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My personal post-mortem

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The morning began as any other Wednesday morning begins. I got up, made the coffee, and took the trash out to the curb. All before 7:00 am. Wednesday is our trash/recycling/yard waste day and 7:00 am is when they begin rolling down our street.

Since we went to bed before the final tally was in, I then checked to see who our next president was going to be. At about 10:00 I drove up to Walgreen’s to buy a newspaper. Interestingly both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun Times went to press before the election had been called so their front pages were about who was in the lead. The suburban newspaper, the Daily Herald, had the patience to wait. Their front-page headline read

Outpouring of disaffected voters propels Trump.

The post-mortems will soon begin. Actually, they have already begun. Garrison Keillor weighed in this morning.

The conservative leaning will gloat that they told us so, and proceed to celebrate “the will of the people.” The liberal leaning will ask what went wrong. How did this happen? They will point fingers. Some will point fingers at Hillary. She should have done this; she should have done that. She was irresponsible running in the first place given all the baggage she had packed. Others will point fingers at the disaffected Bernie supporters that ran to Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. They will all be right, to some degree.

The perplexed will turn to Wikipedia to find out what, exactly, populism is anyway. The parallels with Brexit, Viktor Orban (the Hungarian Prime Minister), Marine Le Pen (daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen), and others will be explored and exploited.

This is my take, and my uncertainties moving forward.

What happened? Hillary represented the status quo, a status quo too connected to the financialization of the American economy. There are plenty of people that saw through the smoke screen of the various existing and future so-called “free trade agreements.” “What are we trading,” they are asking. What those agreements should be called, because it more accurately describes them, are “capital investment protection agreements.” From my perspective, they should be called what they are, but politics has always been the art of the euphemism.

Hillary, with her apparent (and real) ties to Wall Street, was too connected to everything that all those who lost their houses, or whose neighbors lost theirs, see as “the problem.” (How different might things might have been had Bill and Hillary retreated to Arkansas—remember—he was a two-term governor there—instead of taking up residence in New York. That is what Bush the Younger did, returning, of course, to Texas. I always had the feeling that he didn’t enjoy the Office of President and I always had a nagging sense that he wasn’t really the president anyway. So dropping out of the limelight was a fitting move for Bush the Younger. The Clintons were not ready to retire, to be voluntarily pastured. They were not finished.

President Elect Donald Trump was able to very successfully beat the bushes and arouse all the grouse that have been lying low, disaffected, for years. We have to give him credit here. (I want to revisit Michael Douglas’ 1993 movie, Falling Down. I don’t know why but I somehow think it speaks to this.) This “basket of deplorables,” as Hillary unfortunately called them, gave it to him, and handed it to her—and, somehow, suburban, college educated women.

In a nutshell, I think that is what happened. The autopsies will drip in over the weeks, months and years as a result of close analysis of voting patterns, exit interviews, and focus groups now being conducted. Those analyses will tell a more complete story. And it may be a completely different story than the one I just came up with.

What are we looking at going forward? I am as puzzled as the next person. Here are some of my quandaries.

Donald Trump ran as a Republican, but the leadership of the Republican Party all but abandoned him. All former (living) republican presidents were vocal about not supporting him and not voting for him. The same for the living but failed presidential candidates (John McCain, Mitt Romney), republican state governors (Herbert of Utah and Bently of Alabama, to name just two), and former members of Bush the Younger’s administration (Condoleezza Rice comes to mind). There were others.

Those that didn’t come out obliquely against him pinched their noses as they swallowed something the primary system served up that they didn’t want to eat. It reminded me of when, as a little boy, my mother served sweet potatoes or turnips. I chocked on them. I didn’t like them at all. (For you it may have been tomatoes or mushrooms. For the Republican leadership it was Trump.) And he didn’t seem to need them. After all, he did it—largely—without them. Recall his remark in early October, “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me.”

Trump did have supporters among the Republican stalwarts: Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani come to mind. While not a Republican, Vladimir Putin comes to mind, too. (I am sorry to bring that up, but that is according to the Russian press.) Trump also campaigned on some positions that ran counter to 40, 50, even 60 years of Republican principles and policies.

So what kind of Republican is Trump? That is one of my questions. Is he one of those disparaged RINOs from past years? (Remember? Republican In Name Only.) And what about that interview of Trump saying that he was “more a democrat”? Remember it? It aired during the primaries. So who is Trump? Is he a Republican or is he an opportunist? After all, at one point or another he has taken virtually every side of every issue.

More importantly, who is in his inner circle? It is reported that Chris Christie is heading his transition team. But that is not what I’m thinking about. I am thinking about those like Steve Bannon, the guy running Trumps campaign at the end, his Campaign CEO. He is a former Goldman Sach’s banker (talk about being connected) that is behind Breitbart, the online news outlet (http://www.breitbart.com). Bannon has spent years, by all accounts, campaigning against the Republican leadership, especially Paul Ryan (Wisconsin). What, exactly, is it that Bannon and his ilk, including Robert and Rebekah Mercer team, want so badly that they are willing to plunge the Republican Party into a civil war? What is it they want other than the full and complete repudiation of the remnants of FDR’s New Deal? And a whiter America?

And what will be the result? What happens when Trump doesn’t put Hillary in jail, and doesn’t build that wall? When he isn’t able to deport thousands of illegals? What will happen when the sluggish economy doesn’t do much better than it is doing now? What will happen if he actually begins a trade war with China? Or doesn’t begin one because he doesn’t cancel the trade agreements he so fervently campaigned against? What happens when the national debt doesn’t tumble? What happens if it balloons? How will the dwindling white middle-class male cohert and their college educated wives react? And what happens when the opioid mess continues in rural America? What then?

Will a nascent civil war get underway within the Republican Party? Or will it just peter out now that Trump is president elect? And who will control (influence, if you prefer) Trump? Will he be what he has appeared to be throughout the primary and presidential campaigns—his own man, beholden to none and wealthy enough in his own right (if he is—we don’t know because he never released his tax returns and, my guess, is not likely to do so now) that he won’t become beholden to the Old Establishment or to the New Guard (the Bannons, the Mercers, and others). That is, I think, what the disaffected are hoping, that he will be his own man (and I mean man).

Yes, those that elected Donald Trump are fed up and disgusted with the political elite that runs this country. Maybe the Republicrats finally lost.

But they are also fed up and disgusted with the plutocrats that used to Pow Wow in the Bohemian Grove and now Pow Wow in Davos. The irony, to me, is that they, the middle-class white males, are putting their trust in a plutocrat to do battle with plutocrats! (If you don’t think Trump is a member of the plutocracy, think about the pictures of his gold plated apartment in Manhattan and his statements that he doesn’t want to live in the White House.) It just doesn’t make sense to me to trust a plutocrat to battle plutocrats.

But think about this. Frederick Engles was the eldest son of a wealthy German textile manufacturer. In 1845 he published a book (The Condition of the Working Class in England). In 1848, co-authored The Communist Manifesto with Karl Marx. Engles financially supported Marx while he researched and wrote Das Kapital (and Engles actually edited the second and third volumes after Marx died). If history repeats itself, we might be in for a wild ride! Stranger things have happened.

So where is the Republican Party headed? For that matter, where is the Democratic Party headed? Will the Republican Party drift back toward a re-embrace of conservative orthodoxy? Or will it embrace a new brand of American populist nationalism? Did Bannon and the Mercers (not to mention to Koch brothers) win this election? Or did they lose it and just don’t know it yet?

Now, I am running off to begin exploring this new political landscape by studying up on populism, present and historical.


Bohemian Grove










A spelling error was noticed and corrected on November 10th.  Also, the original post incorrectly identified Alabama as the Clinton’s original home state rather than Arkansas.  That, has also been corrected.

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