White America’s ‘Last Hurrah’ – A View Of The Trump Triumph From Ground Level

Northern Ireland native, Michael H C McDowell (no relation to the former Irish justice minister) canvassed for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. There he encountered white male apathy, hostility to Hillary more because of her sex than her personal flaws, was encouraged by Hispanic anger at Trump and came away from the stump convinced he had witnessed White, Christian America’s swan song. Like nearly everyone else he had predicted a Clinton victory but believes Trump will have a rough ride in the White House.

I covered US elections, as a journalist, first from Canada, and then for nine years in Washington, D.C.

This time, I signed up for a campaign, but old reporting techniques weren’t so rusty, I discovered, as I spent six days intensively canvassing in Pennsylvania, a must-win “blue firewall” state for Hillary Clinton, and I took longer than some colleagues to speak with individual voters as I went door-to-door.

Full disclosure: I voted for Bernie Sanders, a social democrat like myself, but this was in D.C., which has only one House Member whose voting powers are very limited ,and which, unlike the 50 states, has no Senators. No-taxation-without-representation, do you say? Well the Republicans will never (?) allow us Washingtonians to have two full members of the upper chamber.

“I travelled to York, a city just over 90 minutes from DC near the Maryland border with Pennsylvania. And I saw, once more (I worked in ‘08 and ‘12 for Obama in East Central Virginia), that the Democratic Party ground operation was superbly staffed, with accurate research on tally sheets, GPS-focused precise addresses, detailed maps with routes highlighted, efficient clustering of voters and locations, and so on. We carried out multiple canvasses several times a day, with lots of people not just from from York, but Pennsylvania as a whole, and with help from individuals from DC, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, you name it, young, old, more women than men, minorities.”

But I had a hunch something was missing, as I worked the region in and around York city – a rustbelt town, so successful even during the 1929 Depression, that its high-end manufacturing industries carried on, keeping workers at work. I covered poor African-American and Hispanic areas in the downtown, lower middle and middle class districts, suburbs and ex-urbs where lower middle class Hispanics and African-Americans had moved, and finally, mainly white middle class and upper middle class areas further out.

The weather was gloriously sunny and warm. But in six days I didn’t find a single Trump canvasser, and I kept looking.

This gave me false hope, especially for the attractive and smart and experienced woman Senate candidate, Pennsylvania native Katie McGinty, 53, from a skilled working class/lower middle class Irish Catholic family who I met a couple of times when she was a key White House aide working on environmental policy with Al Gore. McGinty had beaten a Democratic Congressman, a former admiral, in the primary, and looked set to edge out hard-right first-time Senator Pat Toomey, who refused, until an hour before the polls closed, to say if he was voting for Donald Trump. That move kept Trump voters on side with him.

So, apart from the missing Trump workers, what else was elusive? Well, I had a creepy feeling – no evidence, no real facts on the ground – that the white men I spoke to, and who were cagey about who they were voting for (I politely/gently asked), were going with The Donald. I falsely assumed too, that maybe a quarter of them, maybe more, would not vote at all, but sit on their sofas. Some of the wives would arrive at the door when I called and the women would often say they were voting for Hillary (but Hillary only got 47 per cent of the white women’s vote nationally).

The campaign of course knew that African-American voters would not come out in the same numbers as they did for Obama. But that was factored in. What fascinated me though, was seeing, on the ground, that Hispanic voters, were, this time around, determined to vote for Hillary Clinton and pick up any slack in the black vote. I found this inspiring in recent citizens. And I often spoke to them in Spanish.

Canvassing in several lower middle class but neat rental townhouse “estates” with heavily Hispanic tenants disproved an earlier theory. That is, that Hispanics may be a growing demographic in many states but historically had a low turnout in voting terms. This changed and was an encouraging finding for me. They were determined to vote and Trump’s nasty jibes about Mexicans being “rapists” and “violent criminals” had resonated with these higher achieving Hispanics. Same with lower middle class and middle class African-Americans.

Up to early Tuesday evening, Election Day, as I drove back to DC, I was pretty sure that, despite the FBI Director’s appalling 11th hour messing on the Clinton emails, Hillary Clinton would win by maybe 3-4 per cent. I, and almost everyone else, was wrong.
Clinton was a flawed candidate; she had been attacked for decades for corruption (unproven), being economical and lawyerly with the truth on multiple occasions (pretty true), and paranoid about privacy and believing the GOP were out to get her in all circumstances (correct). Her stump speeches were formulaic, packed with (too much) detail for the crowds. However she is intelligent, articulate, knows her stuff on almost everything, worked hard, and showed remarkable energy (not “low energy” as Trump nastily called her) and was a good debater and kept her cool consistently. She is an impressive human being and has a strong liberal record especially on protecting children.

But white men, working class (they don’t vote that much, frankly), lower middle class (they do vote) and even a decent fraction of educated middle to upper middle class men, clearly didn’t like her, and some hated her. I felt a real sense of resentment of her as a woman, not just as Bill Clinton’s wife, but as a Senator, and Secretary of State.

Trump, despite having no ground game to speak of – barring pretty nugatory Republican National Committee support – hit on a crafty personal strategy and it worked. The media gave him great free coverage and weren’t really critical of him and his past history until very late in the game. His nasty personal denigration of Clinton’s health, attacks on her being “corrupt”, despite no conviction and multiple investigations, his sound bite/Apprentice-like remarks, appealed to a particular choleric demographic.

However, I believe it is a demographic which is having its “last hurrah” – white “Christian” America. It is dying in numbers, as Hispanics and others rise (see The End of White Christian America by Robert Jones, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D, Vance, Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild, and What’s the Matter With Kansas, by Thomas Frank, etc.). But this large grouping has a decade of more before it declines significantly. They came out big time for Trump. They loved the anti-establishment shtick of Trump and ignored this man actually from the establishment, with inherited wealth, multiple bankruptcies, stiffing of his workers, etc.

They are people who live in the middle and the South, between the coasts. They come from one-time major industrial/manufacturing, rural small towns and agricultural areas. NAFTA lifted many boats, increased exports, and produced many more jobs. But not for them, and it hollowed out many of the places where they worked. Yes, a generalization. Could they have been reeducated/retrained to take other jobs? Maybe, maybe not. It wasn’t done, and perhaps can’t be done. Automation also drove down labour forces in manufacturing in huge numbers and union numbers plummeted. Progress?

And what about the blatant hypocrisy of the conservative evangelicals? These “value voters” chose to ignore Trump’s sexual-predator accusers, his three divorces, foul language on women, and serial boastful philandering in his first two marriages. This group too is declining. The Religious Right is diminished – but it is not quite gone just yet.

Where else did Clinton lose — and Trump win? Clinton got 10 per cent less of the Roman Catholic vote. Women voted their party of choice, not on gender. Clinton also lost votes among millennials, who Obama (and Bernie) had energized. Trump was the “change” candidate, like Obama had been in 08, and much of the electorate, predominantly white, wanted to shake up the system. Clinton was the status quo. Venting trumped (pun, deliberate) sober second thought.

Clinton didn’t have a clear message (“I’m With Her,” was an innane slogan), and funnily enough I generally didn’t have to defend that at the doors, which had worried me. Her detractors voted with their hearts/emotions, not their heads.

Anger was of course palpable among the Trump crowds and he thrived on stoking it up. Many Trump voters are hankering back to the past, to a predominantly white America, which is frightened of “foreigners”/immigrants, the “other” (blacks, black president), Wall Street elites who are dominant in either party. These people sense a “precarious belonging”; it is not just that many of the working class are unemployed; where they live, there is NO work; work gives people meaning; they rightly sense that most politicians have, Democrat and Republican, left them behind.

Believing in Trump’s absurd promises of producing jobs on a massive scale in the coal mines, in steel plants, factories, etc., is sad indeed.
Remember that Clinton, not Trump, WON the popular vote but not the arcane Electoral College. Obama won both, twice. Remember too that the majority of legislatures are Republican now and they mostly set Congressional district boundaries and happily gerrymander them. Those GOP legislators deliberately made it difficult for the poor to actually vote. Voter “fraud” is virtually non-existent but this was pushed not only by Trump, but the GOP. The number of polling places was also deliberately reduced to suppress turnout and only 35 per cent of “eligible voters” actually cast a ballot in this election. This was reminiscent of the Jim Crow era of many decades ago.

Well, chill out Dems. The Donald and the GOP need 60 (not 50) votes in the Senate to pass major legislation and confirm nominees to the Supreme Court, Cabinet appointees, posts including Assistant Secretaries and above, and appeal court federal judges. So, when it is not in the interests of the overall majority of the country, then stymie the votes! The GOP did this to Obama regularly and he, unlike Trump, as I said, won the popular vote and the Electoral College, twice in a row. There is also the filibuster, which the GOP used more than any Congress in history. What comes around goes around. The midterm elections are now less than two years away.

Trump’s massive tax cuts for the wealthy will be done well before then, probably, the deficit will explode. It will explode further with his planned new spending on the military and infrastructure. Then there will be the dangerous sucking up to Putin and China, plus possible trade wars with China and others, and this is likely to drive down the dollar, increase inflation, slow growth to negative numbers, and, one assumes or hopes, that the Trump voters when they look in vain for all these great new decent paying jobs will find there aren’t any.

Patience! Organise, and mobilise!

Will Gerry Adams’ Security Clearance In U.S. Be Unchanged Under Trump?

As we learned last St Patrick’s Day in Washington, the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams still sets security alarm bells ringing in America despite his perceived role in the US as the architect of Irish peace process and the winding down of the IRA.

On that occasion security staff denied him entry to a reception hosted by President Barack Obama in the White House for so long that in exasperation he stalked angrily off, missing the opportunity to mix with Washington’s political elite.

How and why that happened was something of a mystery but now Gerry Adams himself has cast some revealing light on the matter.

An article in the web magazine, Journal.ie, about Gerry Adams’ reaction to the election of Donald Trump included a photograph, apparently supplied by the SF leader himself, of his Aer Lingus ticket for a journey to New York that he made this week. Adams has been invited to Queens in NYC to preside over the renaming of an alleyway after the 1916 Easter Rising.

The photograph (see below) shows the letters ‘SSSS’ circled and a comment below on Adams’ Twitter feed which reads: ‘The dreaded SSSS. RG (Adams’ term for his press aide and bag-carrier Richard McAuley) sez the Presidential election wudda sorted all that.’


So what does ‘SSSS’ stand for and what did Adams mean by saying the Presidential election ‘wudda sorted all that’?

Well ‘SSSS’ stands for Secondary Security Screening Selection (see below for fuller explanation) and it seems from Adams’ evident exasperation that a) this is a regular occurrence and b) he might have been hoping that a Hillary Clinton White House would finally remove this cross that he has had to bear.

It is hard not to conclude that Gerry Adams is still regarded by the US security apparatus as a person who poses some sort of threat and therefore should be regularly double checked on entry to the States.

We shall see on March 17th in Washington when, thanks to a phone call from Enda Kenny to Donald Trump this week, we know a St Patrick’s Day celebration will be held.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about ‘SSSS’:


Jonathan Pie’s Somewhat Confused Take On Trump

A Newly-Elected President Needs Protection From His People

Heavily armed New York cops stand guard outside Trump Tower in Manhattan. The new president

Heavily armed New York cops stand guard outside Trump Tower in Manhattan. The new president clearly feels unsafe in his home town…..

Leonard Cohen RIP

Trump Didn’t Win, Hillary Lost – Democratic Voters Did Not Turn Out For Her

Thanks to CM for bringing this post on Imgur to my attention (see below).

Assuming the stats are correct the conclusion is pretty undeniable: Donald Trump did not win, Hillary lost.

The stats show that Trump did not perform any better, in fact slightly worse, than his two most recent Republican predecessors, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

But Hillary Clinton’s vote dropped dramatically from the levels reached by Obama in the past two elections. Had she managed to persuade just a fraction of Obama’s two majorities to come out for her, she would now be choosing her White House transition team.

Here are the numbers (click on the panel to enlarge):


You can see that the Republican vote is pretty stable during the past three outings. John McCain won 59.9 million votes in 2008, Mitt Romney got 60.9 million votes in 2012 and Trump secured 59.6 million votes last Tuesday.

But look at Obama’s vote and contrast it with Hillary’s. In 2008 he won 69.4 million votes and in 2012, 65.9 million. But Hillary’s vote was 59.8 million, nearly ten million votes short of Obama’s performance in ’08 and some 6 million votes less than his total four years later.

The conclusion is clear: Hillary lost by failing to energise Democrat voters who had turned out for Obama.

So, how to explain that? Well, Hillary’s unpopularity, the fact that she doesn’t ring people’s bells in the way Obama did, her association with the economic policies of her husband and so on, were certainly factors.

But I would make a bet that a hefty slice of the missing Dems from ’08 and ’12 are young Black voters who a) now don’t have a Black candidate to vote for and for whom Hillary Clinton was no substitute and b) blame Bill and Hillary Clinton for the policy known as mass incarceration so movingly and powerfully written about by Michelle Alexander in ‘The New Jim Crow’.

America, under the policy pioneered during the Clinton years known as ‘the war on drugs’, has evolved into the most imprisoned society on the globe. It accounts for 5 per cent of the world’s population but 22 per cent of its felons, the vast majority of whom are Blacks or Latinos.

Mass incarceration has devastated Black communities not just because of the many millions who suffer the lengthy jail terms which are part and parcel of the US justice system but because jail in America is a punishment that keeps on punishing.

On release convicted felons lose the right to public housing, to food stamps and are legally obliged to disclose their criminal record whenever applying for work. This, and other penalties, combine to ensure that a jail conviction in America means a life sentence of poverty.

Felons also lose the right to vote and estimates of the number denied to right to participate in the democratic process reach as high as six million, the majority of whom are Black.

Hillary Clinton could have used those votes last Tuesday. Perhaps the greatest irony of the election then, would be if she was denied the White House thanks to the harsh prison policies her husband introduced, and which she supported over twenty years ago.

History has a habit of returning to bite those who create it. This may have been one of those times.

How Trump’s Election Could Mean The End Of The Planet

Hardly a day has passed since the dawn of the age of Trump, and the same journalists who told us that Hillary was a shoe-in last Tuesday are now assuring us that Donald Trump didn’t mean all that nasty stuff he said he’d do during the campaign and that the real Trump, surrounded by common sense advisors, will calm down, change direction and settle somewhere in the good old middle, where American politicians and those paid to write about them feel they really, really belong.

The problem with this attitude is that while it is undoubtedly true that Trump will probably abandon the most unhinged and outrageous of his proposals, like that Mexican wall, it only takes him to insist on following through with the slightly more practical or achievable of his ditzy ideas for disaster to follow.

His pursuit of immigrants is one, so is the ban on Muslim entry to the US, or insisting that Japan and South Korea make their own nuclear weapons.

But the idea that worries me most is Trump’s disdain of climate change. It worries me because of all the crazy proposals he has made, doing nothing about climate change, or worse, just allowing the carbon industry a free hand, is both the easiest – it costs no tax dollars – but its consequences for the planet are beyond horror.

Can I recommend in this context to readers of this blog that they make a serious attempt to watch Leo DiCaprio’s movie on climate change? A co-production with National Geographic, it is called ‘Before the Flood’ and is available for free on Netflix. Free! Ok? Won’t cost you a penny.

It probably one of the scariest movies I have ever watched because it shows beyond dispute how close the planet is to destruction at the hands of the carbon industry. The idea that someone like Donald Trump, elected by people who are convinced that only God rules the weather, will now be in charge of the economy responsible for most of the world’s carbon emissions is terrifying beyond belief.

It is no exaggeration to say that Trump’s election could augur the end of the planet as we have known it.

UPDATE – Scientific American magazine is reporting that Trump has appointed a prominent climate change skeptic to lead the transition team at the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). The magazine reported that Myron Ebell, to head the team.

Scientific American reports: ‘Ebell is a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm. His participation in the EPA transition signals that the Trump team is looking to drastically reshape the climate policies the agency has pursued under the Obama administration. Ebell’s role is likely to infuriate environmentalists and Democrats but buoy critics of Obama’s climate rules.’