Clinton is queen of the five-point plan but Trump wins by ignoring data
As Donald Trump seized the Republican presidential nomination, many political pundits rushed to predict his decimation at the hands of the Clinton electoral machine in November. What’s more, they assume his incendiary candidacy will harm Republican candidates further down the ticket, in House, Senate and even local races.
This confidence, among those who rarely leave New York or Washington DC, reveals just how little the chattering classes have grasped the massive changes happening in the US political landscape. They cling to the misapprehension that things will soon return to normal, after the aberration of the Trump and Sanders insurgencies.
Trump in particular up-ended the established rules of campaigning. By deliberately injecting a controversial comment into the mix every few days, he coasted on free media coverage and little organisation. Conventional thinking has it that he cannot defeat Clinton this way. Yet, the media establishment has got it wrong about Trump from the start.
His campaign will continue to be based on his personality, while Clinton’s personality is her problem. Even Clinton supporters admit their candidate’s leaden style is a turn-off. She is tone deaf, and does not inspire trust. Moreover, in this jaded, selfie, reality show age, there is no buzz to Clinton. Competent she undoubtedly is, but Americans want something new.
Yes, Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip policies have alienated Hispanics, African Americans, Muslim Americans, disabled people and many women. But elections are all about turnout. Trump (and Sanders) give voice to decades of indignation at being sidelined by corrupt party machines fuelled by corporate interests.
Clinton will never be the anti-establishment candidate people yearn for. It is possible that millions of left-of-centre voters to stay at home on polling day. Democrats cannot rely simply on fear of The Donald; not while he increasingly becomes the new normal.
Establishment Democrats and their media surrogates also fail to grasp that Trump wins by ignoring data and channeling anger. Facts about the economic and diplomatic successes of the Obama years will be as compelling as Clinton’s measured, analytical five point plans.
While Democrats’ campaigns assume rational arguments will persuade voters, they will not penetrate the Trump bubble.
In the House of Representatives the Republicans hold 247 seats to the Democrats’ 188, the GOP’s biggest majority since the Depression . In the Senate it is 54-46 in the Republicans’ favour. Some Republicans may be harmed by Trump’s rhetoric, but enough may opportunistically embrace the new gesture politics he has unleashed. Trump pays no price for inconsistency, so why should they?
Also bear in mind that at state level, Republicans have been dramatically restricting voter rolls by closing registration offices and polling places in minority areas and causing six hour waits to vote by filling ballots with propositions.
Sanders promised a revolution, and he is already changing the Democratic Party from the grassroots up, with activists rejecting corporatists in the Clinton mould. But perhaps the real revolution will occur in the GOP.
For decades, the ruling Republican elite and their lobbyist cronies have bought elected representatives, driving their economic agenda — low taxation, trade deals shifting jobs overseas and hiring low-paid immigrants.
The same elite has manipulated its poorer, less educated voters with cultural issues like abortion, diverting attention from declining income and surging inequality. Why else do poor people vote for tax cuts for the super wealthy, and trade deals that pulverise their jobs?
It seems those exploited Republicans have woken from a trance, and Trump has inarticulately articulated their fury in a manner they find authentic. Why would they now revert to the old order?
One final nightmare scenario. If there is a terrorist outrage on US soil between now and the November poll, God forbid, then Trump will win. He will snarl and threaten like a wounded lion, helping the nation that imagines itself to be tough and macho (yet in reality leads the globe in the safety first culture) to disguise its profound fear and confusion.
Meanwhile, Clinton will outline her five point plan for handling terrorism; and rational and sensible as her response will be, it will be utterly inadequate in the face of the panic gripping voters.
The latest polls put Clinton between seven and 12 points ahead, which may mean the above warnings are redundant. But remember that in 1988 Michael Dukakis came out of the Democratic Convention 17 points ahead of the first George Bush. The voters have a way of making fools of us all.
Rebecca Tinsley is the founder of the human rights group Waging PeaceLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.