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AUTOPSY-REPORT on the 2016 Election

by Merl Moore (MerlMoore@mail.com)

 Everybody has done what's often called an AUTOPSY-REPORT on the 2016 election: All the pundits, political pollsters, media-outlets and, of course, the losing political party. What went wrong? And, perhaps most importantly, to the Democratic Party especially, how to avoid losing again next time around?

As far as the pundits and media-outlets are concerned, they really haven't a clue what happened beyond what is most obvious and they have, by and large, totally forgiven themselves for any of their missteps. They look at the “kid-gloves” they used on Trump early on and the billions of dollars in free-advertising they gave him as simply them playing to their audience. “Our viewers wanted to see Trump so we showed them what they wanted to see.” Simple as that. And they have a point in that since the Ronald Reagan administration 36 years ago and the repeal of the fairness doctrine (et. al.) the so-called “5th Estate” (especially Television News) has all but entirely abdicated it's responsibilities to the people in favor of a pure-profit/entertainment model.

Because they were so incredibly wrong, you might even go so far as to say diametrically wrong, for the pollsters this election becomes an existential question, an issue of throwing into doubt the entire science of polling. And real, accurate polling is just that: a science. Real polling doesn't just ask 1,000 people a question and then simply report the raw data – 400 of the people asked answered this way; 300 this way; another 300 this – without “controlling” for various factors, potential outliers that would in the end skew the results (i.e.: generate incorrect/false data).

Those controls, for the most part and for whatever reason, seemed not to have worked in this election. I truly have no idea how the pollsters are going to fix their problems before the next major (Congressional) elections in 2018 but my suggestion would be to study the methodology of the very few pollsters who got it right – and then do that.  

On the other hand, there's lots the Democratic Party can and must do before the next election.  

Let's begin with Identity Politics (“...people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”), okay? This is a distinctly touchy subject as people of color and other generally disenfranchised minorities (e.g.: LBGTQ community, the Disabled, immigrants, etc.) fear those that traditionally are looking out for their political interests will abandon them in favor of “working class” white people's interests to get elected.  

But here's the thing, and the message Democrats have to push and push hard: What are people of color and other disenfranchised groups if not overwhelmingly “WORKING CLASS?” Yes! That's right: the vast majority of these people have jobs and pay mortgages and rent and buy groceries at the same Safeway/Kroger/Publix that all the white working class and middle-class people do. Look around! You/We are all pretty much of the same “social background,” i.e.: the SAME CLASS. They are US and WE ARE THEM. There is no need to abandon one group for the other because in most of the ways that matter they/we are the same group. In absolute terms almost anything you do to help one will also help the other.  

Conversely, and just to point out how ridiculously unfair the system actually is and the scope of that unfairness: Of the Fortune 500 companies, only 24 of the CEOs are women and only 4 or 5 are African-Americans. Which means at least 471 of the CEOs of the most powerful companies and corporations in the world are white guys! As only 31% of the total U.S. population are white males (www.washingtonpost.com/...), almost 7O% of the U.S. population have only 5.8% representation in the Fortune 500.

Obviously Fortune 500 CEOs is a very small and select group and the race and gender of these CEOs is not going to affect average people in any real numbers regardless of context but it does pretty much make clear how the movers and shakers in this world, the people with real power, view themselves, women, and men of color. And, most importantly, everybody's “proper place” in the world. This is a situation that, short of a violent French-style “Walking them up the guillotine steps” kind of thing (I am in no way suggesting such a horrible thing, by the way), isn't changing any time soon so the rest of us maybe should find more things we have in common and focus less on those things that separate us.

It may be true that people of color represent a larger percentage (as a percentage of their total numbers in the overall population) of what is often called the “under-class” (I hate that term, by the way), i.e.: poor people, but there is absolutely no compelling reason to abandon them or their interests and it should be noted that whites in absolute numbers dwarf by quite a lot people of color when it comes to living in poverty and receiving government assistance. But the salient fact is not the race of the recipients, it's that the money/aide (i.e.: foodstamps, welfare, et. al.) that goes to helping these poor people, black, white or whatever – and as I've said and will say again, the vast majority of them are white – represents only 5% of the total federal budget (http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/02/how-much-do-we-spend-nonworking-poor).

It should also be noted that “(M)ore than 90 percent of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households — not to able-bodied, working-age Americans who choose not to work.” (http://www.cbpp.org/research/contrary-to-entitlement-society-rhetoric-over-nine-tenths-of-entitlement-benefits-go-to)

As far as the deficit or the debt is concerned, realistically speaking, that measly 5% IS NOT PART OF THE PROPBLEM (i.e.: in other words, removing entirely that 5% expenditure would not affect the deficit or the debt significantly one way or the other). That needs to be made clear to the American people – and that's something Democrats need to be doing for ALL of the next 2 years to take this nonissue off the table entirely once and for all. (More on this a little later.)  

A lot of the blame for her loss has been heaped squarely onto Hillary's back. And, there's no doubt about it, in many ways she was a very flawed candidate. But that blame is all too often put in simple logistic or style terms: she wasn't a very good campaigner; she didn't campaign enough in Pennsylvania, Michigan, etc.; the press/F.B.I./Trump/Putin wasn't fair to her; she came off as a cold-fish and nobody liked her personally; etc.  

While this analysis may be correct generally – and let us not forget that Hillary got almost 3-million more votes than the president (let that horrible reality bounce around your brain for like the billionth time!) – it still misses entirely that Secretary Clinton always was something of a modern-day Walter Mondale, forever hand-cuffed to Bill's “3rd Way” middle-of-the-road “triangulation” politics (i.e.: a total establishment-corporatist), and like Mondale, ultimately destined to fail.  

Where Mondale was famous for saying in his second debate with Ronnie, "Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I," said Mondale, critical of the ballooning federal budget deficits under Reagan. "He won't tell you, I just did." And along those same lines, Hillary basically said (without actually saying it, of course, but we all kind of got it), “We both are going to govern as establishment-corporatist and run establishment-corporatist administrations. Trump won't tell you that, I just did.” She could have and should added, “Oh, and he is an insane person, there's that too.”  

Unfortunately for Secretary Clinton almost nobody – on the right or the left (even people who ultimately voted for her like myself) – wanted yet another establishment-corporatist in the presidency and nobody wanted to hear the truth about anything either, not in 1984 (Mondale vs. Reagan) or 2016 (Clinton vs. Trump). It should be noted that Reagan did raise taxes just as Mondale said he would and pretty much all of Trump's cabinet picks so far are all the way up the establishment-corporatist-butt, just as Hillary insinuated they would be. Drain the swamp my ass.  

Obama got away with being an establishment-corporatist (which he was) by selling the idea of “change” even when he wasn't actually offering any. Case in point: I got into a heated conversation/argument with a gent who kept saying Obama was a Socialist, so I asked him flat-out, “Just exactly what 'socialist' thing has Obama done?” “Well,” he responded, “the healthcare thing (ACA)!” “Oh, really,” I smirked, “he made every American, regardless of how young and healthy they were – and the healthier the better – pay money out of their own pockets to one or another huge private multinational healthcare corporation or pay a huge tax-penalty if you don't, and you call that 'socialism'? I'm not sure you understand what that word means or how 'socialism' actually works!”

Truth to be told, in many ways – and make no mistake, I'm liberal as hell but still really liked the guy, happily voted for him twice – Obama really should have been the “darling” of the Conservatives with moves like the ACA: Making people pay out of pocket TO PRIVATE CORPORATIONS for their own healthcare instead of the paying the government and the government paying for it! Like I said, I'm a Lib and would have much preferred 'single-payer', so come on? Conservatives should have been creaming in their jeans over of the ACA! A more conservative-friendly universal healthcare plan you will never find!  

But then, of course, there was that unfortunate pigment issue. But moving on...  

It should also be pointed out that if the Republican Congress hadn't f—ked it all up (could that have been done on purpose?) there would not have been that crazy jump in premiums in late-2016 “averaging 20%, to compensate for the extra risk (insurance companies) didn’t factor into the original lower rates” if “when the time came to pay up for (insurance company) risk reduction in the Obamacare exchanges, (the Republican run) Congress (hadn't) reneged and paid only 12% of what was (promised) to the insurers. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/im-a-former-health-insurance-ceo-and-this-is-what-obamacare-repeal-will-do-2017-01-02)  

Also working against Hillary Clinton was the strongly held view in rural America that Liberal-Democrats (which as pointed out above, she wasn't one – Dem, yes, Liberal, not so much) and Democrats in general are just wrong about everything. As pointed out in a January 5th (2016) New York Times Op-Ed by Robert Leonard (http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/why-rural-america-voted-for-trump/ar-BBxV0Ka?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=mailsignout): “While many blame poor decisions by Mrs. Clinton for her loss, in an environment like this, the Democratic candidate probably didn’t matter. And the Democratic Party may not for generations to come. The Republican brand is strong in rural America — perhaps even strong enough to withstand a disastrous Trump presidency.”  

According to Mr. Leonard, there is an all but insurmountable philosophical divide between rural (Republican) and urban (Democrat) Americans: “...(N)o wonder Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on things like gun control, regulations or the value of social programs. We live in different philosophical worlds, with different foundational principles.” Leonard goes on to say, “Overlay this philosophical perspective on the American rural-urban divides of history, economy and geography, and the conservative individual responsibility narrative becomes even more powerful.”  

While Mr. Leonard's points are clearly well thought out and his NYT article is well worth the read, still, it doesn't quite explain why urban Hillary voters (i.e.: Democrats) didn't come out in greater numbers – at the end of the day, as a percentage of the total voting population, there are a lot more urban folk than rural folk – nor does he explain how Obama twice won many of these steadfastly and overwhelmingly Republican states Leonard refers to or, at the very least, Obama won those state's urban-areas with enough votes to counter balance the Republican rural vote. Which begs the question: Did this virtual philosophical 'Grand Canyon' spring to life solely to thwart Secretary Clinton's presidential ambitions?

In any event, Mr. Leonard's “(T)he value of social programs (verses)... the conservative individual responsibility narrative” brings us back to that “5%” cost of all social programs question: How do the Democrats convince rural Republicans for whom absolute numbers, percentages and actual ultimate affect, even on their own personal finances – i.e.: virtually none – are all but meaningless when up against a core philosophical belief? I don't have an answer to that question but clearly the Dems have their work cut out for them on this issue and hopefully it won't take another 'Great Depression' to win the argument but, considering the mentality of those rural Republicans, it very well just might.