2016’s Biggest Loser
by Ale Santander
This election has been described as a boxing match, a clash of titans, even “the election of a lifetime”; a fight worthy of golden belts, dramatic steam-filled entrances and sacrificial blood. And it’s no wonder, considering the absurdity of it all. Penis size innuendo? Check. A promise to kill the children of terrorists if elected? No republican outcry. Efforts to end his campaign were unsuccessful on all fronts, and at all times. Trump has been dodging and darting every punch that’s come his way. Yes, the left has been swinging and missing for 16 months now; but it wasn’t until tonight that Trump took the final blow, a knockout punch he himself delivered.
As I write this, my T.V. and phone are ablaze with the news that broke this weekend. I can’t say I’m shocked or even surprised. Clinton and Trump have been in the ring for over a year now, fighting a match which at times has gotten too close for comfort. Trump seems to brush off every scandal and attack with ease, nothing appears to knock him down; not the wall, not the Muslim ban, not even the KKK endorsement. Secretary Clinton had been playing it safe, or “going high” as Mrs. Obama would put it. Clinton had been in her corner, waiting out the clock, thinking what most of us did since Trump announced his candidacy last year: This is going to be hilarious, but inconsequential; he’ll be gone by Iowa.
Sixteen republican candidates, 13,300,472 votes, and $168.2M later, the establishment finally heard what the people of this country had been saying all along: this guy can really win. A series of ads and TV appearances by Clinton and her campaign called into question his tax payment (or lack thereof), his draft-dodging, his relationship with Putin, and even his brand, revealing the numerous bankruptcies and frauds committed by his company and so-called “charity”. Mitt Romney and H. Bush are just two of the countless other republicans who joined the “Never Trump” movement; a bipartisan effort that did what no issue or controversy had done for Washington in years: join democrats and republicans for a common cause: stop Trump.
This July, Mr. Khizr Khan spoke at the Democratic National Convention of his late son, Captain Humayun Khan, who died serving in Iraq. Mr. Khan spoke of his son’s devotion to his country, and Trump’s disrespect of their faith, and their patriotism. He spoke of Trump’s ignorance and condescension. But it wasn’t until Mr. Khan took out a copy of the constitution, offering to lend it to Trump that you could feel Anne Coulter start to panic; the crowd went wild. Call it what you want: heartfelt empathy or cold political calculation. Either way, Clinton finally struck back, and finally went on the offensive. The effects this had on the Trump campaign should have been devastating… And it was. Polls dipped to the lowest they had been in weeks. But as is usual with Mr. Trump, he bounced back. Even Cruz, who Trump called a “pussy” on the campaign trail, whose wife he ridiculed earlier that year, and whose father Trump accused as a conspirator in the JFK assassination, endorsed him just a few weeks later.
I can already imagine the books, courses, and movies that will try to explain this election to future generations… hell, even ourselves. “How we let it get this far” and “What took you so long?” are just two of the many titles that come to mind. But what really strikes me, and at times even angers me, is the circumstances under which the republican base and American people finally said enough. The video that was released this weekend was desolating. Execs at ABC just fired Billy Bush from Good Morning America, and with the recent Gallup poll results, I’m going to go ahead and say the electorate just did the same to Donald Trump.
Yet as a woman, Hispanic immigrant, and fervent dissenter from the very beginning, I really do have to ask: Why now? This sex-scandal is what finally pushed you over the edge? We all knew who Trump was, and if you didn’t, you should have since the second he announced; kicking off his campaign with the disparagement of Mexicans with the now infamous line of: “rapists and criminals”. Immigration quickly became this election’s hottest issue. The deportation of “illegals” is Trump’s main claim to fame, and frighteningly, what incited such a mass-following. Every rally, and subsequent headline dealt with the wall and his promises to bring back “law and order” – a nice Nixon callback that worked once before when oppressing a whole other minority. In reality, fewer Mexicans are migrating to the U.S. today than in the past. A recent Pew research report stated the following: more Mexicans left than came to the U.S since the end of the Great Recession. Between 2009 and 2014, 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to the U.S., down from the 2.9 million who left Mexico for the U.S. between 1995 and 2000. Net-migration from Mexico is now below zero. But like most facts, this was irrelevant to Trump and Trump voters.
This racist rhetoric was to be expected, nothing we had never heard before…. But from a presidential candidate? And so blatantly and callously? This kind of unbridled disrespect would not stand in a presidential election… Racism is alive and well, but until now, manifested in more discrete and passive-aggressive tones. This man would not resonate with the American people. He would soon be denounced by thoughtful and well informed governmental leaders, right? Wrong. This aspersion and outrageous disregard of not only a people, but of the facts kick-started, and fueled this campaign from the very start.
Republican leadership has not condemned this behavior until now. The xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and unashamed disregard of the political reality had no sway with the republican party until he engaged in the so called “locker-room” talk on the Access Hollywood tape. Since he announced in July, former Miss Venezuela said she would publish a book exposing Trump’s “abuses of power and racism”. Called “Mrs. Housekeeping” and “Miss Piggy” by Trump in the past, Ms. Machado’s abuse should have been enough to rally the kind of condemnation he is currently receiving. Last March, a young black woman was forcibly removed from a Trump rally for holding up a Black Lives Matter sign. After Trump said: “Get her out of here” and repeatedly shouting “out, out, out”, she was pulled through the crowd, pushed and yelled at by angry supporters. The words “mob-mentality” and “racially-charged” were just some of the terms used to describe these gatherings. Yet not until recently with the leak of the Billy Bush tape is the right “appalled at Mr. trump’s treatment of women”.
The accusations of sexual assault following this tape were disastrous for the Trump campaign, but nothing like the three debates. Vox’s editor-in-chief said Hillary has crushed Trump in “the most effective series of debates we’ve seen in modern presidential history; it wasn’t even close.” Before the presidential debates, Clinton was ahead by a little over a point. After, by more than seven. Since the first televised presidential debate of 1960, no other debate, or series of debates have ever had the kind of sway in polls we are currently seeing in 2016.
Clinton had been on the defensive. The secretary was busy fending off the alt-right and Bernie-or-busters; fighting off corruption charges, pneumonia hysteria, uproar over her clandestine speeches to Wall-Street, and even reptilian accusations. As SNL’s third debate spoof so aptly put it, in the first debate, Clinton had “… set the table. In the second, fired up the grill. And tonight, [she] feasts”.
Trump’s macho bravado and authoritarianism did him more than well in the primaries. But Clinton turned Trump’s only tactic –neanderthalic aggression- into his weakness. She used his lack of control, and then exploited it ruthlessly. In the first debate, she just called him “Donald”. As expected, he took the bait, and immediately tried to shame her into referring to him with more respect. With a series of sexual-assault charges under his belt, and the running thread of misogyny that had driven his campaign, the domineering and loud argumentative style that killed “Little Marco” and “Low-energy Jeb” were not going to work against Clinton.
To his credit, Trump begins every debate relatively calm and collected, but very quickly (and easily) Clinton prods him; poking Trump on the huge business inheritance he received from his father, further taunting him by questioning his “millionaire status”, and how his not releasing his tax-returns only confirms this. Like a child being poked by his sibling, Trump walked into her trap; he was being embarrassed and ridiculed on national television, and by a woman. So at about the 30-minute mark of every debate, Trump becomes visibly and audibly agitated. He begins to interrupt her, and his quasi-presidential façade breaks; disrupting with incoherent remarks, refusing to move on and answer the question he was initially asked. Trump’s low blows and poor sentence formulation looked even more pathetic when he shared the stage with Clinton’s professionalism and calm; the gloves were off.
The Alicia Machado videos of sexual assault did him in. From the beginning of the first debate, the Clinton team set-up perfectly what would later be Trump’s demise. Without it, the Access Hollywood tape would not have held the weight it did. Trump was floored and forced into a corner, down and out awaiting the killer blow. His counter-attacks were impromptu at best, even accusing Bill Clinton of sexual assault when he should have been preparing for the next debate, formulating a strategy to counter, or reminding America of Clinton’s weaknesses as well. Hillary Clinton masterfully pushed, and goaded Trump, cementing him as irrational and immature by establishing a stark contrast with her professional, and cool demeanor; She managed to do what fifteen other presidential candidates could not; break him. He looked not only un-presidential, but idiotic; a feat I hope Trump will always remember was a woman’s-doing.
Clinton won the white house. November 8th will be both a loss and win for the right, and the left. When you vote for “the lesser of two evils”, I think it’s fair to say the emotion and optimism of 2008 or even 1980 is absent this election. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two presidential candidates with the lowest approval ratings in modern history. Clinton has been called many things, but the only one that rings true is “republican” …at least with progressives and liberals. Her campaign was not inspiring like Bernie’s or even shocking like Trump’s. Many take the name “Clinton” to mean establishment, and even associate it with corruption. Clinton know this, so she centered her entire campaign against Trump and united centrists, liberals, independents, and even moderate republicans against the lesser of these two evils. In an era when people are disappointed and frustrated with politicians, Hillary Clinton feels like a dose of more of the same. And with Trump as her opponent, we were all forced to take our medicine.
Anti-Mexican, immigrant, Muslim, black, establishment and even anti-reason sentiment exploded with Trump’s candidacy. The Trump Train did more than divide; it conquered. He called into question President Obama’s nationality, the validity of American democratic elections, and yesterday, by refusing to accept his imminent loss, the peaceful transition of power. Trump has been outed as pro-choice, pro-tax, and pro-Clinton in the past. His pandering to evangelical, southern, and racist voters was shameful, but effective. His voice is now the voice of the KKK, vigilantes at the Mexican-American border, and of the anti-gay, anti-Muslim base.
Yet it is important to remember that the loud, newsworthy minority we see on the news is in fact a minority; the Tea party is not Trump’s main vote source; they just get the most coverage. By tapping into people’s fear over the death of the coal industry, plants, manufactories, and the imminent “brown-ization” of America that will make non-Hispanic whites a minority, Trump sold them the death of their livelihood and country, and positioned himself as the only one who could save them.
Call him what you want, but either way, Trump’s strategy raised many issues, and even more people: People who had never voted before; people who are disenfranchised and disappointed by empty factories and a dying industry; people tired of empty promises and teleprompter politicians. So to call the 16 million people who voted for Trump a “basket of deplorables” or “racist rednecks” (whether fair or not) is a mistake. His voice stirred the nation; he called to those angered by the new America, an America their parents had not promised. In an era of rapid change, Trump offered remedy to those who have not adapted or feel cheated by this conversion. In the ruins of the Trump campaign will live the hatred he upraised; the bigotry and skepticism that plagued the entire election from the very beginning. By appealing and tapping into people’s fear, Trump led a movement that cannot, and will not go away this November. Trump will lose this election, but in the long-run, so did we.