You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.
A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT AND A NATIONAL TRAGEDY
by Marc Jampole
IN IMAGINING presidential candidates at the beginning of 2016, if someone had said to me that an erratic and narcissistic sociopath would garner even a million votes, I would have considered it a national embarrassment, regardless of that candidate’s political stances.
Same feeling if even one million people had voted for a candidate without government experience who failed repeatedly at his profession of real estate development and casino management, be that candidate of the left or of the right. A national embarrassment that a million people would think such a failure to be presidential timber.
Same feeling of embarrassment if one million people had voted for someone involved in thousands of lawsuits, most involving other people suing him for nonpayment. Or if one million people had voted for a candidate who routinely slurred women, Hispanics and Muslims. Or if one million people had voted for someone who told bald-faced lies about his past and the state of the country in every speech. Or if one million people had voted for someone who used a charitable foundation to make private purchases and bribe government officials.
Or if one million people had voted for someone who admitted to sexual assault on camera and in doing so committed a serious violation of law by creating a hostile work environment for women.
Mainstream news media and Democratic politicians can wring their hands all they want about Russian hacking, FBI manipulation, voter suppression laws, the double standard applied to Hillary, fake news, the Stein effect (which turned Michigan and Wisconsin red), Hillary’s mistakes, the news media’s failure to call Trump on his lies, and the unfair skewering of the electoral college in favor of rural states -- they can harp about all the many unfortunate happenstances that had to align in some kind of disharmonic convergence for Trump to win the electoral college while losing the popular vote by an unprecedented 2.8 million votes. They can moan about it all as much as they like, but it does not change the fact that not one million, not ten million, but almost 63 million people voted for Donald Trump.
That’s a little more than a quarter of all Americans eligible to vote, and 46 percent of actual voters, who cast their ballots for someone documented to be an unethical, law-breaking, sociopathic, racist, erratic, misogynistic liar with no government experience. Law-breaking. Erratic. No Experience. Sociopath. Racist. Misogynistic. Lying. Unethical. Any of these eight traits should have disqualified him in the minds of voters.
NO ONE KNOWS the real reason Donald Trump was elected. Was it a “perfect storm” of coincidences, which besides the ones listed above also included the lack of any mainstream Republican primary candidate and the absence of Republican super delegates? Was it a moment of mass hysteria or mass anger at the establishment? Was it a brilliantly executed strategy that bypassed the news media by relying on revivalist meeting events and social media? Was it because the Democratic Party based too much of its program on identity politics -- a popular explanation among self-loathing progressives and their mainstream media enablers? These self-flagellators seem to forget that walking away from asserting the rights of ethnic, racial and sexual minorities involves selling out the American dream and that the very term “identity politics” undercuts the legitimacy of the injustices that women and minorities still endure.
In my view, what elected Donald Trump was the merging of two evils that have poisoned the American body politics since the white rich merchants and slave owners whom we call our founders formed the country more than two centuries ago: racism and greed. Many people voted for Trump out of fear and resentment of blacks, Hispanics and Muslims. Many other people voted for him because they wanted to lower taxes, no matter what. The greedy ones have cynically financed a war against multicultural values and science to pander to the racist (and ultra-religious) ones. Rich folk supporting the beliefs of racist (and culturally conservative) folk in return for support of economic policies that hurt 99 percent of all Americans has pretty much described the Republican playbook since the rise of Ronald Reagan. If the sleep of reason produces monsters, then the reasoning of the Republican Party has produced the monstrous Donald Trump. Or perhaps it’s the reasoning of consumer capitalism.
Let’s not forget, though, that both racism and greed run deep and long in American history. In fact, the white rich merchants and slave owners who created the Electoral College did so to keep real control of governance in as small a set of hands as possible. Other aspects of the Constitution in its original form show favoritism to both the propertied and slave owners. From its very inception, we can view most American history through the lens of either racism or the battle to divide the economic pie between the wealthy and everyone else.
No matter the explanation for the election of Donald Trump, we should all feel ashamed and embarrassed. That the ballots of one quarter of the voting population should elect such a dangerously unqualified president reflects poorly on our education system, our political parties, our news media, our system of checks and balances, the motives of the ultra-wealthy and our cultural norms. It is our national shame. And once Trump’s cabinet of crony capitalists, retired generals and ideologues springs into action, it will also be our national tragedy.
The American dream has proved to be weaker than the American original sins of racism and greed.
Marc Jampole is author of Music from Words (Bellday Books, for sale at our Pushcart). A former television reporter, he is a member of the Jewish Currents editorial board, blogs regularly (“OpEdge”) at our website, and writes frequently for our magazine.