Monthly Archives: November 2016

The American déjà vu

Trump’s victory was a complete shock. In the run up to the election I kept repeating to my friends and colleagues that I was terrified by the possibility that he could win. For a long time in 2016 I believed that he actually would. But all the recent polls insisted in one voice that Hillary had a comfortable lead. And so I expected her victory.

But right now my most acute emotion is the distinct sense of déjà vu. After a successful two-term Democratic president, a robotic and nerdy heir-apparent is pitted against a bigot adept at sending dog whistles and speaking in dumbed down sentences but who somehow connects. The outcome? The nerd wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College and the Presidency. We’ve seen it all before. Clinton vs Trump is but a repetition of Gore vs Bush. The consequences of 2000 were horrific. I’m afraid the consequences of 2016 will be even worse.

On the eve of the election, I wrote down the argument describing how the system is rigged, how the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court do not reflect the will of the people. As is now apparent, I missed the most glaring rigged arrangement of all. For the second time in the last 16 years, the Democrats won the popular vote and lost the Presidency.

Trump’s victory is disheartening in two ways.

First, it is disturbing to consider the far-reaching and dark consequences in terms of policies that he is likely to implement, for America, but also for the whole world. He will reverse climate change agreements. He will pass huge tax cuts for the rich. He is likely to roll back Obamacare, depriving millions of people of healthcare. He will double down on fossil fuels. He will spend massive amounts of money on unnecessary projects, the famous wall but one of them, probably personally enriching himself. He may well attack press freedoms. He will appoint a conservative Supreme Court judge, perhaps several, extending the right-wing dominance of the Court. All this will be done by a guy who has no popular mandate. Who lost the popular vote. This is maddening.

But his win is even more disheartening in its vast symbolism. What kind of signal does it send? You don’t have to prepare, you don’t need to work hard, your personal efforts do not matter. You can be a bigot and a bully, you can insult everybody in sight, you can behave like a teenager, you can abuse women. No need to be truthful. No need to be modest. No need to be hard-working. All that matters is that you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth, preferably as a man, and that you project boundless self-confidence. And then you can just lie your way to the Presidency.

A con man is the most powerful man in the world.

The rigged system

Donald Trump says the system is rigged.

He’s quite right. The system IS rigged.

It is striking that the most obvious way in which the system is rigged is virtually never mentioned. Election after election, the Democrats win more votes that the Republicans in the House elections. This happens every two years. And yet, it’s the Republicans that end up controlling the House – election after election. The reason can be summarised in one word. Gerrymandering.

The scandalous House results belie an even greater scandal. All states have the same two Senators representing them, irrespective of their population size and composition. This serves – again – to disenfranchise the minorities and the poor and to give outsize influence to the whites and the well-to-do. California and New York and Florida host all the colours of the rainbow. The Wyomings and the Montanas are almost exclusively white.

The Supreme Court is rigged too. The Republicans treat it as their own property. They have outright refused to confirm President Obama’s pick – an act unheard of in the history of the Court. And they promise to keep sabotaging Hillary’s picks indefinitely.

But the most glaring example of the rigged system is right in front of our eyes. For the length of this interminable Presidential election, the media have kept harping about one story and one story only – Hillary’s emails. More time has been spent by TV networks discussing her emails than on all her policies combined.

Her opponent is literally accused of assault by scores of women, confirms it in his own words, spews endless racist and xenophobic venom, insults everybody in sight, avoids paying any taxes, stiffs his contractors, discriminates against other races on his properties, goes bankrupt repeatedly, spends donated money on his own portraits, is a draft-dodger, knowingly abuses vulnerable people via fake university, is obviously unqualified and temperamentally unfit for office, is completely void of any policy knowledge or even interest in policy, lies non-stop in most obvious ways.

And yet all we hear about is Hillary’s emails. A farcical non-story. A practice that was never illegal. Something her own predecessor did and advised her to do, and something that never resulted in any harm. This non-story has zero news value, and yet in a tragical farce the media somehow represent it as an equivalent to all the unthinkable and vile acts that Donald Trump has committed in plain sight. In the paradox of partisanship, we have the audacity to pretend that the most qualified Presidential candidate in history is somehow comparable to the least qualified.

So yes, the system is rigged. And Donald Trump is its number one beneficiary.