Brad R. Torgersen

Trumpocalypse: the week after

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The universe has now had 8 whole days to process the Trumpocalypse. Hillary is gone. Out of the picture. Poof. In one night, the inevitable trajectory of history was not just derailed, but thrown against the floor — where it smashed to pieces. A great many Americans, and other people around the world, still can’t get over it. There have been protests. Riots. Demands for the government to arbitrarily change the rules, so that Trump might be prevented from being sworn into office. Threats to assassinate Trump. Calls for California, Oregon, and Washington to secede. Not to mention a flash revival of Bush-era classics such as #NotMyPresident and #AbolishTheElectoralCollege.

Beyond the caterwauling contempt of the Hillary faithful (for Trump and his voters) there is a sobering question: how did the Democrats get it so wrong?

Granted, not everyone is willing to face the music. A small stampede of progressive pundits have rushed to reassure the faithful that Hillary did not fail America, it was America who failed Hillary. The country is even worse than Hillarists knew it was, back before the Trumpocalypse. A misogynistic, sexist, racist, homophobic hell-hole. Clearly, the solution is to get even more confrontational, more rude, more mean-spirited, call people even more names, get up in even more faces, and so forth.

But as British political satirist Tom Walker (playing Jonathan Pie) noted, hurling insults doesn’t work anymore — nor does being perpetually offended.

But Walker wasn’t telling people anything they hadn’t heard before. Way back in April, left-moderate pundit site Vox noted the so-called Smug Style which had come to typify the American progressive political landscape. And how this whole attitude — a sort of cute, clever, holier-than-thou in-crowd approach to dealing with alternative ideology — was very much driving people into Trump’s arms. Because those people didn’t see or experience compassion (for their “side”) as much as they felt like they’d become the butt of jokes. The heartland was being laughed at nightly, by Jon Stewart and his fellow media travelers. All while the middle class — lower-middle, middle-middle, and upper-middle — was being commanded to show respect, deference, sympathy, and understanding for a virtual hospital ward filled with narcissistic, neurotic victim personalities.

Quote Tom Walker, “Of course Trump f—ing won.”

Now, I didn’t see it coming either. From the instant Trump rose to the top of the Republican pile, I assumed Hillary would bury him. I was as shocked as any liberal, come 10 PM on that fateful Tuesday night, with Trump rapidly approaching the tipping point (in his favor) in such Democrat bastions as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

I’m still a bit shocked.

But some clarity has been emerging from the murk.

1) Hillary was a poor candidate. “Status quo, in a change year.” That was the NPR quick take, the Wednesday after Trump won. More than that, though, Hillary was corrupt. I know Hillary fans cannot bring themselves to admit it, but Hillary was not an ally of the little man. Hillary had spent her entire adult life swimming in the Washington D.C. shark tank, rising to become one of the toughest, most indestructible Great Whites. A documented liar and manipulator, Hillary’s chief claim to the White House basically boiled down to, “It’s my turn, dammit!” While she simultaneously labeled 1/4 to 1/2 of the country deplorable — a preposterous tactical move for any candidate to do in a tight race. But like so many of us, Hillary clearly thought she’d won the race merely because Trump was absurd, and unthinkable.

2) The Hillary loss cannot be pawned off on isms. Not exclusively. Again, even NPR was saying it, come Wednesday morning. Confirmation bias may have sent the progressive cognoscenti into a howling rage, about how America is a hopeless den of sexists, racists, and gay-haters. But this is lazy analysis. Yes, that’s right, it’s lazy. It’s the equivalent of running to a safe space, curling up on a bean bag, and sucking your thumb. It does not address the millions of women who voted for Trump, thus becoming vagina traitors. It does not explain the significant number of former Obama voters, who also voted for Trump, thus magically becoming racists. Blaming isms for the Hillary loss, pretends that Americans could not or would not evaluate Hillary on her pedigree. Isn’t that the whole idea, behind equality? That no person should have to be evaluated on gender? That it’s character which counts? I seem to recall some important guy once said something similar. The Hillary faithful should go look that guy up. I think he was right.

3) Mocking, deriding, and ignoring Middle America is a losing proposition. The Obama years led many progressives to believe that a kind of ideological and demographic tipping point had been reached, so that the Reagan Coalition was in the rear-view mirror. The corn belt and the rust belt didn’t matter, it was the tech sector kids with their skinny jeans, hipster beards, and man buns. Put down and shoved out, Middle America felt forgotten and abandoned — until some orange-haired blowhard named Donald Trump reached out his hand and said, “Come with me, I will be your proverbial fist punching Mr. Jon Stewart Man Bun in his smug little face!” Trump may be a terrible kind of champion, but he was the only guy who seemed to be saying that Middle America still counted for something. So, Middle America gave Hillary Clinton their middle finger, which was also aimed at the press, Washington D.C., and the culture of neoliberalism.

4) Neoliberalism: where taking selfies and posting hashtags substitutes for actual discourse, and it’s cool to make fun of blue-collar Caucasians, because blue-collar Caucasians are stupid and ignorant and morally backward. I mean, some of them go to church for Pete’s sake. Church is so over. Working-class values are sooooooo over. Compassion for the less fortunate? Right, only as long as they belong to a pre-agreed set of trendy victim identities. Which nobody in Middle America can qualify for. Too white. Too Christian. Too hetero. Too Republican. Soooooo Republican. Sickeningly Republican. Being Republican is uncool. Being conservative is uncool. Point and laugh, boys. Point and laugh. The conservatives’ days are numbered. The future is now Southern California Buddhist Transsexual, doncha know? F— Middle America.. Go hang out at Starbucks and talk with all your friends about how lame flyover country is. Not like the metrosexualized urban villages of Seattle, Portland, L.A., and San Francisco. Where cool people get to be cool all the time, and coolness is as much about regurgitating cool politics, as it is about wearing cool fashions and buying cool things, and living a cool lifestyle. Not feeling cool enough? Get on social media and decry others for their privilege. Make sure it gets re-shared and re-tweeted a lot. Bazinga. Coolness restored.

5) Obama’s cult of personality was obviously not transferable to Clinton — nor, probably, anyone else in the Democratic Party. Two elections of decisive Obama wins seemed indicative of a real, and permanent majority — of progressives, for progressives, by progressives. But it didn’t translate into numbers. Lots of Obama voters stayed home. Lots of Obama voters actually picked Trump this time. What went wrong during the Obama years, to make so many people sit it out, or worse yet, cross over to the “wrong side of history?” Again, it can’t be pawned off on the usual isms. People are tired of the non-recovery recovery. They’re tired of feeling like the ruling class gives only lip service to real problems. They’re tired of not working enough, not being able to get ahead, and not being listened to — by a patronizing bunch of elites who mouth the words of compassion, while swanning about in ivory towers.

Now, the Trumpocalypse by no means represents any kind of long-lasting win for Republicans either. Trump is a New York Democrat wearing the plaid suit of a Republican carnival barker. He said what he needed to say, to get the win. This is Trump playbook we’re witnessing. And neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any clue how the next four years will go. It’s quite probable it’ll be a train wreck, and then the Republican brand will be in the toilet — again. American politics is cyclical like that. The winner gets a big head, gloats, overreaches, underperforms, then fortunes shift.

Trump is the strangest kind of bellwether, because nobody really knows what it means for the future.

But the usual liberal “answers” on race, gender, sexuality, and economic class, break down against the wall of a Trump victory. Trump has been and continues to be a shock to the system. Perhaps a necessary shock — as many Trump fans insist — like two paddles to the chest, and the EMT yells, “Clear!” Only time will tell if Trump is a net good, or a net ill.

The caterwaulers are already trying to write the history books, condemning Trump as literally the worst kind of person to ever step foot into the Oval Office.

Problem is, those same caterwaulers said the same thing about Romney, and McCain, and Bush, and Dole, and Reagan, and just about every other Republican since Eisenhower. The little boy has literally cried wolf one too many times. Americans can’t be terrified into voting the way progressives want anymore, because too many Americans have been mislabeled as being part of the problem, not part of the solution, and they’re sick of the blame game. They want a swamp-drainer. Somebody to go into D.C. and take heads. Trump may or may not be that man. My money is on him being all talk, and no walk, in this regard.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t experiencing a bit of schadenböner over the great wailing and gnashing of teeth, currently running through the ranks of America’s progressive establishment. As a non-Trumper who is every inch a “deplorable” in Hillary’s book, I think the progressive establishment — the neoliberals! — have had this coming for far too long. A significant comeuppance of no small proportion.

But don’t just take my word for it. Take Piers Morgan‘s.

When a notorious progressive like Piers Morgan is taking you by the scruff and using a cricket bat on your ass, it’s time to pay attention. The days of Smug Style are done. It’s time to engage on the issues, not on the identities.

Otherwise, you’re just promoting another Trump win in 2020.

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