Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What the Hell Happened?

First of all, screw you, Nate Silver.

In 2012, every state that you identified as leaning or likely Obama actually DID vote for Obama. What the hell happened this time?!!

Thanks a lot for the false reassurance.

Secondly, on a completely different track, I’d like to pose a question: how is Hillary Clinton like the Dalai Lama?

No, she is not a beloved Buddhist pacifist, but she is a person who is widely admired around the world yet disliked at home. Because of her political skills and her work on behalf of children and families, she is one of America’s most well regarded figures on the international stage. The Washington Post, for example, published the results of a survey showing that she would win anywhere from 73 to 97 per cent of the votes if people from countries like Mexico, Canada, Germany and Australia could vote for her. But in the U.S. she is unpopular. And she is unpopular because the Republican Party, supported by Fox News and right-wing talk radio have spent decades portraying her as a hideously evil and conniving liar.

Same thing happened to the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government has spent decades smearing him to the point where he, like Hillary Clinton, is admired around the world, but despised in his own country. (The Chinese government, by the way, had its reasons for trashing the Dalai Lama’s reputation, but I won’t go into them here.)

My point is that you can destroy a public figure through gross misrepresentations if you control the media (as in China), or you control a huge chunk of the media (as conservative Republicans control Fox News and talk radio) and if you don’t mind making stuff up.

Hillary Clinton, like all politicians, can be criticized for some of her actions, but she is nothing like the bizarre caricature of a villainous monster that the right-wingers have succeeded in conjuring up; and our allies in countries like Germany, the UK, France, etc., know this.

Unfortunately, enough Americans have bought the evil Hillary story that her presidential bid was doomed. I promise you that were the Dalai Lama to run for president in China, he would do far worse there than Hillary did here. Character assassination works.

My third and final point is that racism continues to be a useful political tool. We have been repeatedly warned that many voters are enraged and they want change. This is true, but why would a longing for change result in votes for a man who opposes raising the minimum wage and wants to give more tax cuts to the wealthy - the very individuals, in other words, whose control of the economy has made life hard for the working class?

One answer to this, I believe, can be found in Arlie Hochshild’s recent study of working class Louisianans, Strangers in Their Own Land. An important point that Hochschild makes is that though the economic and environmental problems these folks face are a result of corporate policies, their inclination is to blame their troubles on people from other countries or of different races. This, of course, is one key to Trump’s victory: he encouraged people to direct blame at “those who are not like us” and thereby inspired a turbulent uprising.

But if Trump’s policies don’t help these troubled Americans (and I don’t see how they can), what then? Don’t ask me. I don’t know any more than Nate Silver does.

But, in the meantime, I suppose the best advice I’ve seen lately is that offered by David Leonhardt of the New York Times. He says that whatever else happens over the next four years, we need to concentrate on working with Republicans who believe in global warming to advance policies that can thwart this looming disaster. So…back to work, everybody.

       And, oh all right. I forgive you, Nate.

               (Thanks for the image, New Yorker)