Friday, December 2, 2016

The High Cost of Hillary's Hubris


How the Arrogance of the DNC Gave us President Trump.


Three weeks after an election steeped in a mystifying result, I’m like a couple of hundred million other people and still trying to get to the bottom of things. So bear with me while I offer some opinions more based in strategy than any ideological rant. Never one to bury the lead, I’m going to save a lot of you some time by pointing out three things very quickly.

            Item #1: The first is the simple fact that over 3.2 million of Hillary’s 2.5 million plus majority in the popular vote comes from the State of California with another 1.5 million majority coming from New York. Without those two states, Donald Trump won the rest of the US by 2.4 million votes. That should have been enough to speak for itself. But of course it’s not enough for “The Donald,” because that would require logic, maturity and a statistical sense of perspective. Instead, this guy is so hypomanic that he has now impugned the integrity of the voting system by which he won, claiming that millions of ballots were cast by “illegals.” This grants him the unique status of being the only President Elect in American history to challenge his own win. (You just cannot make this stuff up.)

            Item #2 has to with Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party’s demand for a recount in key states. To that I offer my firm belief in the electoral system and the fact that recounts are an important part of the process. I’m all for it, because it removes all doubt. So let’s do it. But please! All those of you who think this was some spontaneous grassroots movement started by The Green Party for the betterment of the country, get a reality check. The $6.2 million plus now being raised to fund this recount more than doubles the money Dr. Stein received for her entire 2016 campaign. It was predominantly bot funded…with a money trail leading to George Soros. And the Green Party gets to keep the change (now in excess of $1.7 M) no doubt to help pay off some campaign debts. And do understand that Jill Stein has been in touch with Hillary’s camp from the beginning. So she is in fact their stalking horse.

            Item #3 comes as a question: Am I the only one who finds it absolutely ironic that the first state they’re petitioning for a recount is Wisconsin, a state where Hillary never made one personal appearance during her entire campaign for POTUS? Not one! She ignored the Laws of Attraction and the karma that creates. Instead she took Wisconsin for granted. She took Michigan for granted with two perfunctory stump stops in the same day. Hillary took a good many things for granted. And therein begins the unraveling of the flawed election philosophy of the DNC in what had to be some of the worst set of campaign strategies ever put into play in modern political history.

             Let’s stop right here. Because at this point I’m on the verge of being accused of a hit piece on Hillary, when it is not. My distaste for both presidential candidates is well known by now. It is only exceeded by my utter amazement at the most bizarre pair of political campaigns ever conducted for President of the United States—one hip-shot by a billionaire who daily and deliberately (it seemed to me) tried to gun down his own flying circus; the other by a candidate who did herself in on a much deeper level, in what I believe was the result of trying too hard and drawing to her the thing she feared the most. Or did she?

            In the course of human dynamics, self-sabotage can be a low profile antigen that is both insidious and deadly, the political equivalent of HIV.  It often kills the host without their being a conscious party to it. In HRC’s, case I will lay down my scenario on how she and her minions managed to feed her the political version of hemlock. To make my point, I offer a flashback to Hillary’s post election appearance on November 16 where she was being honored at The Children Defense Fund Dinner as the perfect dovetail into my argument. 

            So there I was watching Hillary Clinton’s first post election appearance since her resignation, and actually feeling my heart tear at the seams. Here was a woman I’ve never cared for very much trying to explain yet again that she ran for President of the United States because she loves America—as if she needed to. And she did so because at some very deep level she truly thought we didn’t believe that aspect of her character. I have so say that saddened me. Because despite her myriad miscues while both Senator and Secretary of State, no sane person could ever doubt her patriotism or love of country.

            Nevertheless here is Hillary, looking twenty years older in just one week—her face a map of betrayal, confusion and regret—soldiering up in the most admirable possible fashion, confiding her pain and disappointment and yet exquisitely defining her dedication to the cause of children (a proven staple of her career). I even gave her a pass on slipping over into her Nixonian trope about remembering her mother’s struggles. I understand her playing the “mama” card. What skilled politician would miss the opportunity to do so? Finally, once she had eloquently bid farewell, I realized that here at last was a woman at peace with herself. She had at long last laid bare that inner chamber in her soul that was dedicated, serene, clear and free of the specter of deceit that had dogged her for the entirety of her career.

            Odd, I thought, even poignant. Where was that Machiavellian aura that had always hung about Hillary like some demon of denial—the one she tried so hard to veil? Instead, in this moment, in this contact with the better angels of her nature, Hillary Clinton managed to appear as deeply committed, unrepentant and in that singularity of purpose more terrifyingly strong than at any point in her career.

            At last for a few brief moments, Hillary Clinton had arrived at peace with the one quality that would have put her over—the Golem of Ruthless Compassion—of uncompromising dedication at the risk of all else. Gandhi had it. Mother Theresa had it. George Washington had it. So did John Adams and Winston Churchill. It is so often the secret sauce of greatness, and it takes some courage to pursue it to the end. Many politicians have the aspect of ruthlessness down pat but lack any real understanding that you can be both tough and kind.
           
            Make no mistake, many political players in American history have owned their toughness and even capitalized on it. Lyndon Johnson often boasted of his penchant for riding roughshod over others. Harry Truman never hid his pure pugnacity in the face of conflict. Putin makes a franchise of his. And certainly Hillary’s opponent in 2016 made a political fetish out of it. When challenged, the Donald has always gone out of his way to be churlish, abusive, reactionary and even hateful—the consummate political counterpuncher, and it only served to build his brand. And don’t think for a minute that ruthlessness in the political arena is exclusively a male province. Maggie Thatcher had no problem being ruthless. Israel’s Golda Meir was no one to mess with. And Indira Gandhi was so damn tough while running India that, by all indications, it probably got her killed.

            Hillary Clinton could never come to grips with hers. Even in this Age of Transparency when everyone knew all along that behind the scenes she was the managerial equivalent of The Red Queen, here is Hillary still trying to act like everyone’s Cub Scout den mother. And as a result she only managed to come off as disingenuous and dishonest. In this age of social subtext everyone hates a phony. Hillary could never shake that. She could never embrace her own toughness, and so became the Poster Child for duplicity itself.

            She was an enabler to her husband, a “fall-guy” for the Obama administration, and the punching bag for every hint of scandal surrounding the Clinton Foundation. Always seeming to suffer these slings and arrows of “unfair” assaults on her character, Hillary has forever behind the scenes justified those suspicions. Noted for being cold-blooded and even tyrannical in how she evaluates the utility of others, she has often misconstrued what was important and what was not.

            Announcing her open dedication to “carrying on the great legacy of the Obama Administration” had to be a Hobson’s choice for her out of the gate. Barack Obama’s legacy is a failed one. Between Obamacare, the Iran Nuclear Deal, his cozying up to Islam and the Monsanto Protection Act, he managed to leave Hillary with the political equivalent of cyanide. Add to that the fact that Barack Obama’s is a “personality cult” presidency. Like JFK and Ronald Reagan before him, Barack Obama has so much swagger and charisma that he can carry about 6 million votes by the sheer force of his star-power alone.  And Hillary utterly lacked that going in. So she was carrying forward all the negatives of Obamanation without any of the exiting POTUS’s practical magic.
           
            Starting her campaign in a serious hole where her public image was concerned, Hillary had managed to do one thing right, and that was to lock down the power structure inside the DNC. Coming out of her Faustian pact with Obama (and the private meeting where Joe Biden was told that “this is not your year”), Hillary had paid enough party dues to shore up 520 of the 710 plus super-delegate votes before she ever hit the campaign trail.

            Along the way, she simply took some things for granted—like the black vote, the Latino vote and Millennials…especially Millennials. Vocally suspicious of her going in, their key politicos tried to forewarn the Democratic power elite as far back as the 2008 primary that they had issues of credibility with Hillary Clinton, but apparently no one listened.

            Then in 2015 and 2016, a majority of Millennials polled fell into the ideological thrall of Socialist renegade conveniently turned Democrat named Bernie Sanders. Openly critical of all political candidates, they voted overwhelmingly for Obama with 62% of them voting the way of the Democrats in 2008 and 2012. Bernie Sanders in his 2016 campaign was just behind that number at 56% of all Millennials and was the only candidate in the plus column where Gen Y was concerned. In fact, they formed the vibrant energy backbone of the Sanders campaign. They campaigned, held rallies in colleges, took to the streets, protested trump and basically became the vocal Brownshirts for the new socialism Bernie was selling. Along the way, they locked arms with the environmentalists, anti-establishment activists and the economically disenfranchised, including independents long since lost to the party.
           
            This of course terrified the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who had for four years been carefully manicuring Hillary’s grassy stroll to the nomination and felt absolutely threatened by populist Sanders’s unprecedented support. Chaired by Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (whose main credentials were political infighting and dirty tricks) the DNC set its game to head Bernie off at the pass. Internally aware that Hillary, with the second highest negatives in political history, was beatable even inside her own party’s convention, the DNC power structure knew they had to be proactive if not preemptive. Bernie Sanders was getting 12,000 people to his rallies to Hillary’s 1,200. And momentum is a capricious beast. So they had to take some draconian measures and they did, by waiting until just the right time to play their trump card.

            Just as both candidates crossed near the 2000 mark (with 2807 delegates needed to win, with Hillary at 2240 and Bernie at 1600 plus) and with some states still left in play, the DNC dropped the super delegate bombshell, declaring that combining the regular vote count with Clinton’s more than 650 super delegates, Hillary had more than enough votes to be declared the winner. Game over. Close the book.

            In making this declaration, the DNC had done more than lock up the nomination for Hillary Clinton. They had also shut down the biggest grass-roots movement in the Democratic Party since 1972. Everyone knew they couldn’t afford to risk a floor fight in Philadelphia. So they stacked the deck to make sure it never happened. What they also managed to accomplish was to blow the lid off the “Big Tent” myth that the Democratic Party had been selling for decades. It also shattered once-and-for-all the grand illusion that the Democrats were the “party of the people.” What it had become over the last 30 years was the establishment scam of that long abandoned ideal—the one that still managed to reel in women, minorities and Millennials to vote their way because after all “what other choice did they have?”

            The first grave miscalculation that the DNC made was that people always have a choice. And it was being expressed in ways that they had not seen since 1968. Bernie Sanders had a message—one of new ideas, a viable plan for taking on the establishment dragons and shaking up the Leviathan of bureaucracy. Taking that message to the street, Bernie’s storm troops were rebelling at every level. They were blocking highways, protesting rallies and stopping traffic. They were even making calls to super-delegates, pleading, cajoling and even threatening them with violence. It didn’t help in the least that Bernie was a sore loser and actually gave his silent consent for the protests by acknowledging the frustration of being so rudely—and unethically—brushed aside. Sanders had only been a de facto Democrat since 2014, and had only joined the party to use it as a platform for his grass roots revolution. So in essence he had nothing to lose. And “playing ball” was nowhere on his radar.

            Unsettled by such dissent in the ranks, Hillary, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC power structure decided they had to shut down any semblance of discord before the media could sink their teeth into it. Building a 3-mile moat and stockade around the Wells Fargo Convention Center, they shut out thousands of protesters, while allowing just enough delegates inside to voice a brief but well-orchestrated complaint. After that they had a sit down with Bernie where they agreed to adopt many of his initiatives into the Party Platform and then quickly as possible sent him on his way…or so they thought.

            What followed at the Democratic Convention was a metaphor for Hillary herself. For the networks and the press it was the shining example of harmony, replete with a parade of celebrities saying all the right things, love-bombing candidate Hillary while condemning the cretin candidacy of that Titan of Intolerance Donald Trump. Beneath the surface the Democratic convention had become a hotbed of acrimony and discord—much of it minimized by a highly complicit media determined to put the best possible face on the week.

            Not without its controversy or its sacrifices inside the power structure itself, the Philadelphia convention was conveniently marked by the summary dismissal of Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was thrown under the bus for some (Wiki-leaked) anti-Semitic email indiscretion leveled at Bernie. It was obvious to anyone with eyes to see that she was offered up as blood sacrifice to the howling wolves of Bernie Sander’s pack to assuage their vocal rage, while Schultz in turn was replaced by an even more presentable face of the franchise in black author and political strategist Donna Brazile, who seemed more taciturn and tactful but no less committed to the game plan.

            The game plan, of course, was to send Bernie Sanders and his crew out to pasture as soon as possible and let this be the Hillary Show, the one she had so carefully orchestrated since 2012. If only the DNC had thought about it for a single day, someone with a logical sense of perspective would have realized that it was not only Bernie Sanders’s message people loved; it was the man himself. Bernie was brash. Bernie was refreshing. Bernie spoke from the heart. Bernie was “the people’s candidate.” His poll numbers showed him swamping Donald Trump by double digits (while Clinton and Trump were dead even). And that seemed to terrify Hillary and the DNC to death. So rather than embrace the guy, the Democratic power structure virtually kicked him to the curb, disregarding an enormous voting block in the process.

            There is a tipping point in every run for POTUS. For me, “The Bernie Decision” was the bullet to the brain. If Hillary Clinton had been able to tuck her ego in a drawer for a couple of days and offer Bernie a job as her Number 2, her journey to the White House might have been assured. That would have meant sharing the limelight with a public figure far more popular than she, and it just wasn’t in Hillary’s ego matrix to make that concession.

            Behind the scenes it is common knowledge that Sanders isn’t all that easy to deal with. Often as brusk, rude and dismissive to staff as Hillary is reputed to be, Bernie can be irascible and stubborn to a fault. (Doubtless JFK felt the same way about LBJ but also knew how to make a deal. It’s called politics; and that’s how elections are won.) The simple truth is Hillary and her minions didn’t even try.

            Selective memory is the poison dart of any losing campaign. In this case, Hillary ignored her own biggest failing. She wasn’t well liked. She needed to bring in someone to share the ticket who was not only well known but also beloved as a running mate. Her very personable spouse Bill Clinton was smart enough to pick the highly regarded and popular Al Gore as his running mate in ’92. And Barack Obama, brilliant oratory and swagger notwithstanding, still possessed enough insight to pick popular political pro Joe Biden as his VP.  Common sense dictates that these people bring cachet to the team; they are called “assets.” And smart politicos know how to use them effectively. So what did Hillary Clinton do? She completely bypassed the one man who might have helped put her over and picked instead a metrosexual political cipher named Tim Kaine.

            Tim Kaine, a grey eminence Virginia senator with all the charisma of a streetcar conductor, had absolutely zero marquee power and a kind of bitchy androgyny that rendered him irritating when challenged on issues. Ostensibly bilingual, Kaine was almost condescendingly sent out to Latino audiences to address them in Spanish with an American accent so thick he sounded patronizing every time he opened his mouth. Other than that, his only other contribution to the campaign was to make Mike Pence look presidential and restrained during their two debates, both of which Kaine lost rather handily. Losing to Mike Pence (who still gives me Waffen SS Panzer commander flashbacks) took some doing. But Kaine managed to crater, leaving everyone wondering why he had been chosen at all.

            Along the way there was created a subtext of the Democratic power structure that, I think, did some serious damage. That was the eventual evacuation of all testosterone. Instead of Bernie Sanders who had been the vocal male voice of the franchise, the DNC hit the airwaves after the convention with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren, an uber-liberal attack dog with aspirations of her own, quickly swept into view with her bully pulpit. Annoyingly self-righteous, she may have galvanized more women but, lacking any of Bernie’s likability, turned off every man who had to listen to her daily diatribes.

            With Hillary appearing with Michelle Obama and the distaff power structure of the DNC, with Elizabeth Warren piling it on, I eventually became convinced that they were overplaying their “woman card.” I’m going to be accused of being sexist for saying this. I’m not sexist in the least. But I am a strategist…and a realist. I also know that, just as there is some degree of vestigial racism remaining in this country, there is also just enough sexism in America to tip the scales where close elections are concerned.  In truth, Hillary dropped in voter percentage from every male group—Latino men, black men, and white independents—just enough to cost her a several hundred thousands votes. And that made all the difference.

            In a pivotal point of irony it wasn’t the Alpha-male black men or Latino men who cost Hillary the election, it was white independent women voters who carried the day for Donald Trump (49% to 41% for Clinton). Combine that with the exodus of Millennials and you have the perfect storm, especially when one takes into consideration the fact that “independents” at 42% are now the largest voting block in America. Ultimately, Hillary lost across the board. Her numbers were down anywhere from 5% to 12% among the same voting blocks carried by Obama in 2008. Despite 17 million more people voting in 2016 than voted in 2012, Hillary simply lost all contact with the groups she needed most.
           
            Somehow Hillary had to recognize this too little too late. Despite poll numbers tilting in her favor, she was forced in the final two weeks to hold free rock concerts featuring everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Beyoncé and was still only getting 3,000 people with room to spare. Trump on his own was drawing crowds of 20,000 with people waiting to get in. Top that off by the POTUS himself stumping day and night for the last two weeks, begging people to come to their senses, and one got the distinct impression that the real numbers had finally shaken the DNC to the core. So it turned out they were right. And we now have President Trump.


            Fast forward to present time, and the endless cycle of international shockwaves. At this point, I almost find myself enjoying the post election hysteria pouring out of the media, trying to rationalize the most alarming election for POTUS in US history.

            Just before the Thanksgiving holiday I’m watching “Anderson Cooper 360.” And as usual CNN has adopted its new strategy of tossing up talking heads in contrapuntal gang-speak, as if having 8 people screaming out their on screen biases at the same time will actually help to lift its sagging ratings. To my surprise but not my delight, I don’t even recognize these people any more. The news networks seem to dredge them up out of some central casting pundit pool where they arrive pre-scripted to rail at the low hanging fruit of “old white guys” now returned to power. On this show all the “experts” save one were elbowing one another out of the way with epithets such as “new white supremacist nation,” the all-too familiar pap that the “alt right” has taken over the government, and the final dart to the heart by denouncing the new Trump administration as being one of “intolerance and hatred.”
             
            There they were in high dudgeon—everyone from Van Jones to Bob Beckel and Anna Navarro—leading a lynch mob of news nonentities with a verbal fusillade of insults that, had they been directed at any other group, would have been labeled hate speech. All the while, their hysterical prattle was being calmly moderated by Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer with none of them willing to acknowledge that the invective they were spewing out was the very narrative of ridicule that helped get Trump elected in the first place.

            Even I, being on record as no fan of The Donald found myself barking at the TV, “Give the guy a chance!” That very phrase coming out of my mouth strikes me both as evidence and symptom—that, even for a moment, I thought he needed defending.

            Of course, Donald Trump doesn’t need defending. And in a matter of hours he responded to all manner of insult by negative tweets, counterpunching and sticking up for himself. In so doing, in his rude, crude bodacious pugnacity, he appeared ruthlessly pure, candid, and a real breath of fresh air. Just as Bernie Sanders who had been kicked to the curb by the DNC, Trump has now become the Crown Prince of American Populist Outrage—the one who railed against dishonesty, the stacked deck and media manipulation.

            With his impending coronation and what I think will be an imperial presidency, I alone remain convinced that Donald Trump is a man who never really wanted the job in the first place. Rumor has it that Trump started this out as a lark—and that his outrageous behavior was part of his own attempt to take himself out of the game. In so doing, he abandoned tact, humanity, civility and all semblance of civilized behavior. Sounding more like the Mad Hatter than any rational human being, the Donald insulted, railed, abused and tweeted his pettiness to the world. In the process he seems to have tapped into some perverse chamber of human delusion I never thought possible in a modern democracy. As a final stroke of cognitive dissonance, the more the media has railed against Donald Trump, the more the public seems to have rallied around him. While holding Hillary to much higher standards and vilifying her failures to maintain them, we have all managed to lower the bar for Trump, dismissing every depredation as just a personality quirk.

            In some folie du monde the likes of which I have never seen in my lifetime, the electoral majority of America has convinced itself that this man’s inflammatory rhetoric and bad behavior will somehow transubstantiate into honest good intention and excellent result.

            Already President Elect Trump, the man who promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington, is filling it back up with more alligators than it ever had before. One can only hope that his next set of appointments will be more thoughtful and less controversial. But from what I have seen, American politics in the last twenty years have proven to be more like Honóre de Balzac’s description of second marriages: “A triumph of hope over experience.”
           
            On her way out, Hillary Clinton announced her disappointment in defeat by confiding, “I have to admit. This is something I will not get over for a very long time.”


            Madame Secretary, speaking for my country, I don’t think we will either. The good news is that elections come often. And we are all still at choice.

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