SYNDICATED COLUMN: Now, A Postmortem By Someone Who Actually Saw Trump’s Win Coming

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You’ve read post-election analysis by the discredited corporate pundits who thought Hillary was a shoo-in. Since I saw Donald Trump’s “upset” coming, my take on what happened and why may be of more interest.

As with any large-scale disaster, the ascent of a spectacularly unqualified buffoon to the most powerful political office on earth came about as the result of numerous system failures and operator errors. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of what went wrong.

System Failures: Problems Hardwired Into the Machine

  1. Democrats took their progressive base for granted.

Following George McGovern’s landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972, the Democrats’ conservative southern wing seized control of the DNC and other leadership apparatus. Center-right Dems won four presidential races with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but at a cost. Election after election, liberals and progressives — the party’s base and thus its greatest potential source of votes, donations and enthusiasm — were taken for granted as the party moved right in search of swing voters. Where else, the Clintonian Brahmins asked smugly, could lefties go? The answer was nowhere: snubbed, unmotivated and disgusted, they stayed home this November.

  1. No safety net for workers displaced by globalization and deindustrialization.

NAFTA wasn’t the beginning; it was the last nail in the coffin of the postwar boom that elevated blue-collar manufacturing jobs to professions paying enough to finance the American Dream. Year after year, millions of workers lost good jobs and were forced to make do with two lousy ones. Inner cities, and not a few suburbs, rotted and died. Neither major party talked about the Making of America Not Great Anymore, much less tried to do anything about it. Trump scored big Rust Belt points merely by acknowledging the long-ignored pain of millions.

  1. In media coverage of the horse race, some candidates are more equal than others.

If you were designing American democracy from scratch, you’d probably make it a rule that every candidate for office receives the same attention from the media. (France does this.) But we’re light years away from that ideal. Trump received more TV minutes and column-inches than his Republican rivals because he was (a) outrageous and (b) a celebrity. Clinton’s coverage overshadowed Sanders’ because media gatekeepers were (a) enamored of their pre-fab “first woman president follows first black president” narrative and (b) couldn’t imagine that an elderly socialist from Vermont could be a serious contender. Who would be president-elect today had Rand Paul, Carla Fiorina and Bernie Sanders been given a fair chance to make their cases to the voters? Probably not Trump.

Operator Errors: Screw-Ups By Individual Politicians and Organizations

  1. Hillary’s campaign partied like it was 1996.

Campaigning has changed since the Clintonian heyday of the ’90s, but Hillary’s strategists didn’t get the memo. Trump ad-libbed outrageous vidbytes at his rallies, making them must-see TV and earning billions in free exposure; Hillary stuck to her deadly dull stump speech, doomed to be ignored. While Trump worked Twitter like a tween at 3 am — ensuring that story-hungry editors would see his hilarious rants when they arrived at their desks — it took 12 Clinton staffers to compose a single tweet whose made-by-committee provenance made it dead on arrival. She spent many millions on a repeat loop of anti-Trump TV ads featuring clips everyone had already seen. Considering that she barely survived Bernie Sanders’ primary challenge, it should have been obvious to her team that the Democratic party has moved left (as has the nation). So why did her 2016 campaign follow the old Dick Morris move-right-for-the-general-election model from 1996, moving right in order to “reach out to Republican megadonors“? Meanwhile, Morris himself understood the new reality. “But Trump is doing more than driving populist Democrats into Republican arms,” Morris wrote. “He is separating the establishment left of the Democratic Party from its populist base. His candidacy separates the blue-collar social populists from their partisan moorings even as his economic populism appeals to the Sanders left.” He wrote that in May.

  1. The DNC ignored polls that showed Bernie was a better candidate than Hillary.

Trump’s “surprise” win wasn’t shocking to people who were paying attention. Throughout the primary and general election, the DNC brushed off head-to-head tracking polls that showed that Hillary Clinton never enjoyed a commanding lead over, and sometimes fell behind, Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, consistently held a double-digit lead, sometimes as high as 20 percent, over Trump. As it turned out, Trump would have lost to Sanders. In a change year when Americans were in the mood for radical populism, Sanders offered all the stuff voters liked about Trump — his anti-free trade message, economic populism, opposition to stupid foreign wars, the fiery, outspoken energy of a loud New Yorker — minus his manic loopiness and offensive comments about women and minorities. Granted, Bernie’s poll numbers would have suffered under an onslaught of ads depicting the Vermont senator as the second coming of Stalin, Soviet May Day parade footage and “The Internationale” playing incessantly. But the Cold War is over. Americans are more afraid of cost-cutting CEOs than commissars.

  1. Hillary Clinton didn’t appoint Bernie Sanders as vice president, or to a cabinet position.

Democratic voters wanted Hillary — a lifelong right-wing Democrat — to balance the ticket by choosing a progressive running mate like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker or her rival Bernie Sanders. But she never considered any of them, going instead with some guy who’s name I still struggle to remember. Ironically, no one understood the disastrous implications of Hillary’s choice better than right-wing blogger Wayne Allyn Root in The Blaze: ” Hillary desperately needed a shot in the arm; an exciting and edgy vice president by her side…Tim Kaine isn’t just boring… Kaine is an affront to every Bernie Sanders supporter – which happens to be all the youth and energy in the entire Democrat Party.”

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


17 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Now, A Postmortem By Someone Who Actually Saw Trump’s Win Coming

  1. This is a good summary of things I already knew, but I was very surprised when Trump won.

    I have never seen the American ruling class as united as they were in telling us to vote for Hillary. I did not believe there was enough democracy left in the U.S. political system for this to happen, but apparently there is. I just wish this had been demonstrated by someone other than Donald Trump.

    • Hillary and Bubba (Billary) are not — beyond the whorshipful Clintonista Clan — near as popular as they once were. The internet has confirmed that Hillary is a shrill hateful troll, and her husband is a (formerly) well-hidden serial-rapist, sex pervert.

      T-rump has lived his celebrity life miming a oxymoronically conservative hippie. Even from way back in his Arkansas days, William was never taking “No!” for an answer. The failure of Trump-U is insignificant to the tragedy that NAFTA still inflicts on the nation at large. Many voters really did see electing Hillary as putting Billy back in charge … for them? The devil they knew less about was still more desirable than a resurging spawn of the Billary demon.

      Finally, for years now the voting public has learned to loath the corporate media. To the DNC’s analogue enslavement of that digital matrix, Trump could do nothing right, and Billary was deemed G_d’s perpetual chosen. Even America’s lowest-renters felt their intelligence insulted. They appropriately responded in mass at the ballot box, overwhelming even the most practiced fraud-masters at Hillary’s disposal.

      While it’s likely that nothing good will come from a Trump presidency, something much more wicked coming this way was avoided when Hillary didn’t prevail.


      • America is finished as it is. No matter what. Sooner rather than later. At least Hillary’s dreams are finished. She will die in despair. Short of the justice she deserves, but since it surely is eating her up inside, I suppose I’ll be content with it.

      • Jack,

        HRC’s loss is actually a great victory in that it means, finally, the end to the notion of presidents as nobility. Dubya destroyed the Bush name, and Jeb! finished off the twitching corpse. Now, HRC is done with. The biggest risk I see now is that when Chelsea is put forward as a candidate she might win. I hope that whoever runs against her — no matter how terrible he or she might be — gets sufficient backing to win because Chelsea’s really the last link in the monarchy. Let us finally get rid of these dynastic clans that think “bein’ preznit” is the family business.

      • @Alex

        Scary answer: Preznit Ivanka.

        Trump’s kids already run his business empire. I’s reckon one ’em gets a gubmint job afore daddy’s reign is done did.

      • Hey CrazyH,

        Trump doesn’t have a “business empire.” He went totally and completely bankrupt in the early 90s, in NY real estate, which is an impressive thing to do. The only reason he wasn’t begging on the street was the people he owed money to decided it was easier to work through him. So they dumped him in his apartment in Trump tower, put him on an allowance, and worked to get their money back using his rights to various properties in NY. His current money, what there might be of it, comes from leveraging his name. He’s no more a tycoon then Tom Hanks. Even marketing himself he’s largely a failure, excepting I guess the TV show.

      • @suetonius17-

        I have no real argument with your points. He also lost money in Atlantic City long before it became popular. Or rather, his business lost money while he, personally, walked off with a nice profit.

        Whatever you want to call it – “racket” seems appropriate – his kids feed at the same trough. Now he’s got a handle on the public trough, and you can be sure his kids will wet their beaks. (do I mix a mean metaphor or what?)

        Say hello to the new dynasty, same as the old dynasty …

      • But it can only be good for a resident population to enforce even an ad-hoc electoral term limit on its entrenched political dynasties. The putrid duopolic neo-con regime represented by the Bush/Clinton cartels have poisoned America’s well way past their sell-by dates. A major concern now is that the Neo-Cons will simply co-opt the newest oligarch on the block, T-rump.

        Because they weren’t playing ball the way America’s globally-infected bankster-class wanted them to, that upstart-Irish Kennedy-clan was (and continues to be) simply depopulated of its best and brightest members. Trump’s populist stances threaten to make his own political blood-line (starting with him) suffer from a similar fate.

        Anyway, BarryHO would truly enjoy it if his Amazon became the first black/female president of the United States, and with Billary successfully removed from the market, Michelle now may even have a (n undeterminable) chance. BarryHO has his own dynastic pretensions.

        Consequently? Jill Stein’s recount theatrics will get stomped down hard way before it could potentially incur a civil revolution (and everybody’s chess board gets tossed over).


      • Yeah “Michelle” (sic) could be America’s first woman president! Jenner has showed us a man can be woman of the year, and the first British woman to become a combat soldier was also a man, so what could be more progressive than a man being the first woman president?

  2. Ted called this one right (unfortunately.)

    But the good news is that BOTH major parties are doing their own postmortem. The GOP was already in a tizzy after Trump took the nomination – the dems only started panicking after the election.

    I suggest that each party split two or three ways. Left/Right/Center or whatever, again, the GOP is ahead on this one.

  3. Three things that come to mind:

    1. In an episode of “The Simpsons,” Principal Skinner thinks Bart is skipping class and goes looking for him … at the 4H Club: “Why, there are no children here at the 4H club, either! Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong.”

    2. In one of HRC’s more well-known oops moments, she explained that after leaving the White House, she and Bill were “dead broke.”

    3. Sue Lowden, a Republican politician, argued that patients should try to negotiate medical bills with their doctors, offer to paint their house or bring a chicken.

    What do all these things have in common? People believe some crazy things, and they come up with ways to justify them. Everything Ted listed? The Democrats will justify as people (mostly progressives) not “understanding” about politics. The metaphor that comes to mind is a simple one. Pretend you’re in a large house. There’s a fire in the Northwest corner of the basement, and you’re on the third floor of the Southeast corner. That house can burn for quite a while before you actually have to start tying the bedsheets together to lower yourself out the window. And the DNC still thinks the smoke pouring in under the doorjamb must be some cookies burning in the kitchen, or maybe one of the fireplaces’ flues not drawing correctly.

    The DNC has sat there watching incrementalism burn away the middle class for 35 years. Jobs have disappeared. People have lost everything. We still don’t have universal healthcare. College tuition has gone into orbit. Young people who have done everything by the book are having to move back in with mom and dad–instead of “Friends” it’s “The Waltons”–and the DNC and the rest of the Democratic leadership are honestly confounded as to why any of these things are problems. Sure, none of them have these problems, but why can’t people just understand that 35 years of middle-of-the-roadism is going to eventually pay off? Just take a few more pay cuts. Maybe another job loss or two. Perhaps your kid can accept going to community college for two years and then going to a state school for 18 months of concentrated study, because, sure, that isn’t how the DNCer’s kid is going to college, but you need to understand that not everyone can have nice things.

  4. I ;wanted to buy Mr Rall’s book about Trump, but it’s not on sale where I live.

    The author of Dilbert was convinced that Trump was sure to win in early 2015. It’s not clear when Mr Rall became sure Trump would win. He ran many cartoons about how flawed Hillary was, as well as many about how flawed Trump was. If he really believed Trump was much worse than Hillary, and Trump could possibly win, why the flawed Hillary cartoons?

    In fact, Hillary intended regime change in Syria and Russia. Her advisors all told her that the Soviet military collapsed with the USSR, and regime change in Russia would be easier than regime change in Libya. As soon as she threatened war, Putin would resign, along with the rest of the Russian government, knowing that refusal would mean the obliteration of Russia. If Putin was too stupid to see that, an EMP attack would totally disable all Russian missiles, and if a few managed to launch, the US ABM system would ensure that no American was in the slightest danger (except for the traitor Snowden).

    As Fred on Everything wrote, the US was given the choice of Ronald MacDonald or the Protest version of Lucretia Borgia (the Roman version is of a good cook who never poisoned anyone, but that’s the Romans for you–the Protestant version is much more useful for metaphors).

    Fred describes Trump as ‘aleatory’. I have no idea what that means, it’s a new word for me, but I’m sure it’s a correct adjective. Trump (Fred says) is terrible, but not as bad as Secretary Redbeard (my own appellation). Somehow, I figure regime change in Russia will NOT be like regime change in the MENA. And I figure Ronald isn’t quite as bad as Lucretia.


    The election was weird. All women were supposed to vote for Billary (either because Bill was sexy, or because they wanted a woman president). They didn’t. African-Americans and Hispanics were supposed to vote for Billary, but Trump won twice as many African-American and Hispanic votes as Obama.

    And in the Rust Belt, many voters ignored by the pollsters, because they’ve not voted since FDR, voted for Trump. They figured out that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will help them, so a lot didn’t vote until this years.

    • @michaelwme – Scott Adams, the creator of _Dilbert_ based his prediction on reading _The_Art_of_the_Deal_. One wee little minor issue with his thesis, though, is that Trump didn’t actually write that. He is vaguely correct in that Trump’s sales techniques managed to con people into thinking they were voting for something they won’t get. But Adams was also conned into buying that book under the impression that Trump wrote it.

  5. “No safety net for workers displaced by globalization and deindustrialization.”

    Hillary’s camp did not recognize the support of the precariat and working people for Bernie Sanders, and so abandoned these unrepresented jobless and voiceless (in the fake news media) victims of globalization once again to join with the Trumpen-proletariat in seeking relief from the globalized devastation of NAFTA and the impending TPP.

    Hillary would have had to run against the TPP, just as she had to run against the Iraq war of aggression she so wholeheartedly supported, and made her self-repudiation believable and somehow turned it into a reason to vote for her.