Why Trump Won; Why Clinton Lost

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Above Photo: Donald Trump (Credit: Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat reflected a gross misjudgment by the Democratic Party about the depth of populist anger against self-serving elites who have treated much of the country with disdain, writes Robert Parry.

In the end, Hillary Clinton became the face of a corrupt, arrogant and out-of-touch Establishment, while Donald Trump emerged as an almost perfectly imperfect vessel for a populist fury that had bubbled beneath the surface of America.

There is clearly much to fear from a Trump presidency, especially coupled with continued Republican control of  Congress. Trump and many Republicans have denied the reality of climate change; they favor more tax cuts for the rich; they want to deregulate Wall Street and other powerful industries – all policies that helped create the current mess that the United States and much of the world are now in.

Further, Trump’s personality is problematic to say the least. He lacks the knowledge and the temperament that one would like to see in a President – or even in a much less powerful public official. He appealed to racism, misogyny, white supremacy, bigotry toward immigrants and prejudice toward Muslims. He favors torture and wants a giant wall built across America’s southern border.

But American voters chose him in part because they felt they needed a blunt instrument to smash the Establishment that has ruled and mis-ruled America for at least the past several decades. It is an Establishment that not only has grabbed for itself almost all the new wealth that the country has produced but has casually sent the U.S. military into wars of choice, as if the lives of working-class soldiers are of little value.

On foreign policy, the Establishment had turned decision-making over to the neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks, a collection of haughty elitists who often subordinated American interests to those of Israel and Saudi Arabia, for political or financial advantage.

The war choices of the neocon/liberal-hawk coalition have been disastrous – from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya to Syria to Ukraine – yet this collection of know-it-alls never experiences accountability. The same people, including the media’s armchair warriors and the think-tank “scholars,” bounce from one catastrophe to the next with no consequences for their fallacious “group thinks.” Most recently, they have ginned up a new costly and dangerous Cold War with Russia.

For all his faults, Trump was one of the few major public figures who dared challenge the “group thinks” on the current hot spots of Syria and Russia. In response, Clinton and many Democrats chose to engage in a crude McCarthyism with Clinton even baiting Trump as Vladimir Putin’s “puppet” during the final presidential debate.

It is somewhat remarkable that those tactics failed; that Trump talked about cooperation with Russia, rather than confrontation, and won. Trump’s victory could mean that rather than escalating the New Cold War with Russia, there is the possibility of a ratcheting down of tensions.

Repudiating the Neocons

Thus, Trump’s victory marks a repudiation of the neocon/liberal-hawk orthodoxy because the New Cold War was largely incubated in neocon/liberal-hawk think tanks, brought to life by likeminded officials in the U.S. State Department, and nourished by propaganda across the mainstream Western media.

It was the West, not Russia, that provoked the confrontation over Ukraine by helping to install a fiercely anti-Russian regime on Russia’s borders. I know the mainstream Western media framed the story as “Russian aggression” but that was always a gross distortion.

There were peaceful ways for settling the internal differences inside Ukraine without violating the democratic process, but U.S. neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, and wealthy neoliberals, such as financial speculator George Soros, pushed for a putsch that overthrew the elected President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.

Putin’s response, including his acceptance of Crimea’s overwhelming referendum to return to Russia and his support for ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine opposing the coup regime in Kiev, was a reaction to the West’s destabilizing and violent actions. Putin was not the instigator of the troubles.

Similarly, in Syria, the West’s “regime change” strategy, which dates back to neocon planning in the mid-1990s, involved collaboration with Al Qaeda and other Islamic jihadists to remove the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. Again, Official Washington and the mainstream media portrayed the conflict as all Assad’s fault, but that wasn’t the full picture.

From the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, U.S. “allies,” including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, have been aiding the rebellion, with Turkey and the Gulf states funneling money and weapons to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and even to the Al Qaeda spinoff, Islamic State.

Though President Barack Obama dragged his heels on the direct intervention advocated by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama eventually went in halfway, bending to political pressure by agreeing to train and arm so-called “moderates” who ended up fighting next to Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and other jihadists in Ahrar al-Sham.

Trump has been inarticulate and imprecise in describing what policies he would follow in Syria, besides suggesting that he would cooperate with the Russians in destroying Islamic State. But Trump didn’t seem to understand the role of Al Qaeda in controlling east Aleppo and other Syrian territory.

Uncharted Territory

So, the American voters have plunged the United States and the world into uncharted territory behind a President-elect who lacks a depth of knowledge on a wide variety of issues. Who will guide a President Trump becomes the most pressing issue today.

Will he rely on traditional Republicans who have done so much to mess up the country and the world or will he find some fresh-thinking realists who will realign policy with core American interests and values.

For this dangerous and uncertain moment, the Democratic Party establishment deserves a large share of the blame. Despite signs that 2016 would be a year for an anti-Establishment candidate – possibly someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders – the Democratic leadership decided that it was “Hillary’s turn.”

Alternatives like Warren were discouraged from running so there could be a Clinton “coronation.” That left the 74-year-old socialist from Vermont as the only obstacle to Clinton’s nomination and it turned out that Sanders was a formidable challenger. But his candidacy was ultimately blocked by Democratic insiders, including the unelected “super-delegates” who gave Clinton an early and seemingly insurmountable lead.

With blinders firmly in place, the Democrats yoked themselves to Clinton’s gilded carriage and tried to pull it all the way to the White House. But they ignored the fact that many Americans came to see Clinton as the personification of all that is wrong about the insular and corrupt world of Official Washington. And that has given us President-elect Trump.

  • hazel

    A friend of mine voted for Trump because the Dems blocked the change he wanted by messing with Sanders. Shaking up the Government hoping to get rid of corruption seemed to be the main reason though Giuliani, Gingrich, Christie, and others seems like a new Mafia getting in. Another, a woman, voted Trump because she wanted no more Bushes or Clintons. She said we weren’t England with a Royal Family anymore. Many wouldn’t even write Sanders in feeling betrayed because he backed Hillary after losing, even though they screwed him. Few friends if any voted for a Third Party candidate. However, many, like myself didn’t vote at all. We’ll just sit back and watch the carnage we had no part in electing. And don’t hand us that BS of our non-vote electing this or that person. Your Party’s leaders allowed these choices because they believed you wanted them. (you didn’t). This time you didn’t just vote for the lesser of two evils which is still evil by the way. You voted for Satan himself. ROTFLMAO The Anti-Christ! But not Auntie Christie!

  • Aquifer

    Warren or Sanders might have won – but their abject kowtowing to the DP PTB as evidenced by their vigorous backing of Clinton, would not bode well for their pushing for a “political revolution” that amounted to any more than a tempest in a teacup …

    What this piece does not deal with is the failure of the left (and i don’t mean Sanders) to deal in any other than a dismissive or even contemptuous way with the demographic that elected Trump (and one that Sanders, in fact, appealed to) and if it doesn’t it will remain in the backwater – lefty identity politics has left out a good sized “identity” ..

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/10/dumbass-democrats/

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/11/11/the-long-death-march-of-the-dismal-dollar-democrats/

    http://vtdigger.org/2016/11/10/could-bernie-have-won/

  • Aquifer

    Who’s the “you” you refer to …

  • DHFabian

    Democrats and liberals spent years alienating a good chunk of the country, at best appearing to be out of touch with the “masses.” It’s nice that on occasion they “stand” with low wage workers, but most low wage workers are keenly aware of the thin line between being a celebrated “working American,” and being jobless poor, regarded as something less than human, undeserving of the basic human rights (UN’s UDHR) of food and shelter.

    Liberals have remained disinterested in (oblivious to?) our poverty crisis, and the heavy toll it has taken. Democrats in Congress have only continued to quietly worsen conditions for America’s poor, the elderly poor, and the disabled. The majority of poor are white, not one of the more popular racial demographics. In recent years, liberals in particular have relished their offensive stereotype of poor white people as ignorant, beer-guzzling, right wing yahoos.

    This has an impact on our politics, on any chance of moving forward in a comparatively progressive direction.

  • DHFabian

    The US left have been effectively drown out for years by liberals. Now and then, they do note the “labor left,” which pretty much just waves a banner for those who are fortunate enough to have jobs, concerned about protecting their own advantages.

  • DHFabian

    I don’t personally know anyone who voted for Trump (to my knowledge). They didn’t vote for Clinton, either, but voted Green or withheld their votes. I personally didn’t see the logic of writing Sanders in when he said he wasn’t running. What we saw is that in any group, people don’t all think alike. I’m among those who concluded that regardless of who won this election, masses of us would lose.

  • hazel

    Most people who voted are too stupid to know they’re stupid. There were NO good candidates. PERIOD! We have no good leaders. A good leader is informed, intelligent, and UNOWNED by anyone. He’s someone vthey will never allow to run.

  • hazel

    Most people who voted are too stupid to know they’re stupid. There were NO good candidates. PERIOD! We have no good leaders. A good leader is informed, intelligent, and UNOWNED by anyone. He’s someone they will never allow to run.

  • Aquifer

    Hmm, a little cut and paste – doesn’t appear to be responsive to my question – so how many more times will this answer appear …

  • hazel

    I posted to the wrong person. Do you bever make mistakes? I guess not.

  • hazel

    My whole neighborhood from the borough to the surrounding farms… Trump signs EVERYWHERE! Not a one Clinton sign or any other Party. It was like living in La La Land!

  • Aquifer

    OK – you posted to the wrong person – How could i know that, especially when you had just posted the same thing to me just before … As to making mistakes – yup, make lots of them and when i realize it – simply apologize …

    Frankly still cannot quite make out what you mean – if “you” are those who let(?) these (? duopoly) choices be the ones they chose from – that has nothing to do with me – neither of us, apparently voted for either D/R candidate – you chose not to vote at all – i chose to vote for Stein …

  • hazel

    My apologies to you. May I bring up a point that many voters do not consider? Any Party’s winning candidate must appoint a Cabinet and whether it is Sanders (who I favored), Trump, or even a Green Party candidate, tries to get politically experienced personnel. As in the case of Trump, he is going after the same type of individuals he railed against. As well as rewarding those who stood by him early and stayed with him throughout the Campaign.Sanders would have done the same I believe. There aren’t enough qualified people (who support the interests of a winning President) to staff his Administration with. Many are already making bigger money in the private sector and it would be a step down to a government job. Retired people may come out of it to do so… maybe. Sometimes it is scraping the bottom of a barrel, as in Trump’s case, because so many were aligned against him. And it is a case of going against your own grain, your own Campaign promises to break from the Status Quo. Damned if you do… or don’t. Keep this in mind as he rallies his team. They all do it, and he is going to wind up learning the hard way, just how little clout The President really has. Big industry can literally revolt and just shut this country down. Political enemies, Wall Street chieftains, they all can pull a Kennedy incident if need be. No one in this country realizes just how crazy wealthy men of power can get in protecting their interests. They are as bad as a drug cartel protecting their turf.

  • Aquifer

    I agree with much of what you write as to the power of Big Money … As to assembling a Cabinet – there are lots of “qualified” folks out there – Stein had assembled a Green Shadow Cabinet with folks qualified in their respective fields – who had been active in multiple movements – outside gov’t, per se – and outside the “revolving door” that has come to characterize our gov’t/corp nexis …

    It’s true – early indications are that a possible Trump cabinet is worrisome indeed – but O’s cabinet, as wikileaks has revealed was essentially “chosen” by Citigroup – but in fact, in late ’08, early ’09, it was apparent to even a dilettante like me that his Sec of the Treas, was a Wall Street pick – i said at the time that he had been “given” 3 choices – Rubin or his proteges, Summers and Geithner – and why Geithner was picked – a guy who couldn’t, so he said, even figure out how to do his own taxes, because the other two had too much baggage – as it was, Summers was picked as head of O’s economic advisory board, or what ever you call it, a position that did not, unlike Treas. Sec., require Sen approval …

    Trumps Cabinet picks need Sen, approval – and the Dems, if they chose, can deep six a lot of them – but, in the interests of “comity”, often wind up rubber stamping some really lousy Rep picks …

    As for “pulling a Kennedy” – i dunno, but that seems to me a poor reason to not pick the best candidate – Stein, e.g, is not naive – she knows what might happen if she ever won – but she has chosen to fight anyway – seems to me that deserves our support – if we choose only leaders who will knuckle under out of fear of assassination, what do we wind up with?

    As for shutting down the country – we the people can do the same – but do we really need to go that far – some say yes .. but that will indeed wreak havoc on many of the most vulnerable ..

    I do indeed realize how crazy wealthy men of power can get – so do we just give up or do we fight – i have advocated fighting at the polls, i prefer ballots to bullets … but we don’t seem to be willing to do even that as we continue to practice this “politics of fear” whereby, as Stein points out – “we have gotten everything we were afraid of ” …

  • hazel

    First and foremost is family. People fear losing any menial or otherwise job they have by bucking the status quo, until they lose it anyway. Then they are so busy scrambling more to survive that they pay no attention to politics and voting. In fact my sister who did vote said she saw more people in line who never voted before in their lives. So called friends of hers turning in for Trump. Many never read a book in their lives let alone research a candidate’s behavior. If you ask a stupid person to rate their own intelligence they will tell you above average. They don’t even know their stupid. Try it. We all know some.

  • hazel

    On a side note. Do you know how many people who, when asked why they were voting for Trump, said because he will make America great again? That was all they came up with, at least in my circle. Sad.

  • Aquifer

    Check this out ..

  • hazel

    He’s right. And I’ve been guilty of this too. I’ve shut up and moved on. Though I admit it is usually when the right starts name calling, demeaning me. We are both sides guilty as charged! I have done the same when angered.I will pass this on. Thanks again.

  • Aquifer

    Aside from all the “language ” – i think he really has a point – dialogue ends when defamation begins – and perhaps more than ever in our history what we need first and foremost is dialogue …

    Funny, we claim “the lessons of history” so much to justify our positions – but we seem to pick and choose what history that is …. There is a whole wealth of knowledge out there we have discarded – I am thinking now of Socratic dialogue – do we ever even teach it anymore, let alone engage in it … How do you have a Socratic dialogue on Twitter?

  • hazel

    So many things we don’t teach anymore. And so few research anything in History. Yet we keep repeating the same mistakes, and keep digging the same holes.

  • Aquifer

    So far, it seems to me that the human species has managed to survive through all its follies – and we seem to think that we are the “indispensable” species – that somehow, in spite of all the depredations we have visited on each other and on other living things that in one way or another we will survive … But Mother Nature, it seems, has gotten pretty disgusted with us and is quite prepared to pretty much end this experiment we call “Homo sapiens”.
    This theme has been prefigured in ancient chronicles of various groups – Noah’s flood, or Sodom and Gomorrah, e.g., as a “punishment” for our perfidies – all dismissed as superstition by a people ignorant of the “scientific” explanation for this stuff – but science has also indicated that there was, in fact, at least one great deluge that wiped folks out – in other words, though the original explanation was wrong – we can, indeed, be wiped out by Mother Nature, whole swathes of us have been in the past ..
    Any one who has read A Green History of the World knows that over and over human actions have f****d up various parts of the world to the point where they could no longer sustain “life as they knew it” – whole civilizations have gone kaput – but never before have we screwed it up on a global basis – as we are doing now …
    If we don’t figure out how to get along with each other enough to engage in a united effort to “appease” Mother Nature, we are all screwed! And none of our lives will “matter” – if we don’t figure out lickety-split, for practical reasons if for no other, that we ARE all in this together – that we need each other, whether we like it or not – our collective folly will do us in. We have been “lucky” so far, but our luck is running out …

  • hazel

    Yes, but there’s always the cockroach to carry on.

  • Aquifer

    Is that thought comforting?

  • hazel

    No, but it’s true.

  • Aquifer

    i am frustrated as hell with my own species, including myself in it, but i have not quite given up on it ….