple ideas every chance he got. Apparently, he learned the lesson of Bill Clinton in 1992. It’s the economy, stupid.
In response, Secretary Clinton kept saying, with pastel-colored, gauze-filtered ads that we’d be stronger together, yet on Ye Olde Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, candidate Clinton was reaching for the top-tier folks ready for self-actualization and moral transcendence, not realizing that most of the nation is stuck down at the bottom ranks of needing food and security.
Her campaign was wired into the polls, but somehow disconnected from the nation — and so many of us saw this coming. In my hometown of Binghamton, one of those cities in Upstate New York devastated by the global economy, people found her repellent. They weren’t just skeptical of Clinton as a politician; there was a visceral distaste for her and it wasn’t sexism alone that drove it — though that certainly was a contributing factor. They hate her because all of our jobs disappeared. They hate her because of NAFTA and other economic changes that, incidentally, made her fabulously wealthy. Once upon a time, Bill Clinton made the brave statement to working class American voters that said, “Yep, the new economy of international trade agreements will kill your jobs, but don’t worry! We’ll get you new jobs and we’ll all be better off together.” Only those new jobs never showed up, and now Binghamton, NY, has been rated the most depressing city in the United States for four years in a row.
The Clintons? To put it mildly, they did well by working their own angles on that new Global Economy. I understand that some folks will be able to write that off as insignificant, but where I’m from, that’s just about as low as you can go. Low enough, it seems, for American to have made Donald Trump the President.
Whoever was making decisions about political positioning for the candidate clearly lived, for decades, in a world far away from Binghamton, NY, or rural Pennsylvania, or the dying industrial towns of Michigan and Wisconsin that she counted on for victory. To dismiss the issue about her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks and investment houses said to everyone in those communities, “Y’all don’t mean shit to us.”
Turns out that folks don’t like that very much and while there certainly are a whole bunch of racist assholes in the United States, it’s not all Trump voters. Some of them were just sick and tired of being sold out by Democrats.
Can you blame them?
One final salvo before moving on. I was in New York City the final week of the campaign. In that week, both campaigns did long-form, two-minute ads. Hillary Clinton’s was one-hundred-and-twenty seconds in which she used the first-person singular pronoun “I” fourteen times. The camera was on her, with a slow pan in, for the entire ad. She said about twenty-five seconds in, “Look, we . . . we all know we’ve come through some hard economic times.” She actually tripped over the implicit lie of “we.” How galling that must be to people who are actually struggling in the United States of America. The average annual income in the nation is almost exactly $50,000, and one thing that every voter knows about Secretary Clinton is that she charges five times that amount for an afternoon of chit-chat with billionaires. I felt a cold pit grow in my stomach watching that ad, and I support her! Knowing that someone on her team made the decision to write that script and to train the camera solely on her, speaking exclusively about herself for two solid minutes, knowing that she was one of the least trusted, most disliked candidates in the history of the American Presidential campaigns, made me wonder if I should just hang up my shingle as a political consultant, because the level of incompetence apparent in that decision is practically immeasurable — and yet, there it was. A four-million-dollar ad buy intended to get out the vote . . . for the other guy.
Trump’s final ad, by contrast, had a classic narrative arc, starting with one dark chord, played on the piano, but then immediately building in tempo and excitement. It took on Wall Street, political corruption and, in the crescendo, NAFTA and the trade deals that enriched the corporations and impoverished workers across the country. The ad showed clips of the young and the old, black and white, immigrants and country-folk. It looked, very much, like an ad that could have been run by Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama. It was populist in nature, progressive in form — though shot through with a soupçon of xenophobia, so as to jiggle the hook in front of the deplorables — and in it, Donald Trump only used the word “I” once.
You wanna know why Donald Trump won the election? Easy. He did a better job.
Dammit, it wasn’t the emails, per se. It wasn’t sexism, per se. It wasn’t false attacks and years of negative press. It was that Hillary Clinton and the vast majority of the official Democratic Party leadership sold working-class Americans down the river over the course of a generation and they had nothing up the pipe with which to fight back. The sad, terrible truth is that the Democrats in 2016, having been given a choice between progress and retrenchment into the high redoubt of Wall Street, corporate interests and the political status quo, chose to back the wrong damn horse. Our candidate was so unbelievable as a solution to the problems of working class Americans that she ceded the field to a sociopathic con man who may well destroy the republic, because the con man had more credibility with voters than the Democratic alternative — by long chalk.
That. Has. Got. To. Change.
I hammer on the failures of the Democratic Party, as led by Secretary Clinton and Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2016, because, before we know it, it’s going to be 2018 and 2020. While, as citizens, we are going to have to resist the quotidian nazification of America like rabid wolverines on crank, as a political force we must be prepared to win back the House and Senate in two years — and retake the executive branch in four. Likely, through the Democratic disaster of 2016, we have lost the Supreme Court for a generation. Rather than being disheartening, that should focus the mind. This is not, in any way, a game, and the Democrats, as constituted in the current leadership, are selling stale air from cobwebbed larders.
They must go.
If they do not, if we do not have a whole new notion of ourselves within a year, then we will again — as we have just done with Hillary Clinton, doyen of Wall Street, risk-averse defender of the neoliberal fistfuck of global deregulation — lose the next cycle for want of purpose. This cannot be overstated. Even as we turn to fight Trump and the neo-Nazi cabal with whom he rides, we cannot stop screaming “THEY MUST GO” until the current leadership of the Democratic Party has been shown the back bench and replaced with those who will steer the resistance by a meaningful, relatable North Star. Enough with this cowardly, middling, bank-fluffer bullshit.
Let’s stand for something real. Let’s stand for one another.
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The Surly Bartender can be still be found, on occasion, behind the hardwood at Café No Sé, but if he’s not on shift, he’s likely sitting in a dark corner, plotting. Political Cartoon by some beautiful soul on the internet. If it is you, we send kisses and will buy you beer.