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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Monday, October 24, 2016

Trump's Real Opponent

Finally, the presidential campaign is nearing its conclusion.  We now can glide to November 8 with only a few questions remaining. By what margin will Hillary Clinton triumph? Can she turn a red state or two blue?  Will the obstructionist Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell become an obstructionist Minority Leader?  Will we ever see Paul Ryan grow a spine?  Will his House flip from Clinton’s coattails?  Will Donald Trump ever concede?  #hocopolitics
The last question is the most telling and symbolizes the person the Republican nominee truly is. Trump refused to declare to the world during the final debate on October 19 that he would automatically accept the will of the people.  He will keep us in suspense, he says. 

Trump has vowed to “make America great again” countless times but he is ready to eschew a centuries-old tradition of conceding a loss in a presidential election and leaving a big question mark on a fundamental tenet of our democracy.  He is also undermining our democracy when he claims without any evidence that the election is rigged.
A concession would be a sign of grace and sportsmanship that had been exemplified by Al Gore.  The Democratic hopeful in 2000 had a reason to be bitter but did the right thing anyway.

Trump cannot likely bring himself to concede because to do so would be an admission that, um, he lost.  Only he (in his own mind) knows how to win; losing is an anathema to him.  “Donald Trump, loser.”  It contradicts the image he tries so hard to project.
Many have said this race was Hillary’s to lose.  She has the experience, the money, the historic nature of being the first woman president, and the apparatus to win a national election. 

I say it was Trump’s to lose, and he will have fulfilled that beautifully.
There has been considerable desire for change in this country.  Trump was the vessel to effect that change.  Those who were down on their luck economically, maintain racial distrust, held a concern that illegal immigrants were stealing jobs, and other grievances, did not favor a third term of the Obama Administration that would be perceived with a Clinton presidency. 

Trump romped over his primary opponents partly as a result of all the free media he received, hoping to catch a moment that records his penchant for outlandish rhetoric. 
He also squashed them because they were all afraid of his insults and they didn’t take him seriously until it was too late.  They wasted their time on the debate stage trashing Obama and Clinton but the one obstacle in their path to nomination, Trump, was hardly attacked with gusto.

Voters saw a man with a message of populist nationalism, a chest-thumping visage who condemned political correctness.  He would say things that other politicians wouldn’t dare to utter but were of the same mindset as Trump.  He had the courage to do so; they didn’t.  And then there’s that unyielding rabid hatred of Hillary.
Trump would shake up Washington and restore pride to our country.  He would close our borders and defeat terrorism.  It was an effective message and one that had a chance to catch on more broadly than with just the disgruntled core of his supporters who were mostly white, rural and non-college educated.  Trump claimed, amusingly, he was one of them—gritty, pro-gun, working class—except a million times richer.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton possesses a resume like no other: a former First Lady whose husband actually produced a budget surplus and kept us out of wars, a two-term U.S. Senator who worked effectively across the aisle, and Secretary of State.  Not insignificantly, she endured a tough primary from Bernie Sanders whose socialist stances forced Clinton to the left in order to keep the peace.
But she had a reputation—an unwelcome one—whereby Clinton had been cast as untrustworthy at best and a criminal at worst from her own actions as well as decades-old propaganda spewed by the extreme right who would never let facts get in the way of their conspiracy theories. 

Courtesy: Jum Urquhartt/Reuters
Hillary has her liabilities, and she has been able to slither out of trouble when the rocks were falling from the cliffs. There was her use of a personal server while Secretary of State and its missing emails, an FBI investigation that did not lead to a criminal indictment but castigated her for being “extremely careless” with her emails, awkward WikiLeaks email disclosures, and a barrage of baseless charges promulgated by Trump Nation and in particular the right-wing Alt-Right, whose leader Stephen Bannon of Breitbart.com fame, eventually oversaw the Trump campaign and its messaging.   
The race between Trump and Clinton—two of the most disliked presidential candidates in history—was underway in full force to the consternation of the country’s voters. Trump was the hero of this disgruntled segment of the GOP regardless of his crass, egotistical personality and his scant knowledge of policy. Clinton was laden by her baggage and was indeed vulnerable despite her strengths.  But as it has turned out, the contest was really between Trump and Trump.

Any non-lunatic Republican—Kasich, Bush or Rubio, for instance, would have defeated Clinton fairly easily given her controversial past and the historical desire on the part of the voters to change the controlling party following two terms in the White House.  But Hillary was carrying a horseshoe in her pocket; she drew Donald J. Trump as her opponent. 
Barring some form of miracle, it is clear that Trump will lose, and he will not be vanquished by Clinton; he will have defeated himself.  While Hillary was under water in the positives-negatives ratio, Trump was even worse.  Never before had two presidential candidates vied for the office with such high negative perceptions from the populace.

There is no need to rehash the myriad well-documented miscues—unforced errors and self-inflicted wounds by Trump—that had undermined his effort to win the election.  Any of these individually could have been detrimental but as an accumulation, they were fatal. 
The key turning point in the campaign that broke open a tight race was undoubtedly his 11 year-old tape recording from Access Hollywood whereby he lewdly bragged about his exploits with women based on his stardom.  His incredulous denial during the second debate that he actually engaged in such activity spawned over 10 women to step forward and chronicle a disturbing pattern of unwanted advances and sexual assault.  This amounts to criminal behavior, but it was Trump who threatened to send Clinton to jail if he was to be elected even though there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on her part.

Likeability is crucial to win any political campaign; both candidates are far from likeable.  But Trump had failed to come close.
For starters he attacked the family of a Muslim casualty of the war in Iraq.  He mocked a disabled journalist.  He calls inner cities “hell.”  He wants to ban Muslims from entering the country. He refers to Mexicans as rapists and criminals and condemned a federal judge for being unfair to him based on his Mexican heritage.  He used anti-Semitic imagery on a tweet.  He stiffed contractors.  He employed undocumented immigrants for his construction projects though he assailed such people for entering the country.

He degraded women even before the tape surfaced.  He won’t reveal his tax returns though now we have learned he hasn’t paid Federal income taxes for some 18 years. He boasts of his business acumen but lost nearly a billion dollars—on casinos no less.  He treats nuclear weapons as toys and is ignorant of the purpose of the Purple Heart.
Trump’s personality doesn’t help matters. He is a pathologically narcissistic buffoon with a wafer-thin grasp of policy and what it takes to govern.  A con artist who lies about everything though his campaign paints Clinton as the liar in the race.  Everything is about him, and this self-centered ego was getting old.

He could have won this race had he been somewhat conventional.  Instead, he has scared voters including many Republicans because of his temperament and the harshness and misplacement of his attacks.  The Clinton campaign has exploited this effectively.
In the final analysis, Clinton will have not sent Trump to defeat.  Trump did.


Steve Charing said...
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Steve Charing said...
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