A question that is asked at the end of every election is whether the victor won the election or the loser lost it. Ultimately it is always somewhere between the two, the victor did things to win the election and the loser did things to lose it. But as the world prepares for the dawn of the age of President Donald J. Trump, I think the progressive Left can look for hope in a belief that it was not Trump who won the election, but Hillary Clinton who lost it.
2016 will be remembered in history for two votes, The EU Referendum and the US Presidential election, with their common ground being a rejection of the status quo. Both the UK and the US voted for change, a change that personally I feel is more detrimental than beneficial to both nations but a change nonetheless. Unfortunately, I believe that this change is no more than a desire by some of the people who voted for them as a return to an era that does not and cannot longer exist, with desires of Making America Great Again and Taking Back Control in a world where that is increasingly impossible and actually counterproductive on a global stage. However, the desire for change from the status quo is admirable and one that I can back.
Obama promised “Change we can believe in” and captured an optimism and desire for progressive change. A desire by the people to make an African American president, a desire to create affordable healthcare and a desire for social changes. The jury is out on if he succeeded here and what his legacy will be. Hillary tried to recapture this hope of progressive change by trying to become the first woman president but that was not enough against a man who claimed he would provide real change. Trump was arguing for a complete change to the establishment, the dismantlement of the political juggernaut families and the like, (he beat a Bush in order to become republican nominee) whereas to many Americans Clinton was the embodiment of establishment politics.
This election could never have been about anything else than anti-establishment politics. When Clinton faced Sanders in the primaries, in an election that I believe to have been rigged by the DNC in favour of Clinton, she was constantly attacked for being a member of the establishment. Sanders galvanised a progressive movement in the US similar to the one that Corbyn represents in the UK and created a group of people who described themselves as “Bernie or bust.” Democratic, left-leaning supporters who wanted the dismantlement of establishment in a similar way that Trump’s supporters desired. They could not wholeheartedly vote for Clinton because she was in many ways the enemy, any vote for Clinton would be one of reluctance and in many ways, in a parallel of what the media has accused Trump of on many occasions, fear.
Trump opposes almost everything I stand for. His stances on immigrants, minorities, abortions and almost every other social policy I can fathom are despicable and in many ways something to fear. However, fear of Trump alone is not enough to start a movement (Although recent events in America may soon prove this wrong), especially when it is being spearheaded by someone who people in her own party see as untrustworthy and dishonest. Trump harnessed fear in a direct sense, he picked up on the fear of immigrants, fear of job losses and fear of America losing its premier position in world politics. Clinton tried to fight a campaign on fear too, however, this was the fear of what Trump could do and thus more hypothetical. There is undoubtedly reason to be fearful of Trump when being a minority in the US, and for some this would be reason enough to vote for Clinton, but for many this was not. This is reflected in the overall results where Trump got approximately the same votes as Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. Hillary got 10 million less than Obama in 2008 and 5 million less than in 2012.
In that sense is it possible to say that Trump won the election? Trump managed to maintain a core Republican base, even when being such a divisive candidate, but Hillary did not manage to get out the voters that Obama did. Hillary did not manage to connect with millennials in a way that resulted in increased turnout like Obama did. Hillary did not create a movement like Sanders did. To that extent, this election is less about Trump beating Clinton and more Clinton (and the DNC) failing to connect with America.
So why has this given me optimism? In many ways it cannot be argued that the right is growing, votes and turnout did not drastically improve in this election. It could be argued that the left is dwindling, however, I would argue that the fall in turnout was more due to the apathy of establishment politics. Both Republicans and Democrats want a change to the norms of the establishment as witnessed by the meteoric rise of Sanders. Trump was an outsider, no experience of public office and woefully underequipped and prepared for the job, but to Republicans, this did not matter he was better than the democratic candidate. To many people, swing voters, and democrats alike, Clinton was the lesser of two evils* but not something worth voting for, or making the effort to vote for. Essentially these people were less Pro-Clinton and more Anti-Trump whereas Trump’s supporters were Pro-Trump making them more likely to vote Trump. Ultimately fear of Trump was not enough. What gives me optimism is that establishment politics is under attack from both sides. It saddens and distresses me greatly that it is the Right and a man who’s few endorsements are from groups like the KKK and NRA who is in control of the most powerful nation on earth, but I am heartened by the fact that more and more people want change to a system that is not working for them. I hope that this encourages the Left to create movements for progressive and more worthwhile change that is based less on fear, like both sides peddled this election and more on hope optimism and real reform of a world that right now is working for the few, such as Trump and Clinton and not for the many such as you and me.
* I do wish to add as a footnote that this lesser of two evils argument has come under attack from people who claim that this argument was damaging to Clinton. People are free to think whatever they want, both candidates were terrible options for America just one was worse than the other. In my opinion, this is damaging to Clinton but the truth.