by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
November 9, 2016
Here’s why Donald Trump won.
- This was not the year for an Establishment politician. More so than ever, people hated politics as usual and politicians as usual. That’s why Bernie Sander surged, and why Trump surged. Hillary Clinton was the embodiment of the Establishment; Trump the outsider. People get in their gut that the system is rigged against them, and they were rebelling against that. Trump was not the first politician over the past two years to draw attention to this. Elizabeth Warren has been giving the “rigged” speech for a couple years now, and Bernie Sanders has been talking about it forever. And it’s true! The economy is rigged against regular people, and the political system doesn’t work for them, either. Trump drove this home.
- This is what the DNC gets when it rigs the primaries. Take a bow, Debbie Wasserman Schultz! The DNC did everything in its power, and some things beyond the pale, to load the dice for Hillary and put Bernie Sanders at a disadvantage. On a fair playing field, Sanders could have beaten Hillary, and could have beaten Trump. In fact, my friends in the Bernie camp warned repeatedly that Hillary would have a hard time beating Trump, and they had poll after poll demonstrating that Bernie would do much better against Trump. They were right. The Bernie folks didn’t bring Hillary down; Hillary brought the Democrats down.
- Hillary hatred: The level of hatred that has built up against Hillary Clinton is pathological. She’s been thoroughly demonized for decades now, and what we saw during this campaign was a modern-day Salem Witch Trial. “Lock her up” is but a faint echo of “String Her Up.”
- Messaging: Trump told people, over and over, what they wanted to hear. He was going to, yes, make America great again, and bring people their good jobs back. Those are popular messages, even if the elites sneered at them. What were Hillary’s messages: “I’m with Her”? That slogan was all about Hillary. It’s not about what Hillary will do for me and my family. And her other slogan, “Stronger Together,” was also vacuous, and beyond that, it rang false because people understood that she wasn’t going to be able to unite the country because she is such a divisive figure herself.
- Free trade: People in the Midwest have suffered from NAFTA and all the other free trade deals, and Trump hammered Clinton on these. Plus, Hillary’s waffling on the TPP didn’t fool a lot of people. She was still seen as a free trader.
- Elitism: This was a rebellion against the elites, and Hillary’s one bad unforced error in the campaign, “the basket of deplorables,” reinforced the elitism that people so despise.
- Racism: Hillary was right to point out, however, that Trump was appealing to people’s racism. He was the candidate of the KKK, after all. And there was, as Van Jones so eloquently put it on CNN last night, a “whitelash” against Obama and the changing face of America.
- FBI Director James Comey’s grotesque injection of himself into the race 10 days before the finish line stalled Clinton’s momentum dead in its tracks, and gave Trump the opportunity to gain ground.
- When politics has been reduced to a spectator sport, people will choose the most interesting or outrageous performer. Most Americans have become disengaged from the political process. They watch the circus on the TV, and they are sick of standard-issue politicians with their blow-dried hair and their focus-grouped talk. They’re attracted to someone who is unpredictable and entertaining and authentic.
- Capitalism has devoured our democracy. We don’t really have a functioning democracy anymore because capitalism has generated tremendous wealth for a tiny minority, who now control our politics. They pick the candidates, and they dictate the policies. Study after study has shown that the people’s wishes are ignored, and we only get what we want when the top 1 percent and the business interests also want the same thing. As Jimmy Carter put it last year, we’ve become “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.” This breeds great resentment among the people. And capitalism is no longer delivering the goods: People are working harder and longer, and getting nowhere, and their kids are falling further behind. This, too, breeds resentment. So people are ready to roll the dice for a strongman who says that he, and he alone, can solve all their problems.