Nearly every day lately I find myself in a conversation with someone about the election season. Most people shake their heads and ask variations of “What is wrong with us that so many are supporting Trump?” Making it abundantly clear I am not a Trump supporter or apologist. I do my best to assess Trump’s appeal among angry blue-collar, white, mostly male, voters, who have seen their jobs and incomes vanish due to trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.
I also point out the Faustian bargain our Republican Congress made the night of January 20, 2009 when it vowed never to do anything to advance the first African American President’s legacy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said back in Obama’s first term, “Our single most important political goal” is to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Consequently, for the past seven years, Republicans have chosen to obstruct, obfuscate, and deny any meaningful legislation that might ease millions of Americans’ hardships lest Obama be afforded any credit for it, even if they previously supported it.
Conversations then typically drift into discussion about Trump’s chances. “I don’t think he has a chance. Do you think he can win?” people ask. To which I always respond with a heavy, forlorn, “Yes.” If we believe this election is in the bag for Hillary Clinton, that people aren’t stupid enough to vote for “President Donald J. Trump”, here are five reasons how the unthinkable could happen in November. Acknowledging them, hopefully we can avoid the unthinkable as the clock ticks to November.
Reason one: Hillary Hate.
For Hillary Clinton’s most ardent critics, the answer is as simple as A-B-C: Anyone But Clinton. If Donald Trump is historically the lowest polling presidential candidate in history, Hillary Clinton is a very close second. Rightly or wrongly, the Clintons are the wall against which scandal-theory spaghetti is thrown. Despite the fact that every “scandal” they’ve been accused of has been debunked, their haters attribute it to the Clintons’ uncanny ability to game the system, thereby weaseling out of yet another indictment.
To illustrate, we needn’t go farther than the marathon Benghazi hearings and FBI Director James Comey’s grilling on Capitol Hill over his conclusion Clinton did nothing criminally negligent concerning her use of email. Republicans, of course, still walking around with egg on their faces from the three-ring Benghazi circus, did not believe Comey. It had to be another Clinton shell game. She had to hang, by God. She’s got to be guilty of..something! Exonerated or not, ask people who claim to “hate” Clinton why they hate her, and most will repeat those talking points.
The fact is, most people don’t really know why they despise Clinton. The mainstream media has made millions scrutinizing everything the Clintons have done since they entered the White House in the 1990s, thereby shaping a narrative of “scandal” and House of Cards-level intrigue. Clinton “news” gets ratings, which, of course, equals money, even if those ratings involve mundane red-herrings like Hillary Clinton’s laugh, tone of voice, or preference for pantsuits.
Because the standard opinion is the Clintons are “liars”, they’re liars. That’s it. The media knows Trump lies far more than any politician in recent memory, mostly because he has no idea what he’s talking about; yet he garners ratings too, and if reporters call him out on his endless deceit, he’ll shun them. As a result, many would rather vote for anyone–literally anyone–but Hillary Clinton, even if it’s a third-party candidate or Donald Trump. As irrational as their disdain is, it’s visceral. Hopefully, though, they will do as most who claimed they would never vote for Obama in 2008 did: look at the future and put personal feelings aside. Political science may have “science” in its title, but it isn’t exact. We’re too intelligent a people to surrender to pathos.
Reason Two: Voter Apathy/Suppression
Just after the mid-term elections in 2014, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece about voter turnout hitting a seventy-two-year nadir. Granted, mid-term election attendance is predictably low since those elections don’t affect who currently occupies the Oval Office. 2014, though, turned out to be a harbinger of a growing “apathy, anger and frustration at the relentlessly negative tone of the campaigns.” Last July, the Census Bureau reported congressional voting turnout was at its worst since 1978. Fairvote.org reports this year “Nationwide presidential primary turnout remains low”, with under one-third of eligible voters participating in state primaries.
Interestingly, the states that reported the highest primary showing were those with open or semi-open primaries. Closed-primary states, though, ranked at the bottom, with the exception of open-primary state Idaho. Add gerrymandering to the mix, and we wind up with a curious number of Republican down-ticket candidates, whom we would never assume the voting majority would vote for, handily winning races all over the nation. This is what we experienced in 2010 when Democrats lost six house seats and Republicans gained five.
Couple this with the Supreme Court’s gutting of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, reducing polling places, and allowing states to institute voter-suppression laws, and people are understandably dissuaded from taking time out of their busy schedules to vote. There are powerful entities at play out there – like the Koch brothers – that actually prefer we do not vote. If that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t be spending billions of dollars to frustrate us enough to stay home. Jane Mayer writes about this in her brilliant book Dark Money. In other words, if people stay home in November, Donald Trump has a much better chance of winning.
Reason Three: Stock Market Crash
Thom Hartmann, host of nationally syndicated radio show The Thom Hartmann Program, the Big Picture television program on the RT channel, and best-selling author, delineates in his poignant analysis The Crash of 2016 an eighty-year cycle of economic crashes in our country. According to it, the American economy is set to unravel again sometime this year. He frequently states he hopes he is wrong, yet his meticulous research points to the fact that although the new Obama administration prevented an all-out economic catastrophe akin to the Great Depression when it assumed office in 2009, it didn’t do enough to ensure long-term stability. While other countries – namely Iceland – are locking up bankers who helped bring the global economy to its knees, we, on the other hand, have not locked up a single one. Although we talk a good game, we haven’t broken up the big banks, haven’t re-instituted Glass-Steagall, and our political system is awash in unlimited campaign cash, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United and McCutcheon vs. the Federal Elections Commission decisions.
“The pillars of democracy that once supported a booming middle class have been corrupted, and without them, America teeters on the verge of the next Great Crash,” says Hartmann. “Our once-enlightened political and economic systems have been manipulated to ensure the success of only a fraction of the population at the expense of the rest of us.”
That’s a problem when some of the banks responsible for tanking the economy are up to their old tricks again, having received nothing more than slaps on the wrists. Just look at how inconsistently the market has performed lately. All it takes is an upset somewhere, like the British Brexit vote, and worldwide markets shutter. If the market crashes months or weeks leading up to the election, Trump’s anti-Obama, anti-Hillary, anti-NATO fear mongering might begin to appeal to people looking for someone to blame and a “strong man” to “fix” it.
Reason Four: Terror Attack
No one wants to imagine it. It’s horrific to even consider, but we must consider ISIL really wants Donald Trump to win the election. To disenfranchised Middle Easterners living under ISIL’s tyranny because our invasion of Iraq, Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric is exactly what they need to accept the premise that the West is “at war with Islam”. Essentially, Trump is helping radicalize more desperate people, thereby encouraging another attack on our soil. If that attack occurs just before the election, the fear and uncertainty people will experience could drive them to the arms of a “strong man” like Trump, who will use the opportunity to whip up jingoism and paranoia, just as George W. Bush did after 9/11. Although, arguably, it will be worse under Trump.
Finally: Third parties
My last piece for LNR was titled “Are We About to Repeat the 2000 Election?” It’s about the growing third-party movement shaping up after Bernie Sanders’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I talk about how just after the endorsement, contributions to Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign leaped 1000%, mostly from self-described “Bernie or Bust” people who “hate” Hillary and would rather take their chances on a conscience vote rather than yield to pragmatism. On the Republican side, many are throwing their support behind Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson rather than support Trump.
Compare this to the Green Party run of Ralph Nader and its impact on the 2000 election that handed us George W. Bush. Nader came in third in a very close, contested race. He received over 2 million votes from people who likely would have voted for Al Gore, which would have put Gore way ahead of Bush. If that had happened, the Supreme Court wouldn’t have issued a fiat disenfranchising millions of voters, 9/11 probably wouldn’t have happened, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, and the economy would likely have been doing much better than it is right now, definitely better than it was doing when Bush left office.
As I state in my piece, I understand Sanders supporters’ consternation. I too was a Green Party member for a while because I was fed up with the intransigent two-party system that seemed only to operate for special interests. I changed back to the Democratic Party because I wanted to vote for Bernie in the New York primary, and took to heart the fact that Bernie himself — an unabashed Independent — changed party affiliation lest he run as the spoiler Ralph Nader was, and Jill Stein is. Now a democrat again, I hold sacrosanct my role in helping reshape the party. This can happen best from within, not without.
The choice in this election should be a no-brainer. However, Trump and Clinton have spent the past couple of weeks polling in a virtual dead heat. If anyone tells you this election is like all the rest, remind him or her the next President will have the unenviable task of nominating up to four Supreme Court justices. Whom would you rather nominate them, Clinton or Trump? Consider a President is limited to two terms and we can vote Clinton or Trump out in four years; however, the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment. That means, whoever the next President is, can put on the bench someone who may likely occupy it for decades, influencing scores of policies ranging from civil rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, money in politics, as well as others, yet unheard of, for generations yet unborn.
Clinton can lose. I am confident she will not. I have enough faith in my fellow countrymen to assume we will dodge a bullet on November 8th. We mustn’t assume it’s already happened, though. A lot can change the country’s trajectory in four months. Let’s get out there and organize for Hillary, vote, and bring a lot of friends with us.