‘A revolt against the future’: Quick reflections on the November 2016 Election

Middle East
on 33 Comments

Had it not been for the Electoral College, at this moment we would be discussing the plans for the incoming Hillary Clinton administration.  That’s right.  She actually won the popular vote.  Thus, once again, that institution created by the founding slave owners has risen from the grave and prevented our exit from the cemetery.

I begin there to put the election into context and to suggest that commentary needs to be quite nuanced.  No, I am not trying to make lemonade out of lemons.  But I do think that it is important to recognize that the Trump victory was far from a slam-dunk; the election was very close.  One might not get that impression, however, when one looks at news headlines as well as Electoral College maps.

What are some of the conclusions we can arrive at from this election? 

1. The election was a referendum on globalization and demographics; it was not a referendum on neo-liberalism  

It is critical to appreciate that Trump’s appeal to whites was around their fear of the multiple implications of globalization.  This included trade agreements AND migration.  Trump focused on the symptoms inherent in neo-liberal globalization, such as job loss, but his was not a critique of neo-liberalism.  He continues to advance deregulation, tax cuts, anti-unionism, etc.  He was making no systemic critique at all, but the examples that he pointed to from wreckage resulting from economic and social dislocation, resonated for many whites who felt, for various reasons, that their world was collapsing.

It was the connection between globalization and migration that struck a chord, just as it did in Britain with the Brexit vote.  In both cases, there was tremendous fear of the changing complexion of both societies brought on by migration and economic dislocation (or the threat of economic dislocation).  Protectionism plus firm borders were presented as answers in a world that has altered dramatically with the reconfiguration of global capitalism.

2. The election represented the consolidation of a misogynistic white united front

There are a few issues that need to be ‘unpacked’ here.  For all of the talk about the problems with Hillary Clinton-the-candidate and the failure to address matters of economics, too few commentators are addressing the fact that the alliance that Trump built was one that not only permitted but encouraged racism and misogyny.  In point of fact, Trump voters were prepared to buy into various unsupported allegations against Clinton that would never have stuck had she not been a woman.  Additionally, Trump’s own baggage, e.g., married and divorced multiple times; allegations of sexual assault, would never have been tolerated had the candidate been a woman (or, for that matter, of color).  Trump was given a pass that would only be given to a white man in US society.  All one has to do is to think about the various allegations, charges and history surrounding Donald Trump and then ask the question:  had the candidate been a woman or of color, what would have happened?  The answer is obvious.

Also in connection with this matter is that for all of the talk about economic fear, there is this recurring fact that many people seem to wish to avoid.  Just as with the Tea Party, the mean income of the Trump base is higher than the national mean (and was higher than the mean for Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters).  Thus, we were not dealing with the poorest of the poor.  Instead, this was a movement driven by those who are actually doing fairly well but are despairing because the American Dream that they embraced no longer seems to work for white people.

This is critical for us to get because had the Trump phenomenon been mainly about a rejection of economic injustice, then this base would have been nearly interchangeable with that of Senator Sanders.  Yet that was not the case.  What we can argue, instead, is that this segment of the white population was looking in terror at the erosion of the American Dream, but they were looking at it through the prism of race.

3. Hillary Clinton, as candidate, was flawed but we should be careful in our analysis

Though Clinton had expected a coronation, the Sanders campaign pushed her to be more than she expected.  The platform of the Democratic Party was shifted to the left in many important respects.  Yet Clinton could not be

Though Clinton had expected a coronation, the Sanders campaign pushed her to be more than she expected.  The platform of the Democratic Party was shifted to the left in many important respects.  Yet Clinton could not be the champion of an anti-corporate populist movement.  Yes, she correctly argued to tax the 1%.  Yes, she articulated many progressive demands.  But in the eyes of too many people, including many of her supporters, she was compromised by her relationship with Wall Street.

That said, what also needs to be considered is that Trump had so many negatives against him.  Yes, he was an outsider, so to speak, and used that very skillfully to argue that he would bring another pair of eyes to the situation.  Yet, this is the same person who is in the upper echelons of the economy; refused to share his tax returns; has numerous allegations against him for bad business with partners and workers; and engages in the same off-shoring of production as many of the companies he criticized!  Yet, none of that haunted him in the way that various criticisms haunted Clinton.  Fundamentally this was a matter of sexism, though it is certainly true that Clinton’s being perceived as an insider did not help.

4. We don’t know whether Bernie Sanders would have done any better but we do know that his message is the one that needs to be articulated  

It is impossible to accurately predict whether Sanders would have done better in the final election.  He certainly would have been subjected to an immense amount of red-baiting and suggestions of foreign policy softness.  Yet his message did resonate among millions, especially younger voters.  And it was younger voters who did not turn out in force to back Clinton.

In entering the Trump era it is the movement that Sanders was part of coalescing that becomes key in building a resistance that has a positive vision.  One of the weaknesses of the Sanders message was its failure to unify matters of class with race and gender.  This is not an academic exercise.  This is about telling the right story about what has been happening in the USA.  It is also a matter of taping into significant social movements, e.g., Occupy; immigrant rights; LGBT; environmental justice; movement for Black Lives.  These are movements that are focused on the future and a future that is progressive.  This, in fact, is where the hope lies.

******

I have argued for some time that right-wing populism—with the Trump campaign exemplifying an aspect of this—is a revolt against the future.  It is a movement that is always focused on a mythical past to which a particular country must return.  In the case of the USA, right-wing populism seeks a return to the era of the ‘white republic,’ and it is this that the Trump campaign was so successful in articulating.  It did so through disparaging Mexicans, suggesting them as a source of crime, completely ignoring criminal syndicates that have historically arrived in the USA from Europe.  It did so through demonizing Arabs and Muslims, suggesting them as sources of terror, completely ignoring that the greatest sources of political terror in the USA have been white supremacist formations.

Right-wing populism has grown as a result of both the ravages brought on by neo-liberal globalization as well as the demographic and political changes within the USA.  It is the latter—demographic and political changes—that have unfolded over the decades as previously disenfranchised groups have asserted themselves and articulated, to paraphrase the poet Langston Hughes, we, too, sing America.

Yes, let us lick our wounds and reflect on the future.  This election result was one that more of us should have anticipated as a real possibility.  In either case, that the results were so close and that we did not have the ideal candidate to represent the new majority emerging in the USA remains for me a source of immense hope.

The struggle certainly continues.

About Bill Fletcher Jr.

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33 Responses

  1. John Smithson
    November 10, 2016, 1:34 pm

    and I thought this website was concerned about the ‘War of Ideas in the Middle East’.

    My concern coming to this website is (as it has always been) how to pursue the interests of the UNITED STATES in our foreign policy. The party of the president (or congress) doesn’t seem to matter.

    Yes Trump one, yes people are still pissed about being lied into the Iraq war, yes people are pissed not a single banker or regulator went to jail after the mortgage crisis, and yes Hillary is very much associated with all that. I don’t see the result as all that complicated – people wanted an outsider, someone who might, just maybe, start doing things ‘better’.

    But why the heck does Mondoweiss have such a biased article up? I never thought of this site as left or right wing. Mostly just pro-American and pro-justice. What gives?

    • echinococcus
      November 11, 2016, 8:31 am

      What gives is that you may get censored if you object to partisan hacks like Fletcher spreading their cultural propaganda here, and to the attitude that’s keeping away a lot of committed Palestine supporters, who happen to have totally different values and priorities with regard to not so much US internal policy as cultural preferences. One doesn’t have to be a self-designated “liberal” to help Palestinian resistance. As for changing course on the US support for Zionism, good luck if you’re limited to the so-called liberals.

      Well, no point in insisting; if the owners don’t want a united front of solidarity with the Palestinian people it’s their problem. Pity though.

      • Atlantaiconoclast
        November 11, 2016, 6:17 pm

        Amen. I have been opposed to Zionism since I was a child. There is no way anything will change for the good till more Americans see it in their interest to end the special parasitic relationship. Most liberals just don’t get it! So frustrating. The Palestinians will continue to suffer unless this movement makes serious changes in strategy.

    • Citizen
      November 12, 2016, 10:07 pm

      Yes, what gives?

  2. Stephen Shenfield
    November 10, 2016, 6:37 pm

    Trump said he was worried by the danger of nuclear war, he would not order the use of nuclear weapons, he would improve relations with Russia. I could not vote for him out of fear of what he will do inside the country, but I could not bring myself to vote for Hillary out of fear of her bellicose foreign policy.

    • Mooser
      November 11, 2016, 11:28 am

      ,” he would improve relations with Russia.”

      Yup, if there is one thing Mr. Trump has consistently and profitably has done throughout his career, it’s “improve relations.” A lot of his relations have been greatly improved.

      • Citizen
        November 12, 2016, 10:32 pm

        Yeah, like Sheldon Adelson is quite content at the moment. When Trump moves the US embassy to Jerusalem, will he also end funding of the Abbas security forces? And, when the EU copy cats, will Israel actually start paying for its occupation, or will the US congress double Obama’s latest $38 billion aid package to our great ally, right up there, with England?

      • oldgeezer
        November 13, 2016, 4:15 pm

        @citizen

        While you might be right i don’t think the EU will copycat the US on this issue. I think you will see major steps taken if it the zionist’s immoral wet dreams come true. Even more so now that brexit has occurred. The brits joined the EU at the urging of the US. The potential for an EU army is a huge concern. With the suze of their populatiom and economies the EU has a major potential to be a threat to the empire even though it isn’t currently. With the poodle gone the EU will no longer be hamstrung in that path. If you don’t buy it look at historical headlines urging the UK to join and arguing that an EU atmy is inadvisable as NATO ensures security.

        The EU is nkt a threat but it has the potential to be one. The only influences holding the EU from persuing the line that is both legal and moral is the UK and to a somewhat lesser extent Germany. Germany is willing to cooperate out of guilt byt not willing to underwrite or support the evil racism referred to as zionism.

  3. RoHa
    November 10, 2016, 11:56 pm

    ‘A revolt against the future’

    A revolt against a future, a future in which giant global corporations run and ruin people’s lives while the pseudo-left artsy-fartsies nag at them for being racist, sexist, etc.

    “fear of the changing complexion of both societies brought on by migration and economic dislocation”

    Economic dislocation is always welcomed, of course. And people should not fear an influx of foreigners who have a different culture, different customs, and little intention of integrating with the local society? Ask the Palestinians how that works out.

    “Protectionism plus firm borders were presented as answers in a world that has altered dramatically with the reconfiguration of global capitalism.”

    Socialism isn’t on the U.S. menu, so what other solutions are on offer?

    “The election represented the consolidation of a misogynistic white united front”

    Ah, yes, Always the evil white man. The eternal villain of the aforementioned “progressive” pseudo-left artsy-fartsies.

    “… the problems with Hillary Clinton-the-candidate…”

    You mean, perhaps, Benghazi , voter fraud , secret private server with classified material , using the Clinton Foundation as a cover for tax evasion, hiring cronies, taking bribes from foreign countries , giving 123 Technologies $300 million (subsequently declared bankruptcy and was sold to the Chinese), arming the Muslim Brotherhood and hiring them in the White House , Whitewater, Watergate committee, Vince Foster, shady commodity deals , funding of neoNazis in the Ukraine that led to the toppling of the democratically elected president and to the biggest crisis that country has had since WWII , turning Libya into chaos , mastermind of the so-called “Arab Spring” that only brought chaos, death and destruction to the Middle East and North Africa , encouraging and supporting the murders of Palestinians and the destruction of their homes, towns and villages by Israel , funding and arming of terrorists in Syria, the destruction and destabilization of that nation, giving the order to US lapdogs in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to give sarin gas to the “moderate” terrorists in Syria that they eventually used on civilians, and framed Assad, creation of the biggest refugees crisis since WWII , leaving Iraq in chaos , DOJ spying on the press , HHS Secretary Sibelius shaking down health insurance executives , giving cronies in SOLYNDRA $500 MILLION DOLLARS (subsequently declared bankruptcy and was sold to the Chinese) , NSA monitoring citizens , State Department interfering with an Inspector General Investigation on departmental sexual misconduct, lying to Congress , threats to all of Bill’s former mistresses to keep them quiet , stealing the White House furniture and silverware when Bill left Office, etc.?

    (Thanks to Mike Rivero for that list.)

    “What we can argue, instead, is that this segment of the white population was looking in terror at the erosion of the American Dream, but they were looking at it through the prism of race.”

    And I’m sure someone will argue that.

    “disparaging Mexicans, suggesting them as a source of crime, completely ignoring criminal syndicates that have historically arrived in the USA from Europe.”

    The Italian and Russian Jewish Mafias are not enough. Celebrate diversity in crime!

    “as previously disenfranchised groups have asserted themselves and articulated, to paraphrase the poet Langston Hughes, we, too, sing America.

    From my side of the Pacific it seems that too many of them only sing themselves.

    Sneering at the working class, accusing them of all the politically incorrect sins, will not overcome the dreaded “populism”. It might be time to start listening to them. I’ll let someone else do that, because I don’t like the working class. But there, I don’t like anyone else, either.

    • echinococcus
      November 11, 2016, 8:45 am

      RoHa,
      For someone who lives with his feet up and head down at the other end of the world, you are suspiciously up to date on what’s going on here. Are you sure you aren’t writing from, say, the house next door?

      • Mooser
        November 11, 2016, 12:37 pm

        “Are you sure you aren’t writing from, say, the house next door?”

        We will find “RoHa” out! “Echin” you should go next door, flush the toilet, and see which way the water swirls. If it goes the wrong way, there’s an Antipodean in the house.

      • RoHa
        November 11, 2016, 6:30 pm

        I assure you that I do not live next door to either Clinton or Trump. I did live in the USA in the Clinton presidency, and through the Gore/Bush “election”, and into the post 9/11 period.

        However, I am now back in XXXX, riding my kangaroo and watching the spiders eat the crocodiles. I get my information about the USA by using the ancient skills of the Aboriginals.

      • Mooser
        November 11, 2016, 8:33 pm

        “However, I am now back in XXXX, riding my kangaroo”

        Of course, the cry of the Australian outback kangarooboy, as he spurs his mount: “Roo, Ha!”
        Classic device, like Clemen’s use of the steamboating term “mark twain” as a pseudonym.

      • echinococcus
        November 11, 2016, 10:21 pm

        Yeah, that must be it. Those 4 Xs didn’t look like Down Under vernacular.

      • RoHa
        November 12, 2016, 4:35 am
      • echinococcus
        November 12, 2016, 10:35 am

        I’ll be danged. That camping outfit is not what we use the Xs for.
        Thank you for the vocab enrichment.

      • RoHa
        November 12, 2016, 10:48 pm

        I actually live in Brisbane, so I drive past (alas!) the XXXX brewery quite often.

        Read Terry Pratchett’s The Last Continent for more information.

    • Antidote
      November 11, 2016, 8:11 pm

      hey, ranting RoHa, you forgot the heroic and blameless history of Anzac interventionism from the Gallipolli to the Iraq disaster. So what are you learning from the Australian Aboriginals? How to fight of refugees and criminals arriving on boats, endangering the good people who already live there?

      • RoHa
        November 11, 2016, 9:44 pm

        Don’t know what Australian intervention has to do with Fletcher’s effusion and my response. (Though most Australian intervention has been slavishly following the Americans.)

        But, yes, the fate of the Aborigines is a good example of what can happen if you don’t stop boats full of foreign criminals coming to your shores.

    • Mooser
      November 13, 2016, 2:11 pm

      “while the pseudo-left artsy-fartsies nag at them for being racist, sexist, etc”

      Thank God there’s been no moral harassment or hypocrisy from the Right in America. That would be too much.

      After all, has racism and sexism hurt us half as much as the leftist “nagging” about it has?

      I’m beginning to think they gave Crocodile Dundee a Philosophy degree. Oh well, whether the water swirls clockwise or counter…

      • Philemon
        November 13, 2016, 6:54 pm

        Mooser, Crocodile Dundee got a First at the University of Woolamaloo. He studied under Bruce.

        Our Roha, on the other hand, went to some pommie university.

      • RoHa
        November 13, 2016, 10:36 pm

        Philemon, I did all my post-grad work among the Poms, but I got my first degree in Philosophy at a decent Aussie Uni. It was very similar to the one in the Monty Python documentary.

      • RoHa
        November 14, 2016, 1:23 am

        “Thank God there’s been no moral harassment or hypocrisy from the Right in America.”

        Fallacy of pointing to another wrong? Surely not!

  4. yourstruly
    November 11, 2016, 12:13 am

    The antiwar left should immediately press president-elect Trump to make good on his expressed wish that America team up with Russia to defeat the Islamic State. By cooperating in this effort the two countries would be positioned to work together towards ending the Syrian War, something that would have been impossible had warhawk Clinton been elected. And what more ego-satisfying way for Trump to launch his presidency than by meeting with Vladimir Putin to discuss ending a war that just happened to have been promoted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Yes, he’d catch hell from the neo-cons/libs for dealing with someone they’ve been demonizing, but what the heck, most of them backed Clinton anyway. Moreover, should he and his co-peacemaker Vladimir Putin succeed in ending the war in Syria, who’s to say that they couldn’t do the same vis-a-vis the Israeli occupation of Palestine. After all, our president is more autonomous in foreign policy as compared to domestic policy, so when left activists challenge him on Syria, he has the authority to act. Whether or not he does follow through on his expressed willingness to meet with Putin will inform us on his willingness (or ability) to make good on his stated opposition to regime change and unnecessary wars, positions that the antiwar Left also supports.

    Following the same rationale, the Left should press the President-elect to make good on his campaign vow to leave Medicare and Social Security untouched, since here too we can support him, and he may need our support.

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      November 11, 2016, 6:14 pm

      Agreed. Leftists need to quickly get over their excessive antipathy towards Trump and try to get on his good side to see how they can help him achieve a new foreign policy. This doesn’t mean they have to like him, or fail to oppose him where it counts. But I am telling you, too many people were unappreciative of the fact that SHE was the war and neocon candidate, not him.

      • Citizen
        November 12, 2016, 11:51 pm

        Yes, she was; he was not, is not. I hope Trump works with Putin in such ways, and hope Trump changes his mind on the Iran deal, but I’m concerned by the Zionists in his camp, beginning with Ivanka’s hubby, the guy who wrote Trump’s AIPAC speech and convinced him to stick to a script for the first time, instead of winging it sans teleprompter.

  5. echinococcus
    November 11, 2016, 8:38 am

    Sanders … his message did resonate among millions

    Like, for example, “Israel has a right to defend itself”.

  6. Atlantaiconoclast
    November 11, 2016, 6:11 pm

    Nations have the right to determine who gets to become US citizens. Till you realize this, you will continue to be ignored by the American people. Any anti Zionist efforts must be rooted in American interests to reach the masses. Failing to appreciate this political reality is the key failure of the anti Zionist movement We can’t force Israel to change, but we can damn sure motivate Americans to oppose any aid to Israel from our govt, and that will eventually lead to real justice for Palestine.

    • Citizen
      November 13, 2016, 12:14 am

      In the rare times I’ve seen aid to israel discussed (always very briefly) on cable TV news/infotainment shows, for example when a congressman was arguing we should cut all foreign aid across the board–I think it was Rand Paul, briefly, the response was foreign aid was a “drop in the bucket”, so look for something else larger to cut. Comparison of aid to Israel to what sums we give other countries was never a subtopic, nor was what Israel actually does with those billions of US tax dollars. Israel is #1 top beneficiary of US aid in all US history, and Obama’s recent $38 billion package barely made the TV cable news although it was the largest package in US history. I think this silence would change in a heartbeat if, e.g., Ms. Weir was given ten minutes on, say, Fox News, or even Bill Maher’s show.

      • echinococcus
        November 13, 2016, 2:58 am

        Citizen,

        Israel is #1 top beneficiary of US aid in all US history, and Obama’s recent $38 billion package barely made the TV cable news although it was the largest package in US history. I think this silence would change in a heartbeat if, e.g., Ms. Weir was given ten minutes on, say, Fox News, or even Bill Maher’s show.

        There you have it. You hit the head on the nail.

        There it is, staring all in the face, why the secretive governing body of JVP is running its witchhunt.

        Every time, it’s someone who can communicate well with the American public, without limiting it to inside the tribe and a few liberals.

      • Annie Robbins
        November 13, 2016, 9:42 am

        secretive governing body of JVP

        i think you’re getting carried away. and to blame jvp for the 38 billion being kept out of the news you’re living in a fantasy world. that’s all i have to say on that.

      • echinococcus
        November 13, 2016, 11:14 am

        Sometimes I do get carried away, other times like these it’s you who’s reading too fast. The 38 B were mentioned by the OP as one result of the general hush-up; the point of the response was the mechanism of said hush-up. As for “secretive” see http://mondoweiss.net/2016/11/jewish-clinton-hallelujah/#comment-858720 and others.
        Of course one can’t say that JVP is not directly the only reason Ms Weir is not interviewed on CNN but that wasn’t the contention.

  7. Citizen
    November 13, 2016, 12:29 am

    From the GOP 2016 Platform:
    “Reaffirm support for Israel and slam sanctions movement: “We reaffirm America’s commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that Israel maintains a qualitative military edge over any and all adversaries… We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier and specifically recognize that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) is anti-Semitic in nature and seeks to destroy Israel. Therefore, we call for effective legislation to thwart actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner.”

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