The Election of 2016: a Potential Catalyst for New American Populism

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Looking back on the United States presidential election of 2016, I can theorize about how a political novice like Donald Trump won the election and how his rhetoric resonated with lower-class Americans. Trump used simplistic language in his speeches, providing little details regarding public policy and appealed to an instinctive anger against an economic system that rewards the most ruthless among us while punishing the most empathetic. Empty promises to create more American jobs, disregarding the interconnected nature of the globalized 21st century economy, appeals to low-income and (formally) uneducated voters who care first and foremost about what can be done for them in the short-term. President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 is a reflection of several institutional failures in America, first and foremost the failure of our educational institutions in their mission to teach critical thinking skills as well as historical contexts for our most pressing political issues.

The blame for our institutional failures lay at both ends of our proverbial political spectrum: the so-called Left-wing and Right-wing. Judging by the corporate media pundits who dominate our television stations and air waves, the Left-wing seems to consist of pathological desires to force more equitable outcomes out of our economic system while disregarding the irony of authoritative measures for supposedly populace outcomes, and the Right-wing seemingly consists of a dogmatic rejection of any populist, Keynesian policy which has proven its effectiveness in every other industrialized nation preferring a rigid alliance with private interests at the expense of public interests.

American news networks have also failed Americans as they have created a political environment in which partisan laborers for one or another of our political duopoly simply shout and demean each other while not actually listening to each other, seemingly incapable of any nuanced critique of each other’s ideas. A lack of nuance in news media can be just as dangerous as government propaganda because it breeds ideological converts rather than thinkers and analysts.

American educational institutions focus on stylistic and superficial job preparation rather than long-term, skills-based career building and philosophical study. Collegiate scholars today seem more concerned with earning the “right” degree for the sake of making a living rather than expanding their understanding of history and the world and earning the confidence to challenge existing power structures. Students of political science in particular seem more concerned with starting a career with the political party of their choice rather than building new paradigms for social organization.

The election of 2016 presented Americans with two negative options: a candidate representing a status quo already failing most Americans and a candidate representing a pseudo-populist reform with late-capitalism pulling the strings – the same old shit or a new brand of shit sprayed with a bottle of CK One cologne.

Whereas half of American voters do not even participate in our elections every four to eight years, I think this corruption-induced apathy presents an opportunity for alternative political candidates and parties. We have already seen an outspoken socialist win and retain a municipal seat in Seattle, Washington, one of the U.S.A.’s major cities. Populists, reformers, liberals, and socialists need to capitalize on this opportunity to subvert the corrupt duopoly of our two largest political parties and build coalitions across the nation, capturing local seats and building local bases of power that actually resonate with Americans. I think President Joe Biden has proved himself to be just as ineffectual as President Trump at manifesting the will of the people. I suggest new leadership is needed in America, leadership that is neither red nor blue.

The “State of the Union” is shit.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

Do we really need a televised “State of the Union” address?

At the beginning of every year, Americans choose whether or not tune into the “State of the Union” address delivered by the current president, whom is treated like royalty with grandstanding applause at his every vague word. The past five presidents can sum up one S.O.T.U. in one sentence: the state of the union is shit. Of course, a politician has to keep up a facade for the American public so no one becomes too alarmed.

President Donald Trump’s latest S.O.T.U. address last night was particularly useless because it’s President Trump – an excessively selfish, misogynistic, corporatist, baffoon who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Does this guy really understand the current state of our democratic-republic?

Trump-grandstanding

IMAGE SOURCE: Fox News, <https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/liz-peek-state-of-the-union-speech-showcases-talent-of-trump-on-the-stump>, 2019.

The S.O.T.U. is a partisan sporting event for American politicians. Regardless of who is the President, the two parties with the most political market share use the event to throw miniscule rhetorical punches at each other, distracting the public with their charade of modern tribalism. All the while, their corporate puppet masters make back room deals to fuck over the average American with neo-liberal economics and an imperialist agenda. That’s what American politics has become: charades and back room deals.

President Trump campaigned on pseudo-populist rhetoric which was successful against an obvious corporatist who had been in politics her entire life and who’d flip-flopped on issues more times than anyone could count. Though, once in Office, Trump proved himself even more of a phony. He doesn’t care about working Americans given his cabinet picks (a former oil lobbyist for the position of Interior Secretary?), he only cares about his own ego.

I’m also a selfish person but I have no plans to run for a public office, I would hate that kind of job.

A look into history.

While the nation’s first two presidents felt it necessary to deliver a speech to the national Congress, President Thomas Jefferson disagreed with that assumption. President Jefferson believed a physical speech to Congress was not necessary and a public event idolizing the presidency seemed to monarchial, antithectical to the nation’s democratic ideal. Instead of a physical speech, President Jefferson simply wrote a letter to the Congress in which he laid out budget reports for his agenda (no grandstanding public appeals) and that tradition was followed until President Woodrow Wilson revived public addresses in 1913.

I think two inventions transformed political theatre in the negative during the 20th century: the radio and the television. Ultimately, the radio and the television (more so with television) placed more emphasis on public appearances and optics rather than the specifics of policies. Americans began turning to what a candidates looked like and what he appeared to do rather than what a candidate actually was, Presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan are examples of this public obsession with appearances. Both Kennedy and Reagan were praised for their on-camera talents while their less favorable actions regarding policy stayed out of the spotlight.

How can Americans return to a policy-focused culture shying away from appearances and optics?

Donald Trump won the presidency and the Democratic Party is to blame.

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Donald Trump slid to victory in the electoral vote count last week while Hillary Clinton received the popular vote.  Regardless of the undemocratic electoral college, voter purging, excessive voter identification laws, national media outlets that are failing the American public in their duty to provide intelligent discourses, and a blackout of alternative political parties by the two most established parties thereby limiting the range of ideas discussed on such failing national media outlets, Donald Trump is going to be our next president.  Did the American people even have a choice?

The presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had devolved into a contest of character assassination when Trump’s behind-the-scenes Access Hollywood video was released.  From that point on, Clinton supporters could not stop talking about the real estate mogul’s apparent misogyny.  And, Trump supporters couldn’t stop talking Clinton’s e-mails.  I didn’t heard any reporter or pundit bring up the subject of corporate imperialism guiding American foreign policy, plans to transition American infrastructure to renewable energy sources, creating a more friendly entrepreneurial environment for start-up businesses, placing more pressure on established businesses to give back to their communities, etc.  National news media seemed focused on highlighting Trump’s apparent bigotry and lack of qualifications and nothing else.  Despite corporate media’s obvious bias towards Clinton, it ironically enabled a Trump victory with all of the free advertising Trump received.  If only there was a candidate just as populace as Donald Trump, energizing a huge base of voters and turning out huge crowds in public spaces.  Actually, there was a candidate like that on the liberal side; his name is Bernie Sanders!

The political establishment had lined up behind Hillary Clinton so much that they proved the point that Senator Sanders and Mr. Trump had been saying all along: that Washington D.C. is removed from the average American – our leaders do not represent us anymore.  Trump won the election because working Americans are tired of “politics as usual.”

Hillary Clinton is a career politician who knows exactly what to say at every press conference.  Donald Trump is a bigoted loudmouth who says what he thinks (no matter the accuracy of his words).  One thing is for sure: both political parties chose who might be the worst candidates to run for president of the United States; the Democrats could have chosen a more populace candidate and the Republicans could have chosen a more intelligent candidate.  Voters who lean toward the Democratic Party pointed to Clinton’s experience in public life as a significant qualification for the office of the US presidency while voters who lean toward the Republican Party said exactly the opposite – that Clinton’s long history in politics means that she is too entrenched in the established corruption of American politics to make any improvements to American lives.

Critical thinking Americans are not so convinced by either side of this simplistic punditry.  The strongest criticisms of Clinton are her hawkish stances on foreign policy and her lucrative business relationships with several authoritarian nations in the Middle East (governments that also donated money to the Clinton Foundation prior to Clinton becoming US Secretary of State).  The strongest criticisms of Trump have to do with his seemingly bloated record as an entrepreneur and the university that bore the Trump brand for which the now President-elect is facing a criminal charge of fraud.  Decide for yourselves which are the worse offences.

I think Americans are right to view Hillary Clinton as a Machiavellian power broker because Clinton has flip flopped throughout her entire career on issues according to what would be most beneficial for her career – she started out in politics as a Republican, “Goldwater Girl” in college talking about being “tough on crime” in the aftermath of the American Civil Rights movement.  One could argue that the current Democratic Party is basically what the Republican Party was forty years ago.  Donald Trump’s most significant strength seems to be his knowledge of media maneuvering, online navigation, and emotional manipulation; he knows how to market himself for a particular audience.

A redeeming quality about Donald Trump’s presidential administration (perhaps the only redeeming quality) might be that so many Americans are against him; so many media outlets are against him.  If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, it would have been likely to see much of American news media kiss her ass in praise.  Under President Trump, Americans might see news media actually do some journalism in their adversarial stance against him.  The press should be adversarial toward people in power.  Another positive thing we’re likely to see from the next administration: the Trans Pacific Partnership is not likely to pass into law.

The president-elect will be forming his cabinet in the next few weeks.  Watch closely.

Bernie or bust, Clinton or Trump?

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

 

Hillary Clinton is now being called the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for the United States presidency and US Senator Bernie Sanders has been questioned several times about his plans for the remainder of the race.  The former US Secretary of State has publicly called for “uniting the Democratic Party” while the US senator from Vermont is refusing to concede while repeating to the public that the American people need to stop Donald Trump (the presumptive Republican Party nominee).  Despite an approximate 2.4 million votes remaining uncounted in California, Clinton has shifted her presidential campaign to face the Republican nominee, in preparation for the race for the general election this November.

After Clinton declared victory in California, Donald Trump attempted to appeal to supporters of Senator Sanders over Twitter, virtually shouting to the public (as we usually see from Trump’s Twitter profile) about a rigged electoral system.  Trump has railed against the country’s political status quo many times during his campaign for the presidency; it may be his best quality.  I have discussed the possibility of Bernie Sanders conceding to Hillary Clinton and the corporate Demcocrats with several Sanders supporters here in northern New Mexico, they have all told me that they would either write in Senator Sanders in protest or choose an option from a minor political party.  A few of these supporters even expressed relief about the thought of a Donald Trump presidency over a Hillary Clinton presidency.  At least Trump has expressed a consistent disatisfaction about the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal (as well as any other global trade deal).  Clinton has flip flopped so many times on the TPP and other issues, I’m not sure what she will do if she is elected the next president.  That duplicity may be Clinton’s worst quality – she has benefitted enormously from the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, receiving large donations from the financial sector (in particular, Goldman Sachs) as well as individual billionaires like George Soros.  No matter what you may think about Donald Trump, I think most political scientists would agree that this election is a little bizarre.  Independent voters are going to play a crucial role considering that both presumptive party nominees are somewhat unpopular with the general public.