America is doomed. Well, maybe not, but it would be nearly impossible to pick two more depressing presidential candidates. If a maniac held a gun to my head and demanded I list ten good qualities of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump I would hope he couldn’t count.
Hillary ‘Multiple Subpoenas’ Clinton
The success of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary race was foreordained. She is the establishment, the career politician, the safe choice. After the mild disappointment with Obama the Visionary the Democratic faithful shrugged and picked Clinton the Bureaucrat.
Ms. Multiple Subpoenas. Photo from Hillary for America campaign.
Clinton certainly isn’t inspiring. She doesn’t offer the majestic visions of Obama or the radical reforms of Bernie Sanders. She has been tainted with her establishment connections while allegations of corruption follow her with thought-provoking persistence. Democrats gave her a quick sniff test, like you do with that old milk in your refrigerator. You have some doubts if it is still good, but since you don’t have any better ideas you drink it and hope for the best.
Her power base is in the political and business elites, the urban centres, and the people terrified of Donald Trump. She has the money and power and organisation behind her. This is Clinton’s election to lose, and she might – in fact – lose it.
Donald ‘Multiple Bankruptcies’ Trump
The candidacy of Donald Trump is more interesting. First, let’s be honest: Trump is the worst candidate for President in living memory. He has no political experience. He has an unbalanced temperament. His own party hates him. For someone who is supposedly a great businessman it is curious how many of his companies have declared bankruptcy. He has amassed an impressive number of endorsements from current dictators and former KKK and KGB leaders. I could go on and on.
Mr. Multiple Bankruptcies. Photo by Gage Skidmore.
Yet if Trump is so terrible, how did he win the Republican nomination? There are a variety of reasons, such as the weakness of the Republican contenders and the power of the far right in the primary system. But most importantly Trump tapped into a growing dissatisfaction with the direction America is going. He is saying what they are thinking.
Trump’s power base is made up of white men with lower education in the lower-middle class. This is a large demographic group. Race and religion are important issues with them – and tend to get most of the press – but I believe the most significant reason for Trump’s popularity is economics. Friction between races and religions are admirably lubricated with cash. If there is less cash, there is more friction.
The Lost Five Decades
A large proportion of the American populace is losing hope in the American Dream, and they have good reason. Their real incomes have not changed since 1964. They can’t find good paying jobs. Materially, they are worse off than their parents and they think it will be even worse for their children. An intense and comprehensive study by the Pew Research Center shows that this is precisely the demographic that is supporting Trump.
Five decades of stagnation. Image from Pew Research.
These are angry people, and much of this anger has turned towards the establishment and outsiders. They tend to believe the establishment, like Clinton, is corrupt and milking the system. They are also angry at outsiders who compete for scarce resources. These outsiders might be Mexican migrants or Chinese workers who are believed to take American jobs, or even African-Americans who Trump supporters think take a disproportionate share of public money.
This situation in America is not unique and is mirrored in much of the developed West. The UK got so fed up that they decided to leave the European Union. The supporters of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage have a lot in common.
Trump can win, believe it or not
The other parallel with Brexit is how far the polls were off. Right up until the day of the vote the Remain camp polled about 4% ahead. The end result was a 4% win by Leave. This is an 8 percentage point slide, which few people beyond professional pollsters seem to be considering.
I think it is almost certain that the polls are wrong about Clinton’s lead right now. Trump himself suggested that people were embarrassed to admit to pollsters that they will vote for him.
Many people in Europe continue to view Trump as a joke. I did, too, but I stopped laughing after Brexit. Britain’s departure from the EU has demonstrated that the modern systems of economics is misfiring and that people are desperate. Revolutions are born out of desperation, and it is time Europe starts to look at what is happening in America a bit more seriously.