It wasn’t Comey, it wasn’t the e-mails, it wasn’t the Clintons’ overweening sense of entitlement, the shallowness of cable news, the echo chamber of the Internet, or the callow self-righteousness of the Millennials. It was structural, baked in from the beginning, even if the pollsters missed the signals. Half of us, give or take, are still fighting the Civil War, believe that Reagan was the best president this country has ever had, that science is a lie, and that tyranny is not being allowed to use the ‘n’ word in polite society, call a gay person a faggot, or a nice-looking woman a piece of ass. A lot more than half of us rightly understand that the system of globalized capitalism is run by and for the benefit of an educated elite that is mostly concentrated in a handful of wealthy urban regions–New York, London, San Francisco–the same Sodoms and Gomorrahs that the Agrarian Populists of the last century so feared and despised (and that so many of us progressives are waking up in this morning).
Bernie recognized that and said that the system had to be overhauled. Clinton saw that up to a point too, but believed that its worst effects could be mitigated. Trump saw it as an opportunity to be demagogically exploited and he did. Unlike Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini (one hopes) he doesn’t have a program of global conquest or racial and ideological cleansing ready to roll out; he was a vanity candidate and he’ll be a vanity president. Most of the work of governance will be left to the right wing hanger-ons who flatter him the most and they will do their very worst. There’s not going to be a wall, he’s not going to restore smoke stack industries, or fix the cities. Taxes will be cut, environmental protections will be rolled back, and terrible judges will be appointed to the courts. Undocumented immigrants will be deported at the same pace that they were during the Obama administration. The world will be a little safer for ignorant, backwards-looking white people. Globalized capitalism will march on apace, wealth will continue to flow to the top, and the ice caps will keep melting.
We were just as fucked yesterday as we are today, even if we didn’t know it. But now we do. I don’t see much of a bright side this morning, but I do believe that we progressives can pull the same levers of economic discontent that he did and to just as powerful effect, starting in 2018. The backlash will have its own backlash. Let’s start laying the groundwork for it now.