Here we are more than halfway through 2017, and still much of my blog revolves around 2016 — the factors that led to Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States. This isn’t sour grapes. It’s not some 12 steps of grieving type shit. If you are familiar with my blog then you know I am, if nothing else, a seeker of silver linings. And I have contended that a lot of good will come from Trump’s presidency, even if only it means America is now awake.
In most ways the dialogue hasn’t changed since 2016. One side is screaming about Russia and criticizing Trump’s tweeting, or personality flaws. The other says the mainstream media are lying to the American public. I believe both, by design, are ignoring the problems that existed long before last year’s general election. That last bit is probably the most important.
The leadership of both sides — Republican and Democrat — want above all to defeat the agenda of the working class. The GOP is more obvious about how to go about it, though it’s admirable in a sense. Because to me it almost seems more nefarious how the Democrats campaign about being on the side of the workers, but when it comes down to it they are roughly the same bird as their conservative counterparts. They take money from the same wealthy donors, and the legislation they pass is to favor those wealthy donors. (Hint: rich people don’t want the same things as the working class. In fact, helping the wealthy is almost always at the expense of the working class.)
Oftentimes, at least once every week, I think about what one of my heroes — the late Christopher Hitchens — would have to say about the current political climate. His longtime belief in socialist principles makes me think he would have supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Primary, especially considering his extremely low opinion of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton. Though he was also on record as saying that running a country like a business “has a whiff of fascism,” so I could have seen him ultimately swallowing the pill and supporting Hillary over Trump when all was said and done.
Hitchens was complicated, and his worldview seemed to focus after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. In the last decade of his life, which ended in 2011, most of his public appearances were to promote atheism as a reasonable alternative to suicide bombings and the long and shameful history of the clergy in the Catholic Church. He basically argued that people are inherently good in nature, and that humanity does not require bronze age myths to give them morality.
Because of oppressive theocracies in the Middle East, and the human rights violations they committed and continue to commit on women, gay people and free thinkers, Christopher Hitchens kind of turned into a single-issue guy. He cared a great deal about defeating this backwards way of life, and so he supported George W. Bush’s war in Iraq till the bitter end. Even when seemingly everyone abandoned ship, and for good reason, Hitchens was something of an apologist for President Bush.
Yet when 2008 rolled around, he was right back on the other side in supporting Barack Obama for president. This was, at least in part, I presume, due to the fact Obama ran against Hillary in the Democratic Primary, but also because he characterized John McCain’s campaign as “unserious” since Sarah Palin was on the ticket. Obama was his choice, because Obama was the only choice in his mind.
Hitchens was a contrarian, no doubt. It seems sideways as hell that a socialist would be one of the last public intellectuals supporting President Dubya, particularly after the world found out that the whole Weapons of Mass Destruction thing was a made-up lie.
Yet even though Hitchens was from England, he represented America in so many ways. People have reasons for voting who they vote for. And it doesn’t have to make sense. The same America that made Barack Obama the first black president voted Donald Trump into the White House.
So it rubs me the wrong way when pundits on television, or regular people who just don’t seem to think very hard about it, paint the picture like the only Americans who voted for Trump are racist. Or sexist. Or like they are all a bunch of dumbasses. Hillary Clinton called them “deplorables.” It’s simply not the fact.
I know, I know. Something like 20% of people from South Carolina who voted for Trump during the GOP Primary said they were against the Emancipation Proclamation. These people are really out there. But they represent a tiny fragment of the population. It’s like I said: the same country that made Obama number 44 made Trump number 45. These are real people, and they are not all some form of the worst humanity has to offer.
Do I think they were voting against their best interests? Absolutely. But I’m a 27 year-old white guy from the most liberal part of the most liberal state in the country. I knew Donald Trump was a liar and a conman because, as a human being, he is a liar and a conman. He was never a serious candidate for president, and even he didn’t think he would win. But so it goes.
The election came down to four states, those being Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. That area of the country has a unique perspective on the last 25 years, as they have lived through all of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Starting with President Clinton and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), through President Obama and the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), that part of the U.S. — known as the Rust Belt — saw all kinds of their jobs go overseas. Thanks to capitalism, massive corporations were able to outsource manufacturing jobs to other countries where they only had to pay employees a fraction of what they did in the States.
So what happened was factories shut down, millions of workers lost their jobs such that already wealthy business owners could keep more of their profits, and many cities were decimated. It started under Bill Clinton, it continued under George W., and then for good measure Barack Obama went through with the TPP. It certainly wouldn’t have stopped with Hillary Clinton in the White House.
This tragic trend led them to voting for Donald Trump, who actually showed up and campaigned to end the trade deals and bring jobs back. Regular working class people were so fed up with the Democratic Party — who always speak the populist language as if they are on the side of the workers, but pass policy after policy actively benefitting the super-rich — that they rolled the dice on the 1% chance that Trump wasn’t conning them. They would have rather done that than support Hillary, where they knew there was a 100% chance that nothing would change.
I think about this, and I think it’s sad. Like, I think it’s devastating actually. Americans in that area of the country were so desperate, and so down, that they would rather take on the insurmountable odds that Trump was really going to fight for them instead of voting for another corporate Democrat. Another Democrat who campaigned as pro-worker. But who turned out to be another money-hungry Republican in sheep’s clothing.
To this day people go on TV and say that the voters were the problem. Not the candidate who lost, but the actual voters who no longer believed in the lies of the establishment. And those people are still being shamed. As if the country would be all that different right now with Hillary in office.
What I’m saying is those people were wrong, to be sure. I think they made the wrong choice. But fuck what I think because I am just one voter, and they have every right to go out and make the wrong decision. That is America, and I would never want to change that.
But rather than shaming those voters, and blaming those voters, I want to help them. I want them to stumble on the same conclusion I did, which is that a Progressive candidate has their best interests in mind. We want to end the wars, and use that absurd amount of money on this country. Where we could pay for everyone to have healthcare. Where we could pay for everyone to go to college for free. Where the minimum wage would increase to a level commensurate to inflation and the cost of living. Where we would expand Social Security to make sure that old people have enough money to survive.
People laugh and mock when they hear these things, like it’s some sort of fantasyland. I’m the guy who says it can be done, and the only people who say it can’t are those who aren’t familiar with the way the rest of the industrialized world operates. America is the country that’s behind here; capitalism is failing worldwide. If we aren’t spending 60 percent of our taxes to fund the military industrial complex, we can afford to reinvest that money back home.
In my head I think I’m always right. That might be my biggest flaw. But when it comes to the future of the United States, I am still waiting to be proven wrong here. I am still waiting for someone to come up with a better idea.