Late on Tuesday night, the shock hit those who stayed awake to see the election results. Polls since July have consistently been showing that Clinton would beat Trump in November, by varying degrees. At one particular point in late October, there was even talk of even Texas going for Clinton. I went to bed that night with my most recent exposure being claims such as Huffington Post’s prediction that Clinton win with 323 electoral votes or the New York Times claiming that Hillary had an 85% chance of winning. Even FOX News had predicted that Clinton would be the next president. Even FOX News had reported that Clinton would win 322 electoral votes.
From the beginning, it didn’t seem that Trump was trying to win. He seemed content to simply use the media coverage to promote his own businesses or use campaign funds to overpay at his own businesses. Seriously, rather than spending money to try to win, he was busy embezzling it by overcharging his own campaign for services at Trump businesses. I hope everyone recalls the testimony of John Kasich, who claimed in July that he was offered by Trump to just basically do the entire job of President if he would be his VP candidate. Earlier that same month, he said he wouldn’t rule out just not taking the job after winning the election.
So I, like many Americans, were shocked to wake up on November 9th to the fact that we elected Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States. I had written an extensive article on why I wouldn’t vote for Hillary and how she manages to be an even worse president than Trump, so it was an uncomfortable and disturbing relief.
However, with that began the blame game: who is to blame for a Trump Presidency? I have seen individuals claiming they are going to shut themselves in for the next few days, unable to function, and of course the “if you voted for Trump/third party unfriend me” posts. Hillary supporters were distraught and were looking to blame everyone, personally, other than Hillary.
Misdirection: It’s the Third Party Voters/Protest Votes that are to Blame
The primary misdirection seems to be blaming third-party voters; it’s an old tactic and was used heavily after the defeat of Al Gore by George W Bush in 2000. Back then, Nader was blamed for costing Gore Florida when Nader scored 97,000 votes in Florida while Gore lost the state by a mere 537 votes. Had Florida flipped Gore’s way, he would have been our 43rd President.
We heard about hanging chads and boxes of uncounted ballots and so on. What wasn’t very well publicized was that tens of thousands of felons, who are strongly likely to vote Democratic, who had their voting rights restored when they were released from prison in other states, were told they had to get clemency from Gov. Jeb Bush, despite Florida’s Supreme Court telling Gov. Bush on multiple occasions in legal decisions that he cannot deny them the right to vote . Another few thousand likely Democratic voters were falsely stripped of their right to vote because of their name similarity to felons.
However, Democrats have focused on Nader’s candidacy since in an effort to discourage voters from voting their conscience – more on this later. Blaming Nader for the loss makes certain assumptions: 1) that Nader’s voters would prefer Al Gore if Nader hadn’t run for office; 2) that Nader’s voters would still vote if they could only choose between Bush and Gore; and 3) that Nader did not have influence upon other voters that may have caused them to vote for Gore instead of Bush by changing their political views, or maintaining their political views against arguments from the Bush camp.
The Occam’s Razor view – an utterly useless musing of centuries past – simplifies a very complex interrelationship to the simple assumption that Gore would have received an extra 97,000 votes in Florida without Nader. In 2016, Nader was invoked constantly by Hillary supporters who could not explain how Clinton was a better choice than Jill Stein or a number of other third-party candidates to the left of Clinton. Instead, they invoked Nader to suggest that it would simply lead to a Trump presidency. However, much of this was debunked thoroughly in 2006 by Michael Herron and Jeffery Lewis of the University of California, Los Angeles. They found that the effect of Nader in the race (partially covered by Buchanan) was a little more than a 10,000 vote swing – not 97,000. The authors were careful to note that “our results show clearly that Nader spoiled Gore’s presidency only because the 2000 presidential race in Florida was unusually tight. Had Florida had a more typical Bush-Gore margin in 2000, Nader would not have been a spoiler.”
A trans man I came across on Facebook pointed me to his Tumblr post where he pointed out that even if Hillary received all of Jill Stein’s voters, she would have lost. We already discussed the issue with the assumption that all of Stein’s votes would go for Hillary; I was in that battleground state of Michigan, voted Stein, and if you made me vote and took everyone but Trump and Hillary off the list, I would have voted Trump even though I find Hillary’s platform much, much more palatable. I took it a step further by using Google’s election data, as of the night of November 10, to figure the winner. With what has already been reported, Trump beats Hillary 360-178. If we give Hillary all of Stein’s votes, Trump beats Hillary 334 -204. If we give Hillary all of Stein’s votes and all of Johnson’s votes, Trump beats Hillary 274 – 264. (see the Excel document at: election-2016-111016 | 3 tabs)
Clearly, third party voters did not cost Hillary the election, even if it is possible they cost her individual states. If the Democratic Party truly believed that third parties spoiled elections, such as in the case of Nader in 2000, then it would stand to reason that they would want to correct that. In the 16 years since the 2000 election, where have the Democrats made any attempt to change the system to prevent that? We could do run-of elections like they have in France – voters vote their conscience and the top two vote-getters square off in another election afterward. We could do Instant Runoff Voting where you rank the candidates in order of preference and voters who would prefer the Democrat over the Republican would see their votes ultimately go there in cases like this. But there has been no reform, there has been no attempt at reform, nor has there been even a serious national discussion about reform.
Democrats don’t seek this reform because of two reasons: 1) it would prompt the media to widen the discussion outside of the narrow, and right wing, window of the Democratic and Republican positions; and 2) it would make it feasible that you would have an election, as in this one, where the major party candidate would be eliminated and the election would be between either one major party and a third party, or two third parties, because voters wouldn’t feel obligated to vote out of fear. A system where the majority of voters can be taken for granted because they will vote for someone just because another candidate would be worse benefits them.
Third Party voters, when you get down to it, represent voters who have been so ignored by the major two parties that they will not vote for them. Yet, they are only the tip of the iceberg. The majority of people who feel ignored just stop voting altogether.
On the matter of protest votes, votes for third parties are not protest votes. My vote for Jill Stein was not a statement that I don’t like who the Democratic party chose, but it was a vote that I felt Stein was the best candidate for the job. Had Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik intended to take office in the off chance that he won the election, he would have had my vote instead because his stances on the economy, domestic programs, and womens’ rights are much better than Stein’s.
Contrary to this, it was reported in May that 47% of Trump supporters backed him solely to stop Hillary and likewise 46% supported Hillary solely to stop Trump. In November, Bloomberg released poll results that suggest these numbers have only increased: 54% then said they would vote Trump to stop Clinton, and though they didn’t state the equivalent for Clinton, 2/3 of independent voters supporting her are doing so solely or primarily to stop Trump.
These are the protest votes. These are the votes cast in protest of one of the major candidates and they not only aided the major candidates, but seem to suggest this was an election of protest votes. It seems much more feasible for Stein or Johnson to say that protest voters cost them the election than for Clinton to claim the same.
Misdirection: Bernie or Bust Voters are to Blame
Another prime target for accusation is the Bernie or Bust movement: the significant chunk of Bernie voters who said they refused to vote for Clinton in the general election, many of whom were determined to write in Bernie’s name. This is despite harsh rhetoric from Clinton supporters, and quite possibly ultimately from the Clinton camp itself, that they weren’t needed. Trevor LaFauci, reported by Politico as being a Clinton staffer, wrote an open letter “on behalf of the Democratic Party” to Bernie supporters claiming “The Democratic Party doesn’t want or need your vote.”
— Michael (@mterr337) May 11, 2016
We do not yet know, and may never know, how many individuals chose to go this route. Though you may have been able to write in Bernie’s name, and theoretically have it counted, in 10 states, the sad fact is that write-in votes are often ignored by precincts who don’t want to bother counting them and justify doing so by claiming they wouldn’t have changed the election results. It has been the bane of third parties for years in conjunction with restrictive ballot access laws introduced in the middle of the 20th century.
However, with 99% of precincts reporting, 126,361,609 non-write-in votes were cast in 2016, including “none of these candidates” in Nevada. 129,085,410 voted in 2012, 131,313,820 voted in 2008, and 122,294,846 voted in 2004, and 105,405,100 voted in 2000.
Bernie’s support in the primaries, as evidenced by his advantage in open, rather than closed, primaries, was that he drew support largely from voters who normally either did not vote or normally voted third party. Accordingly, it would not be expected that the Bernie or Bust movement contained many voters who would have normally voted Democratic in the general election. The voter turnout in this election, despite being driven on rejection rather than support, was abnormally high without including any votes that may have gone to Bernie and were not yet counted. President Obama was noted in 2008 and 2012 for the turnout rates being anomalous in modern times and this election had a turnout only beaten by those two elections, in modern times.
When they don’t want to blame third parties, they targeted Trump voters by saying that it was sexism that kept Hillary out of the White House. Marie Claire is one of several outlets where sexism is blamed for being the only reason Hillary lost, and Time is another. The Huffington Post published an article claiming that sexism was why people didn’t support Hillary as far back as May. PBS had an intelligent article about how sexism could harm Hillary’s chances prior to the election, while Newsweek had published a piece on the ridiculous ramblings of Kim Campbell, a former Canadian Prime Minister.
There is no doubt that sexism is alive and well in America today. Your average woman experiences it on a daily basis; Hillary Clinton is not an average woman. Donald Trump is a walking caricature of sexism, but I guarantee you that he never grabbed Hillary Clinton by the pussy, nor has any other man.
I’m sure many people have heard comments from someone who said they would never vote for a female President. I do not doubt they are made, but who made these comments? Are they people who would plausibly vote for a Democrat or is this more of something that affects Sarah Palin and Carly Fiorina? The idea that a female is necessarily unqualified to be President really falls into the camp of one set of voters.
It doesn’t stop with supporting Trump, however, as there are accusations that voting Green is due to sexism. Medium published a piece which claims that Jill Stein, a woman running for President, was sexist for suggesting that Hillary was running for President on a platform of being a woman. While it is indeed “reductionist” *cough* to reduce Hillary’s only trait is being a woman, that is clearly not what Stein was claiming. In fact, Hillary has made the fact that she is a woman a central part of her campaign, even bringing out an actual “woman card” her campaign would send you in exchange for $5 donation – a response to her being called out on overemphasizing her gender. She was a horrible candidate who many people supported expressly because she was a woman. The Huffington Post even published a guest blog post in December 2015 by Jillian Gutowitz entitled “I’m voting for Hillary Because She’s a Woman.”
I have come across conversations online claiming that someone would vote for Stein only because they were uncomfortable voting for Hillary because she’s a woman. In 2012, while I was chairing Stewart Alexander’s Presidential campaign, I came across many Democrats who claimed my refusal to vote for Obama was because I was racist; however, the fast-paced onslaught of accusations died to an awkward silence that remains to this day the one time I pointed out that Stewart is not only black but blacker than Obama. With Hillary’s supporters, that logic doesn’t exist as they are well aware that Stein is a woman prior to making that accusation.
As previously stated, it is reductionist to reduce Hillary to a woman, and that is precisely what the Hillary campaign has done from day one. They chose two slogans, “breaking down barriers” and “I’m with her” explicitly to milk the novelty of her being female. Her campaign lists 133 reasons she should be President, including “[w]omens’ rights are human rights” – because apparently being elected is a matter of human rights – and “[a] woman’s place is in the White House.” Out of touch with actual issues that affect normal women, the only unprivileged group Hillary is part of is tokenized in her attempt to get elected. The calls to elect her, prior to her announcement, also centered on her being a woman.
Yes, Hillary has many more traits than being a woman, and it is extremely sexist to reduce a woman to that one attribute; but that was the theme of the Clinton campaign from the beginning because her other attributes all add up to her being a horrible person and candidate.
Accurate Target: Hillary and the DNC
With all this scapegoating of people who didn’t vote for Hillary, the obvious is being avoided. The truth is, that Hillary, along with the DNC, is to blame for Hillary losing.
Hillary did not simply represent the status quo and politics as usual. When writing Back to the Future 2, Bob Gale was inspired by Donald Trump in designing the presidency of Biff Tannen. If I were to write a screenplay in 2012 and wanted someone to embody the status quo in America to inspire me, it would be Hillary Clinton. She and Bill were key players in the Democratic Leadership Council, an unofficial group in the Democratic Party, similar to “tendencies” within socialist groups, which sought to move the Democratic Party to the right in order to win electoral victories. With the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council and the New Democrats came the institutionalization of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.
Neoliberalism is the economic ideology of the establishment in both major parties: privatization, deregulation, austerity, “free trade,” etc. Neoconservativism is the foreign policy ideology of both major parties: militaristic foreign policy, including invasions, to “promote democracy” or support US national interests.
For decades the American people have not been given any real choice between the two parties as they have both promoted these ideologies. As they grew closer and closer together, the bitterness and partisanship had grown more and more fierce and petty. Lately, the only difference left appears to be the matter of explicit bigotry. After the economy crashed in 2007, neoliberalism just failed completely to alleviate the situation in any meaningful way.
I think this is very well summed up in an infographic by Occupy Democrats – who clearly don’t understand what Occupy was about – which dates from November 1st. They lay out seven economic figures which improved under Barrack Obama: The Dow Jones Industrial Standard, the S&P 500 Index, unemployment, the number of uninsured adults, the number of American cars sold, the deficit as a percentage of the GDP, and consumer confidence. According to neoliberalism, these are excellent indicators of economic health – yet Americans are not better off now, economically, than they were when Obama took office.
This illustrates the difference between neoliberal values and the values of your average American. We are told that a strong stock market means a healthy economy – it means jobs and of course many of us have a pittance invested in the market through 401(k)’s and the like. However, that is just trickle-down economics.
The stock market does not measure economic health for the majority of Americans, but rather is a reflection of economic health for the economic elites who own massive amounts of stock. In many ways, the stock market measures exploitation of workers, not their prosperity. In order to understand this, we need to leave neoliberal economic theory and look at Marxist economic theory.
According to Marx, profit is theft. The reason for this is easily seen through some simple mathematics. A basic economic definition of profit is profit = sales – expenses.
If we subdivide expenses a bit, we can make this: profit = sales – (labor expenses + material expenses) or profit = sales – labor expenses – material expenses.
A bit of shifting the terms around gives us: sales – material expenses = profit + labor expenses.
What are sales? They would be the market value of a product, though not always equivalent to the actual value of a product. If we take out the material expenses, we have the value of a workforce’s labor – or the amount of value they added to the product with their work. If you happen to be a single employee doing every stage of the work from production to sale this is simple; though it gets more complicated with workers doing different functions, which is why I am saying “workforce” instead of “worker.”
If we consider this, we can simply substitute that in as labor value = profit + labor expenses, or, from the view of a worker rather than a business owner, labor value = profit + wages.
Another simple manipulation gives us profit = labor value – wages. Profit is the value of your labor that the employer does not pay you. If they provide actual managerial services, their labor has its own value which would have to be figured in as part of the workforce’s labor value, but they hire you for the value the profit they can get off of your labor. In fact, according to Professor Brian McKenna, blue collar workers actually receive about 1/3 of the value of their labor while white-collar workers receive about half.
While there is a bit of gaming in the stock market, it generally measures perceptions of profit and what profits are expected to be in the future. Of course, remembering the math above, this is essentially measuring perceptions of theft and what theft is expected to be in the future. If a company creates more jobs to generate the same profit per worker over more workers, because it is growing, then that increasing stock price does reflect new jobs. However, if a company simply starts paying their workers less than they did before, for the same work, generating more profit per worker, that growing stock price reflects a lower standard of living for its workers.
Unemployment has dropped: partially due to unemployed workers finding jobs, but also partially due to unemployed workers giving up on finding a job and thus dropping out of the workforce. It speaks nothing of whether an employee is employed part time or full time; it doesn’t speak of whether the worker is working the hours they want; it doesn’t even show a difference if a worker loses a high paying full-time job and takes a low paying part time job to survive or if a company replaces a high paid employee with a low paid one. Let us take a hypothetical worker being paid $40 an hour who is laid off, but the employer then hires three workers which it pays $10 an hour, spending $10 less an hour on labor costs: unemployment will show that 2 jobs were gained and unemployment decreased.
Unemployment rates can be useful in measuring economic health, but they cannot describe economic health without the context of other numbers.
The number of American cars sold? That tells us nothing about workers, only companies. Deficit reduction can reflect austerity, a key part of neoliberalism. Consumer confidence tells us mainly whether people feel they can afford to spend the money they have – something which was particularly and abysmally low when Obama took office because everyone just got fired.
Her rhetoric in the primary was one of disdain for what America was yearning for. She slammed Sanders’ call for single payer as unrealistic – that she did indeed privately support single payer was the one progressive view of Clinton leaked from her Wall Street speeches – and stressed that you couldn’t make significant change because that’s not how things worked in Washington. She was campaigning there as being part of the establishment while, at the same time, highlighting the problems with that very fact. The system could change, but not if you kept with a self-fulfilling prophecy of “no we can’t” and not trying.
For eight years we have been told how much better things have gotten, while we knew we were not better off. Hillary, whose team had essentially supplied Obama with his cabinet and policy, could essentially be said to have had 8 years in the White House already. Her term would have been a continuation of these same neoliberal policies that failed us, and the same neoconservative policies that have drained our budget by refocusing our resources on war.
At the same time, Clinton was known to have integrity issues – severe integrity issues. Scandal has followed the Clintons for decades: Whitewater, Vince Foster, Monica Lewinsky, rape allegations – where Hillary called for women not to be believed, impeachment proceedings, the Clinton Foundation, a private e-mail server, Benghazi hearings – though these were indeed a valid witch hunt. As time went on, we had massive revelations from Wikileaks that made the integrity issue worse for Clinton: a stolen primary, a public and private position, leaked primary debate questions, media collusion, Super PAC coordination, and so on.
Dealing with these integrity issues, Hillary has shown a stubbornness which was extremely damaging. Her preferred media partners decided to try to ignore them – all the while having immense media influence – perhaps more than any previous candidate. When asked why she changed her views on same-sex marriage, she refused to answer the question, deflecting it as her views evolving, even becoming indignant when pressed on why her views evolved. She deflected serious issues by calling the inquiries sexist and hiding behind her gender, then later, with Wikileaks, decided that she could ignore the issue by mentioning Russia – which her supporters still do today – and refusing to comment on whether or not the e-mails leaked were valid or not, a strategy which simply made her seem guilty because proving one single e-mail was false would cast a great shadow of doubt on all of them.
It was leaked that the DNC had favored Clinton, plotting attacks on Bernie, keeping him from the same resources, planning debate schedules in a way to minimize him. The leaks caused many, including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to step down. However, in a disdainful move, Hillary decided the best way to handle that was to make Wasserman-Schultz an honorary chair of her campaign, making her VP – who turns out to have been chosen a year prior – a very establishment figure who was for the TPP, fracking, the pipelines, and who pioneered the “informed consent” policies while governor of Virginia – a policy which is known in every state where it is implemented to spread disinformation to women about abortion. The DNC chair then went to Donna Brazile, who was later found to have leaked the debate questions to Clinton during the primary.
Some Sanders supporters sued the DNC to return their donations once the whole fiasco played out. The DNC’s lawyers took the novel approach of stating that they knew the primaries were rigged, so there was no fraud.
The Clinton campaign and the DNC had alienated the Bernie supporters excessively. The campaign not only stood for everything that the Bernie fans hated, but they essentially rubbed that in their faces. They also made the horrible misstep in assuming that Bernie supporters were simply mindless pawns trapped in a cult of personality – like Hillary’s supporters were. They leveraged Bernie to endorse Hillary only to be flabbergasted that Bernie’s endorsement was met with heckling and even an outburst of “Fuck you Bernie!” on the convention floor from his own delegates. That is a sign of an organic, grassroots movement. Bernie may have inspired them, but he did not control them.
Clinton did not inspire people, she represented what they hated. What was her response to this reality? Well, Bill Clinton had apparently asked Trump to run in the Spring of 2015. An e-mail was leaked from April 23, 2015, in which a PDF attachment calls for certain candidates, including Trump, to be promoted as serious candidates. Trump publicly declared his intention to run on June 16, almost two months later. In November 2015, the Hillary camp considered picking a fight with Trump in order to “cement his front-runner status.” She did just that on December 15 on her campaign website, prior to the first votes being cast in Iowa.
Basically, Hillary Clinton threw the entire nation into a national game of chicken in order to get elected, and America didn’t flinch. From being such a horrible candidate to alienating a huge swath of the electorate to using her media ties to catapult Trump into the spotlight, Hillary is to blame for Donald Trump’s presidency. This is her biggest scandal yet.
This article is the first in a three-part series about the aftermath of the 2016 election and organizing past the election.