In the wake of the shocking result of the US Presidential election, we take a look at some of the key questions left up in the air. How did things go so wrong for Hillary Clinton? How will the world look when the dust has settled? Is this really a sign of any kind of change?
Question 1: What the hell just happened?
Most people, most pundits most media outlets were predicting a Clinton victory. The pundits and reporters, because Hillary was “qualified” and “competent”. Everyone else…because she could follow Obama’s example and mobilise the virtue-signalling vote, and even if she didn’t it would just be rigged. As the primaries evidently were.
The vast majority of the media were behind Clinton. The banks were too. As was Wall Street, big pharma, arms manufacturers, senior figures from both major political parties and (seemingly, anyway) the military and intelligence services. How could that much collective clout possibly fail to pull out the W? How did they let this happen?
You are left with three possibilities.
1, elections aren’t rigged. Simply put, all the weight behind Clinton could only exercise legitimate and transparent power. They could give interviews, write opinion pieces and campaign…and that’s all. They fought hard, and they lost. Fair and square. Given what we know about 2000, 2004 and the democratic primaries this seems unlikely.
2, elections can be controlled, but only in a limited fashion. This was talked about at length following the Brexit vote (which many people have suggested was nothing like as close as the “official figures” made it look). This idea posits that numbers can be manipulated, but not controlled. You can fudge them up and down, but full-on fakery leaves too much evidence, or is simply too difficult. It’s possible that Clinton was just SO mistrusted, SO hated, SO incredibly unpopular, that even with the collective might of 90% of the political and media establishment behind her…they just couldn’t swing the vote. This is plausible, especially if you paid attention to the crowd sizes at their respective rallies.
[Note: These situations both come with the rider that, much like sports, it may only be possible to rig an election if both sides are willing to cooperate. Maybe Trump wouldn’t let it slide the way Al Gore or Bernie Sanders were happy to do.]
3, somebody changed sides. Maybe the election was rigged, but in the other direction. Maybe the sudden, unexpected reopening of the e-mail investigation was a deliberate ploy by the FBI (and others, behind the scenes) to swing public opinion against Hillary. Maybe the rumors of immediate impeachment should Hillary win, and of possible ties to paedophiles and human trafficking, were the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s possible that an establishment already creaking alarmingly under the weight of Clinton’s baggage, decided Clinton was now simply too much trouble. And that it might be easier to chance their arm on a man who might be willing to play ball, and was less likely to throw up a constitutional crisis and/or suddenly drop dead.
It’s recently become obvious, given the flip-flopping over Ukraine and Syria, that the American political establishment is far from a monolith of drive and purpose. There are internal divisions. There are factions. Trying to distill any kind of rational plan from their resulting actions is like trying to follow the score in a game of Rugby where four teams are playing at once, and they’re all wearing the same uniform.
Question 2: Will Trump Be Allowed to take office?
Just as happened following the Brexit vote (and to a lesser extent Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader), already this result has sprouted protest movements, petitions and articles either directly challenging its legitimacy, or simply questioning the “democratic value” of the American electoral system.
As the results were coming in last night, I personally witnessed tweets suggesting Obama should refuse to relinquish his office to Trump. Protest marches have already been held in many cities across America. If these protests escalate to riots, or street battles, Obama could declare a state of emergency which “delays” the swearing-in of the new president, Trump supporters would see this (rightly) as a possible coup attempt, leading to further violent unrest and the declaration of martial law. Extreme, but not impossible. Any move to replace Trump before he’s even in office would be totally unprecedented and grossly unconstitutional. But so was Gitmo.
Before the vote was held, the democrats were fervently and hysterically blaming the Russians for “interfering” with the election, baseless rumors which the media eagerly and unquestioningly repeated. You could argue this was done to preemptively defend themselves in the event of a Trump win. Undermining the result before there even was one. The Russian “hacks” are cited as the main cause behind this petition, calling for an overthrow of a Trump government, on the grounds he stole the election. This issue could be picked up more widely in the media in the coming days.
The long, long, long delay before Hillary finally appeared to make her concession speech makes one wonder if, behind the scenes, there may have been wheels turning. Think tanks furiously going over the options and outcomes should Clinton simply refuse to concede the election and publicly call into question the fairness of the vote. In the end, what would have finally sunk that possibility is the pompous way Clinton’s team responded to Trump’s own suggestion there may be vote rigging. To turn around and “disrespect our democracy” after she lost would have laid Clinton open to justified claims of hypocrisy.
There are more old fashioned methods of removing an unwanted president, of course. It’s very telling that “assassination” was shooting up the google search ranks as the results were announced last night. And America has never been short a lone wolf assassin when it really, really needed one.
Question 3: What sort of man is Donald Trump?
It’s tempting, at moments such as this, to blindly and joyfully accept outcome as a win for good guys. I’m not going to deny I was, more than anything, relieved when I saw the result. The possibility of a psychopathic warhawk pushing for a war with Russia, with the full weight of a self-deluded middle-class high on their own moral outrage behind her, was terrifying. But not so long ago Barack Obama was…for want of a better phrase…the great white hope. He was going to change things…but didn’t. In the end he was simply an Orwellian controlled alternative. It’s possible that’s all Trump is, too.
It’s possible Trump is just a pompous windbag who would say or do anything to get into power, simply for the sake of having power. It’s possible he’s an elaborate ploy designed to satiate an angry public thirsty for real change, and buy the oligarch elite more time to milk us dry or blow us all up for some crazy reasons of their own. Both plausible, but let’s put them aside for now.
Let’s say that Trump is sincere in his goals, and let’s say he is allowed to take office and try to introduce his policies – both big ifs, but still. How much institutional and bureaucratic resistance will he encounter? How many threats and extortions will he face? Does he have the strength of character to face down that opposition? Very few people do. Most politicians sell their souls for power, or resign themselves to impotence. It takes an extraordinary person to keep a hold of themselves and their ideals, in a political environment double loaded with both temptation and threat.
All through the election cycle the democrats were far more interested in talking about punch lines, snappy quotes and identity politics than discussing policy. That’s because any real discussion of policies would only push a lot of people into voting for Trump. He want’s to cut-out hostilities with Russia and cooperate in combating terrorism. He wants to slash defense spending and rebuild industry. He wants to pull American bases out of Japan, Germany, South Korea and others, and relinquish America’s self-styled title of “World Policeman”. He wants to stop corporations from employing illegal immigrants to get around paying minimum wage. He has posited leaving NATO.
These are all, on the face of it, reasonable policies that could bring America back from the brink. And they are all, on their own, potentially career ending for any other politician in the Western world.
Will he ever be allowed to enact a single one of them? I guess we’ll see.