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The New Normal: How the 2016 Election Cycle Changed American Politics
The 2016 Presidential election cycle has been described in many unflattering ways. It’s was called a circus, some said it was a toss-up choice between two poor candidates; others called it a running narrative of shaming and defaming. Also popular were a polarizing and nasty slugfest between two angry people, and one of my favorites, an out-of-control dumpster fire. From the beginning, the two major Parties headed into their respective Primary season in total contrast. There were nearly twenty candidates who threw their hats into the ring on the Republican side. While on the other side of the political spectrum, the Democrats seemed to be rallying around Hillary Clinton. There were a few “no chance” candidates running, but most people assumed they were only in place as debate patsies; that is until Bernie Sanders started making real inroads with the youth of America. Both establishment Party platforms seemed to be parroting their normal talking points at first.
Two Parties Prepare
As the months passed, the tone on the Republican side shifted from a gentleman’s game to one where skeletons were drug from their closets; some still kicking and screaming. Fingers were pointed, names called, and it felt like it was just a matter of time before someone came to blows. Most of these originated with then-political outsider, Donald Trump; a billionaire who had tiptoed along the edge of being a full-fledged candidate for years. On the other side of town, the usual suspects came out in support of identity politics, race-baiting, abortion rights, and the newly created issue of transgendered rights. Hillary Clinton carried herself as the heir-apparent to President Barack Obama, and had the early endorsement of nearly all the Super Delegates of the Party. The early viewpoint from most of the media was that none of the Republican candidates had the strength to beat her in a general election. Early polling data had her winning in a landslide in every scenario.
Even though America was in terrible shape on multiple fronts, it looked like the policies of President Obama would continue; thus cementing his legacy. The economy was a disaster. Unemployment was high and a record number of Americans were on government assistance. Obamacare, what was supposed to be a huge savings for everyone, was instead the exact opposite. It was failing and the people it was supposed to help were being priced out of the market. Race relations took a drastic reversal and common sense was abandoned. Special interests were the focus of the government and the regular American felt left out with their voice silenced. About the only thing President Obama was doing right during his eight years in office was fundraising. In fact he will likely go down in history as one of the greatest in that area. Yet as he grew near the end of his tenure, he pulled back fundraising efforts and spent most of his time trying to ensure what he had done while in office wouldn’t be undone by the next President; which at the time appeared to be Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton and the Democrats
With the high-cost Obama policies still operating a full capacity and fundraising shrinking, the DNC was left in debt at a critical time leading up to a Presidential election. With Obama stepping away, Hillary Clinton made her first calculated mover to take over the Democratic Party in August of 2015. Her close friend Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was at the helm of the DNC since 2011 and she was a key player in helping Clinton take over. Since the Party was deeply in debt, the Clinton camp arranged the take-over with the offer of fundraising assistance. This was done quietly and even some of the DNC officers were unaware of the arrangement until it was too late. What Clinton ended up getting was complete control of the financing, strategy, personnel, and how funds would be disbursed – basically creating a system to funnel the maximum amount of money back to her campaign from big donors. Bernie Sanders, who was her biggest opponent in the primary, was being railroaded by the Party, long before he ever saw it coming. This was revealed through leaked e-mails near the end of the Primary season. Yet even with complete control of the financial and messaging side of the Democratic platform, Hillary was unable to achieve victory.
The post-mortem analysis of the campaign by the media identified several reasons why she lost, each giving different weights to the issues. Yet most analysts agreed that one point really summed things up - she ran a really bad campaign. Common-sense analysis showed that she spent too much time focusing on her opponents negatives instead of her positives and that she failed to campaign in key swing states when it mattered; it felt like she expected them to give her their votes without any attention. She also was hurt by the fact that she is unpopular with large sections of the voting populace, especially younger voters. She did attempt to act like she was a regular citizen and that she fit-in; an action which failed miserably as most people saw her staged moments as a lengthy political stunt. Another major error was that she refused to listen to powerful Democratic strategists who had winning records in the past. They were urging her to visit swing states and stop focusing on Trump, but she had a different approach. Once Bernie Sanders started getting traction, she quickly mirrored his platform, even copying some of his ideas. Voters saw this as disingenuous and made her look even less attractive since she had little original material to talk about. After she won the nomination, she made the mistake of not making Bernie Sanders her Vice President, which alienated his base from joining her cause. She expected the Obama voting block to come out in support of her, even though she did nothing to earn their support. Add those missteps to her lengthy list of problems tied to her e-mail scandal, Benghazi, Huma and Anthony Weiner, and the WikiLeaks reports, and it pointed to a doomed run with an unhappy ending.
Hillary Clinton on why she lost - in her own words
A Changing Republican Party
Yet, even as flawed as a candidate as Hillary Clinton was, most of America and the media expected her to win. Her opponent and current President, Donald Trump, faced many problems of his own, and it looked like he would never get out of the starting blocks. Mr. Trump had no political experience, and thus no political capital going into the Primaries. He was up against Governors, Senators, and other well-connected players, who had extensive fundraising and experienced teams. He was characterized as being non-Presidential and the fact that he was a billionaire gave the media plenty of ammunition to attack him. He spoke in a way that candidates just didn’t speak; he was loud, arrogant, and spoke with a bravado that’s usually reserved for the men’s locker room. He made crude statements and wasn’t afraid to get down in the mud. He refused to allow someone to hit him without hitting back with a ferocity not seen before; especially by a Republican. He actively campaigned using his own money in the Primaries, so as to not be obligated to a hidden agenda from the donor class. He surrounded himself with a motley crew of advisors; many which had shady pasts or were looked upon as trouble-makers. He used social media to call out things that he perceived as being wrong and did not spare any details. His candidacy was looked upon like it was a joke and he was ridiculed for more things than I can state. Yet, he never let up and his message of “draining the swamp” resonated with many voters who had felt disenfranchised during the Obama years. Yet the louder he spoke, and the more he resisted the attempts by the media to smear him, and his outright refusal to bend to anyone’s will made more and more voters gravitate to his camp. When the dust settled late on Election Day night, Mr. Trump had pulled off the upset of the century, defeating Hillary Clinton handily in the Electoral College.
The Upset Victory For Trump and Clinton's Revenge
Even as the final numbers were coming in, the talk of recounts had already started, especially in the swing states which had very close finishes. In Manhattan, where Hillary Clinton had the enormous Javits Center booked for her victory party, the building was quickly getting both quieter and emptier as the night went on. The candidate herself was nowhere to be seen as state after state went to Donald Trump. Reports were that Hillary was distraught and crying uncontrollably for most of the night. Her composure was so poor that her campaign manager, John Podesta, made the concession speech usually done by the losing candidate. She did call President Trump and congratulate him, but it was superficial and curt. She took a few days to compose herself and then things got ugly; uglier than anyone had ever expected. She wasted no time in throwing people under the bus; developing and distributing her portfolio of blame which grew daily and without control. One thing to note, that from the Clinton perspective, this was business as normal; blaming everyone for failure and taking all the credit for success was something her husband perfected and she mimicked very well. The fact that she couldn’t or wouldn’t even bother to take the stage and thank her supporters should have indicated to the nation that she would not take the loss easily. It was in this darkest hour that the entire Russian election interference hoax was nurtured and allowed to grow into the raging beast that still haunts America to this day.
Her team effectively rolled the DNC leaks, the WikiLeaks narrative, a few attempts by unknown hackers to infiltrate some state election rolls, and the Guccifer story into a masterful piece of political fiction. It didn’t matter that evidence showed the DNC data-breech was almost certainly an inside job or that the state hacks didn’t do any actual harm. Nor did it matter that John Podesta failed to secure his personal accounts allowing them to be accessed by outsiders. It also seemed that little attention should be paid to the unsecured server hidden in a Clinton home that was exposed by Guccifer, a Romanian hacker who is now in prison for the crime. Her camp took all the threads and wove them into a vast Russian conspiracy and then packaged it up with the help of the media, who would act as her drug-mules. She even found support on the Republican side with those candidates President Trump hammered constantly during the Primaries. John McCain and other members of powerful committees helped drive the false narrative into the intelligence channels and the ruse quickly gained a false sense of validity. Most of the nation has discounted the fable at this point, and even with Special Prosecutor Mueller being appointed as the lead attack dog, no evidence has surfaced to show one iota of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Most people believe that Mueller will produce several indictments; after all, he was appointed to find guilt and make someone the scapegoat for this unexpected change in the way things were supposed to be.
Russian Collusion To Blame
The few indictments, unrelated to the Campaign, that have been handed down clearly show that Mueller will work every angle to nail a big fish. It does seem strange that since the Russian Uranium deal and the Podesta Group are in his crosshairs, everyone on the Democratic side is keeping quiet. The belief that Mueller was too close to the Clinton’s may have a surprise ending after all. In addition to the Russians, Hillary also blamed her historic loss on former FBI Director James Comey, white supremacists, Bernie Sanders, social media, misogynists, and sexists – even though none of these could be quantified as showing they swayed the election. Also she called out low-information voters, fake news, the DNC, the New York Times, and even Netflix for their part in some imaginary conspiracy to keep a woman out of the White House. What she didn’t mention were the real reasons why she lost. The Clinton Foundation, a charitable organization run by her family, has a lengthy history of taking money from foreign nations which on the surface appeared to be an unethical pay-for-play arrangement, was looked upon negatively by voters. She failed to turn over e-mails from her tenure as Secretary of State and when forced to finally give them up, only did so after deleted and permanently wiping her server of over 33,000 of them. This was the same home-brew server she had quietly installed and operated from her home to circumvent the established systems of the government communications collections. Plus, she had the baggage of her husband’s impeachment and sexist behavior looming over her; which turned some women away from supporting her. Many see her today as the biggest sore loser in American politics, ever.
The Inside Story of what Happened at the DNC
The Swamp Drains Very Slow
So, OK, whew, can you believe it. It’s been almost a year since the election. It’s also a good time to reflect on how the 2016 election cycle has changed politics in America forever. The “gloves off” approach President Trump took during the Primaries was embraced by the nation; even those who might not agree with his politics. His stance against the media was nothing short of epic. In fact, many give him credit for creating a nationwide movement to denounce many of the networks and their agenda-driven spin on everything. We also watched as conservative websites and news organizations took advantage of the shortfalls of the mainstream media to cement their position with the public. And not to be outdone by either Party, the newly christened monster called “Fake News” grew at an uncontrollable pace, filling the minds of social media users with dastardly tales of all things that go bump in the night. In what could be considered a race to the bottom, fake news outlets tried their best to sway the public to believe thousands of made-up reports of improprieties by both sides. This beast is out of the cage and will likely roam the internet until one of two things happen. Either some media outlet or network takes the high road and starts being non-biased and nonpartisan, or Fake News continues to grow, consuming everything in its path until there is zero trust in any media source.
Hopefully someone decides to be a Switzerland and starts a new movement. Speaking of movements, this election also saw violent protests across the nation. These protests went far beyond anything America had witnessed in the past. Armed youth, dressed in black with their faces covered brazenly spread hate while trying to appear as some sort of resistance group. The ANTIFA legions filled most people with an uncomfortable Deja-vu; it was as if Fascism in Europe prior to World War II had suddenly found new life in America. These groups were more than just an angry mob. They were organized and obviously well-financed. The irony is that the movement claims to be against Fascism, when they themselves are creating their own narrative to justify their use of violence. There were other non-violent rallies, which the lapdog media covered heavily while trying to create the narrative that because Trump was elected, that America was a pressure cooker about to explode. Since little was done to stop this type of behavior, we should expect it in the years ahead. And, since it didn’t achieve anything this time around, it will likely get worse. The two Party System has laid the foundation for a divided nation for many years. The shadowy donor class who provides the financing for many candidates are seemingly upping the ante, but no one is sure how high it will climb.
Resistance, Obstructionism, and Misbehavior
The resistance to the President from the outside is minimal compared the resistance from within the halls of government. There has been open resistance, from day one, across all agencies; especially from lifetime bureaucrats in the EPA, DOJ, and the intelligence community. Now there are many people who believe that this resistance is because Trump has criticized these agencies for so long, others believe its because they are afraid of losing their cushy jobs and powerful positions. Still others claims they are Obama loyalists who are slowing down the entire bureaucratic process to keep the former President’s legacy intact. It’s likely that all three are correct. The bottlenecks will soon be discovered and the culprits reassigned or fired, but not before a lot more delay. Even Senior members of Congress and the Senate are openly showing hostility towards the President and are making headlines for not passing his agenda items. This practice will certainly keep the President from achieving his campaign promises, but will also lead to those individuals not being re-elected. Another thing that we haven’t experienced as a nation is for immediate calls for impeachment of President Trump upon taking office. There are so many angry people who want to see him removed from office.
With so many people inside the beltway against the President, the number of leaks from the White House has been unprecedented. Daily briefings are available on the street, private phone calls are transcribed and almost immediately seem to appear in a newspaper. A Congresswoman has a press conference to criticize the President’s handling of an issue, but fails to mention that she eavesdropped on the call. There are repeated problems at the EPA and the FBI seems to be chasing their tails. Basically it’s a full court press to obstruct, delay, and destroy. Those of us on the outside have many opinions, but common-sense tells us that this President may be on to something. Even those who are on the opposition side are starting to see just how often he is right in calling out governmental misbehavior. We’re starting to see the corruption of the Democratic Party exposed and how Hillary cheated her way into the Party nomination. We’re seeing billionaire environmentalists basically putting a price on Trump’s head; demanding he be impeached or stop the flow of funding. We’re seeing RINO’s who have served in Congress announce they won’t be seeking reelection for fear they’ll be voted out of office now that their true colors are exposed.
The House Always Wins
Of course, these are just some of the major issues which will certainly have a permanent impact of future elections. We’re certain to see many more new and unexpected additions to the influencing list by the end of the President’s term. It’s sad to realize that we’ll never have another peaceful election again. Violence will escalate in future contests and it’s only a matter of time before we are seeing political killings. Not the kind of unexplained killings that have occurred like with the Seth Rich murder, but the kind we see on the streets; the kind that see innocent people caught up in something they aren’t part of. It’s also likely that we’ll never see the two Parties working together for the good of all people instead of the good of their respective Parties. We’ll see more wealthy independents enter politics, and it’s likely we’ll see a sports star or entertainer try their hand as well. President Trump is trying, but let’s face it - he won’t be able to fully drain the swamp; like the house in Las Vegas, it always wins.
© 2017 Ralph Schwartz