The Cataclysm: Notes on Election Day and the Politics of Hubris

+It’s 6 am. The sun has risen on this strange election day, illuminating a nation that has finally made up its mind.

Strike that.

This is Oregon. The Willamette Valley is enshrouded this morning in a fog so thick people will have a hard time find their polling places.

Fortunately, there are no polling places. No poll watchers or election police, no one to check your ID, bully, berate or vote shame you. Oregon takes a laissez-faire attitude. Take your time, think about it, vote at home, mail it in. Out here on the western edge of the continent, we know these national elections are decided long before election day. Or are they?

Most of us in Oregon chose to vote or not vote a week ago or more, filling out our interminable ballots at the kitchen table–assuming you’re fortunate enough to have a kitchen table–with a glass of wine and a vaporizer to dull the senses, checking through dozens of ballot measures from a new tax on corporations to halting the sale of body parts from endangered species, from funding off-the-leash dog parks and new hiking trails to sewer upgrades and fire stations.

This is about as close to direct democracy as it gets. Still the experience this year is a sour one. Probably half the candidates on the ballot, from state judges to soil and water district commissioners, school board slots to planning commissioners, are running unopposed. Even at this local, basic level of politics people seem to be giving up, acknowledging the futility of changing anything under the current dynamic.

The electoral experience is getting farther and farther removed from the issues that matter to most of us, from health care to the climate, jobs to homelessness, consumer debt to child care. The skin of the system is getting thin, the circuitry beneath is beginning to show through, like some over-worked android on WestWorld.

+ The polls all suggest that it will be a big night for Hillary. She either has a 94% chance of winning, an 84% chance of winning, or a 71% chance, according to the alleged savant of analytics Nate Silver, who has been hedging his bets over the last two weeks. That’s a 23% margin of error for the leading pollsters. No wonder they make the big money. Could they be wrong? You bet.

+ The most revealing poll of all is, naturally, the stock market, which rebounded on Monday after James Comey sent his opaque letter to Congress intimating that the latest investigation into Hillary’s emails proved to be yet another dud. There’s no better indicator of who Wall Street wants to win this election.

+ I’ve always thought the election was Hillary’s to lose. Of course, being Hillary, she has always been capable of blowing a sure thing. But the Establishment is desperate for her to win. Their fate is linked to hers. The system isn’t so much rigged as owned. All political destinies these days seem manufactured. This is part of what drives the rage simmering across the forgotten precincts of the country.bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550-e1477943826411

Of course, the System adapts and absorbs. That’s the malign genius of late-capitalism. The elites prefer Hillary, but will warp the unruly Trump to their purposes. Trump is a narcissist, not an ideologue. The system fosters and feeds on narcissism.

+ I’ve never thought Trump really wanted to win. In fact, every time the odds seemed to be tilting his direction, Trump would self-destruct. Trump might want his name on the White House, but in the dank recesses of his psyche he knows that he doesn’t really want to live there in an old three story house built by slaves.

+ There’s little joy to be found in voting for the independent candidates, either. Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Gloria LaRiva. I like all three of them. But they’re given no oxygen in our political system, even as the old foundations begin to warp and crack. The moment Johnson began to show some life, threaten to crash the debate party, he was snuffed out, ridiculed for trivial verbal missteps and flubbed questions, none on the order of the vast and dangerous ignorance displayed daily by Trump and Clinton.

So for most of the fall these alternative candidates led vaporous campaigns, fleeting shadows on the wall of the system. To vote for any one of them is to validate the very system that denies their existence. Yet many of us do it anyway, slaves to the system that binds us.

Both the left and the right spoke of revolutionary aspirations during the campaign, but it was mostly hollow rhetoric. Trump’s ultras threaten armed rebellion if Hillary wins, but will most likely vent their range with a few pot shots at her image at the local shooting range before settling down into their recliners to watch Trump TV. Sanders, the self-branded revolutionary, joined the campaign of his enemy and cut his followers adrift, all in exchange for the offer of a possible chairmanship of the Senate budget committee. The Democrats have no plan of resistance for a Trump win. It’s inconceivable to them.

I’m reminded of Max Horkheimer’s observation about the fate of real revolutionaries: “A revolutionary career does not lead to banquets and honorary titles, interesting research and professorial wages. It leads to misery, disgrace, ingratitude, prison and a voyage into the unknown, illuminated by only an almost superhuman belief.”

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This year’s electoral revolutionaries all seem headed toward a big payday, if not their own reality TV shows. Bernie Sanders on “Dancing With the Stars?”

+ A Wikileaked transcript of a speech Bill Clinton gave to Democratic Party powerbrokers at a fundraiser in Potomac is a sharp reminder of just how noxious he truly is. Clinton unloaded on Bernie Sanders and the European Left, wildly attacking Jeremy Corbyn and Alex Tsipiras, as radical zealots, calling Corbyn “a person off the streets” and the “maddest person in the room.”

Hillary says that you have to have a campaign that appeals to the struggling, the striving and the successful.  We have to do this together.  And Bernie says just go get the money from the millionaires.  And it sounds good because there’s – to a lot of people, if you look all over the world – the British Labor Party disposed of its most (inaudible) leader, David Miliband, because they were mad at him for being part of Tony Blair’s government in the Iraq War.  And they moved to the left and put his brother in as leader because the British labor movement wanted it.  When David Cameron thumped him in the election, they reached the interesting conclusion that they lost because they hadn’t moved far left enough, and so they went out and practically got a guy off the street to be the leader of the British Labour Party, who I saw in the press today said that he was really a British citizen and had real British (inaudible).  (Laughter.)

But what that is reflective of – the same thing happened in the Greek election – when people feel they’ve been shafted and they don’t expect anything to happen anyway, they just want the maddest person in the room to represent them.

If Corbyn somehow manages to become Prime Minister, expect the Clinton crowd to help the Tories plot a coup.

+ Bill is sour because the British Left has finally evicted most of the Blairites from the Labour Party and Bill sees Tony Blair, and his acolytes, as his European protegés, the last believers in the battered brand of Clintonism.

+ Poor people have disappeared from the campaign faster than discussion of climate change. Their condition is too depressing to contemplate, I guess, just another intractable problem which doesn’t poll well in focus groups in targeted demographics. Leave them to their Malthusian fate.

+ Long lines at many of the polling places this morning, including in Manhattan, where two women allied with Femen briefly disrupted voting with a topless protestagainst Trump. But would Trump himself have seen this as a rebuke or a tribute?

Surely there are longer lines of people refusing to be shamed into voting by the likes of Michael Moore, Rudy Giuliani or Lady Gaga. Where are the pictures of these brave souls?

+ Mid-day exit polling shows that 36% of voters are yearning for a “strong leader.” Whether they yearn for a Dominatrix or American Mussolini is yet to be determined. Either way, they’re likely to get screwed.

+ Want more evidence that Trump really doesn’t want to be elected? Two days before the polls opened, he leaked his choices for his top cabinet positions: Reince Pribus for chief of staff, the crazy general Michael Flynn for defense secretary, Goldman Sachs veteran Michael Mnuchin for Treasury, Newt Gingrich for Secretary of State and Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General. It’s the equivalent of pre-wrapping his administration in crime-scene tape.

+ Bernie Sanders spent the week out on the campaign trail, shilling for Clinton. Much of what Sanders now says on the stump is a shameless repudiation of his own campaign, none more so than his mendacious assertion that the Queen of Fracking will save the planet by fiercely combating climate change. It’s one thing to campaign for Hillary against the prospect of Trump and something else to lie so brazenly about her dark record.

+ But Sanders isn’t alone. In a browbeating piece published by The Nation, Rebecca Solnit has made the outlandish claim that the US would never have gone to war against Iraq had Al Gore won Florida in 2000. Perhaps Ms. Solnit has forgotten that Iraq was bombed every three days during the Clinton/Gore administration, that at least 500,000 children perished under its remorseless sanctions regime, that twice Clinton and Gore pushed through Congress measures calling for regime change in Iraq, and the Gore, and his foreign policy advisor Leon Fuerth, were both eager to overthrow Saddam in a hot war. I’ve long thought that Gore would have invaded Iraq even lacking the pre-text of 9/11.

+ The Clinton campaign spent more than twice what the Trump campaign expended. According to Madeliene Albright, the price was worth it. But Trump’s midnight Tweets had more political impact than the slick ads Hollywood generated for Hillary. Trump understood the new media, learned from both Obama and Sanders, while the Clinton campaigned remained locked in the machine model of the 1990s.

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+ The press, like the rest of the establishment, was all behind Clinton. HRC got 57 editorial endorsements from major papers, Gary Johnson got 4 and Trump only 2. So much for the influence of the press.

+ Of the cable networks, Fox News proved to be the most entertaining and informative to watch through the campaign. If they weren’t exactly “fair and balanced,” their anchors were at least more fair and balanced than CNN and MSDNC. They openly debated the merits of Trump, sometimes fiercely. MSDNC and CNN have been all in for Clinton from the beginning. MSDNC even helped to snuff out the Sanders campaign.

+ Trump couldn’t even win the backing of his own party elites. For example, 73 percent of Democratic state legislators endorsed Clinton, while 5 percent of Republican state legislators endorsed Trump. It didn’t matter. To be endorsed by an elite was to have a target on your back.

+ The temperature in Oregon City today approached 70 degrees, smashing the record high for this date. Not one question in the debates on climate change.

+ The political imagination of the country is more depleted today than I’ve ever known it. Vladimir Putin has become the super-scapegoat for the Democrats’ war against their own base. If Hillary’s loses, Putin will have hacked the voting machines, conspiring with Ralph Nader and Julian Assange.

Hillary Clinton has completely rejected even the pretense of class-oriented politics, in favor of targeting discrete demographics of voters, sending coded messages through the color and cut of her pantsuits to suburban women in Philly suburbs and insurance brokers in Tallahassee. This is the politics of identity, where your working conditions are less important than where you shop and what you buy. There is no unifying message to her campaign. Instead there are thousands of messages, each individually tailored and targeted like those stalker ads on Google and Amazons. It’s politics by algorithm.

Meanwhile, Trump’s blue-collar voters are condemned by the liberal elites as neo-Nazis and Klan-like automatons. Over the last few weeks, MSDNC has devoted much attention to the imbecilic David Duke’s attempt to ride Trump’s coat-tails. Duke is polling at less than 5 percent among Republicans in his vainglorious run for the Senate in Louisiana. What about the Trump voters who reject Duke’s racist bilge? How do the Democrats explain them? They don’t even try. The American underclass, both black and white, those marginalized by globalization and a government that works only to further enrich the rich, are viewed by the Democrats’ leader as a collection of “deplorables” and “super-predators.”

The Democrats have totally surrendered to the logic of neoliberalism and the impoverished and pulverized victims of their policies must be blamed for their own pitiful condition. The poor will be fined for being poor. Where’s the long-term dividend in that cynical brand of politics?

+ The marijuana stock index is bullish on the prospect of legalization passing in California and elsewhere today. That there is a marijuana stock index is itself a rather depressing sign of how quickly capitalism can ruin a good thing.

+ Running against one of the worst Congresses in history, with an approval rating of less than 12 percent, the Democrats seem poised to pick up only a handful of seats in the House, perhaps as few as five. Of course, that may have been exactly the kind of Congress that HRC wanted. Much easier to go after entitlements by striking a deal with Paul Ryan than Pelosi.

+ Here’s an example. Trump is winning Vigo County, Indiana, stomping grounds of the old Socialist Eugene V. Debs, by 13%. Obama won that county by 1% in 2008, a clear sign of Trump’s appeal to union and working class voters on NAFTA and industrial trade policy.

+ Evan Bayh, the neoliberal Democrat and corporate lobbyist, got whacked in his return to Indiana, where he pushed aside Baron Hill to claim the Democratic slot. Bayh hadn’t lived in the state for years and couldn’t even remember the address of his condo in Indianapolis. Good riddance.

+ In 2012, Obama won the union vote in Ohio by 23 points. Trump and Clinton are running even.

+ At 9 EST, even Minnesota reported in as “too close to call.” That’s an ominous sign. Trump is cleaning house in the red states, while Clinton is struggling in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

+ The Clinton campaign thought this afternoon they were going to win Florida by 5%. Win Florida, win the election. Now they may lose by 2%. Why? One reason: Clinton won just 51 percent of women in Florida.

+ She had the ground game, she had the money, she had the press, she had the advertising, she had the polls. All that meant nothing.

+ One of the key numbers of the night? 69 percent of the electorate is angry at the federal government. They feel the government has let them down. They’re right.

+ If Trump wins, liberals will have no way to process the results. It’s beyond their conception. Their brains will simply melt.

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+ Dick Cheney once said that Reagan taught us that deficits don’t matter. Trump may teach us that sexual predation doesn’t matter. Of course, it never really has mattered politically in the US, in part because of the hypocrisy of the Democrats over JFK, Teddy Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

Kaboom! Trump wins Ohio, followed by staggering wins in North Carolina, Iowa, and finally, Florida.

+ Rachel Maddow is desperately trying to scapegoat the Greens and Libertarians for Hillary’s loss in Florida. It’s an absurd charge. Libertarians don’t vote for neoliberal, war-mongering Democrats under any circumstances. Paul Krugman is fingering Jill Stein, who got less than one-percent of the vote: “Jill Stein has managed to play Ralph Nader. Without her Florida might have been saved.” Nonsense. Hillary has only herself to blame. Despite a big Latino turnout, Hillary only won 51% of the women’s vote in Florida. No hanging chads to be found.

+ If Trump ultimately wins Michigan, will Michael Moore implode or explode?

+ In the 60s and 70s, Civil Rights legislation drove southern whites into the Republican camp. Now 40 years of neoliberal economic policies have caused working class voters to abandon the Democratic Party in droves. Just look at the exit polling on how union households voted: 47% Clinton; 45% Trump.

+ It will come as a shock to both the Democratic and Republican leaderships that there is a class war going on in America. It’s too bad for working class people that Donald Trump is the one leading it.

+ The glass ceiling is looking more and more like a glass coffin…

+ Putin / Nader 2020?

+ A huge and bitter loss in Wisconsin with the defeat of Russ Feingold, probably the most honorable Democrat running for the senate. This crushing defeat, like so many others tonight, can be blamed on the incompetence and arrogance of the Democratic Party leadership, which sacrificed the senate and the House for the fools gold of the Clinton campaign.

+ The DNC rigged their primaries to insure the nomination of the only candidate who could lose to Trump. Is it any wonder that same brain trust, high on the fumes of their own hubris, lost all those senate seats, too?

+ The DNC spent more time conspiring to defeat Bernie Sanders, than they did the Republicans. They absorbed nothing from the Sanders campaign, from the issues that resonated with his followers: a corrupt system fueled by corporate cash and militarism, working class people demeaned and ridiculed, the American youth burdened by debt with no opportunity for advancement, blacks and Hispanics treated as political chattel, captives to a party that demands their loyalty yet does nothing for them. The Clinton team vanquished Sanders, paid him off and then marched on arrogantly toward their doom.

+ Clinton herself showed a singular lack of courage to the very end of her campaign. She couldn’t even speak out against the brutalization of tribal people in North Dakota defending their water and burial grounds against the mercenaries of Big Oil. How could anyone look at her silence in the face of those ongoing atrocities and believe that she’d ever stand up for them?

+ My old history professor at American University, Allan Lichtman, has developed a formula for forecasting presidential elections that has correctly predicted the results of every campaign since 1984. In September, Lichtman ran the numbers on Clinton and Trump and predicted that Trump would win. Even after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes, Lichtman stuck to his formula. He was widely derided. But Allan was right and all those smug pollsters and pundits were wrong, terribly, madly wrong.

+ Six states voted for Obama twice and then voted for Trump today: Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Based on those results, it’s hard to argue, as some are already doing, that “racism” was the chief factor driving Trump’s victory.

+ Hillary, who based much of her campaign strategy on decisively winning the women’s vote, lost among white women by a 10-point margin: 53-43. Think, for a moment, about that 53 percent number for Trump. It’s safe to say that Hillary ran the worst campaign since Al Gore. In fact, it was worse than Gore’s in almost every respect.

+ Could Bernie have defeated Trump? On a fair playing field, sure. But there was no way Sanders was going to be permitted to emerge from the Democratic primaries. Wall Street needed a candidate it could trust and Hillary was it.  The Establishment feared a threat from the Left more than from the wild-ass right. And for once, they didn’t see what was coming right at them.

+ Is this the final repudiation of neoliberalism?

It should be. But don’t bet on it.

It’s up to us to make it so.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: