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November 16th 2016 print

William D. Rubinstein

Hillary’s Fatal Stereotypes

On paper, as her strategists and handlers saw it, the road to the White House was paved with easily  wooed voting blocs. What she didn't notice, along with immense discontent in the Rust Belt, was that people vote as individuals, not members of a group

hill bad smellThere is really no mystery why Donald Trump was elected President. He won a majority in the Rust Belt states and added these to the conservative, normally Republican, states in the South and the West, where he won easily. Almost certainly, no other Republican candidate would have won this election, or pursued what was surely the only winning strategy open to a successful Republican candidate — not Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or anyone else. Had any of these been nominated as the GOP candidate, they would almost certainly have lost, probably as badly or worse as did Mitt Romney in 2012, and we would now be reading American pundits’ extensive obituaries about the terminal state of the Republican party, so badly out of touch with emerging America.

Trump has almost invariably been depicted as a grossly (if not grotesquely) offensive buffoon and ignoramus, and probably a crook to boot. Viewed in light of his stunning upset, however, he emerges as a political strategist of the highest order. This acumen was given insufficient attention, but Trump’s game plan also entailed ditching significant components of the traditional and accepted Republican strategy of laissez-faire and limited government, especially in regard to international free trade. In particular, Trump advocated repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which abolished tariffs on goods made or produced in Mexico (and Canada), and the China Bilateral Investment Treaty. These and similar agreements with other countries have proven to be utterly disastrous for US-based manufacturers and blue-collar workers, especially in Rust Belt states such as Michigan, which he carried against the punditocracy’s expectation.

In 2014, the most recent year for which there are statistics, the US ran a trade deficit with China of $343 billion, with Mexico of $54 billion, and with Japan of $67 billion. Overall, America’s trade deficit was an incredible $505 billion, hence the devastation of manufacturing jobs. According to one study, between 2000 and 2016 the US lost five million manufacturing jobs — a downward trend likely to accelerate — as  in the recent notorious case of Carrier Air Conditioning. This long-established and successful company recently shuttered its US factories , sacked its workers, and moved lock, stock, and barrel to Mexico, where wages are a fraction of those in the US. This was done to take advantage of the NAFTA free trade agreement signed into law in 1994 by Bill Clinton, who said at the time that “NAFTA means jobs, American jobs … If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support the agreement.” America’s peak trade union body, the AFL-CIO, normally 100% supportive of Democratic presidents and candidates, disagrees. According to its research, NAFTA has resulted in a staggering 700,000 American jobs being relocated to Mexico.

Free trade agreements virtually invite — indeed, command — American employers to move their factories to low-wage countries, and who can blame them? In exchange, the US has gained virtually nothing whatsoever, other than a plethora of cheap imports. Donald Trump understood this and made it a central plank in his campaign program, although this was little noted by the media. So, too, from the opposite extreme, came Bernie Sanders with a very similar critique. The unapologetic socialist an class warrior might have won the Democratic nomination if the Clinton machine had not rigged the primary system to his considerable disadvantage. His message was studiously ignored by Hillary Clinton, who lost a virtually un-losable election as a direct consequence of failing to take note of the obvious.

Trump has mooted replacing these free trade agreements with hefty tariffs on foreign manufactured goods. If this were enacted, it would mark a return to the Republican party’s traditional policy. Although today this is hardly appreciated, even by historians, the fact remains that from the Civil War until the New Deal the most important policy difference separating the two US parties was the Republicans’ advocacy of high tariffs and the Democrats’ low tariffs. High tariffs to encourage American industry were especially associated with William McKinley, who was elected president in 1896 on a platform devoted to the protection of for American jobs. His victory was what historians term a “realigning election”, and it gave the GOP a normal electoral majority for nearly forty years. Behind high tariff walls the US became the world’s economic superpower, the “Smokestack America” of U.S. Steel, Standard Oil, Westinghouse, Ford, DuPont, and hundreds of other corporations employing millions of workers. These tariff barriers have been systematically removed since the 1930s, and have fallen out of favour with both the Democrats and also the pro-laissez-faire contemporary Republicans. Trump attacked this consensus head-on and won the election. By contrast, Hillary Clinton studiously avoided addressing any appeal to Rust Belt voters or, indeed, framing any solution to their problems.

Clinton and her advisers counted on winning the election through demographic change (as well as hostility to Trump by women and minorities), especially the relative decline in the numbers of white, non-college voters, plus liberal-minded women. Together, these were supposed to make her a shoo-in, building on automatic majorities in California, New York, Massachusetts, and other liberal states.

Needless to say, this plan didn’t work — and it didn’t work because it doesn’t reflect reality. In 2010, 12.6% of the American population was black; in 1970, the figure was 11.1%, virtually identical, especially as the large contingent of blacks in prison or former convicts cannot vote. The number of Hispanics has indeed risen significantly, but Hispanics are a notional category — people who speak Spanish or whose ancestors did. They come from many different cultures and countries. True, this time as usual, a mjority did vote for Clinton, but not in the numbers her strategists anticipated and on which their plans depended. The largest growth among ethnic minorities has occurred among Asian-Americans – another meaningless category, lumping together Chinese surgeons, Indian computer programmers, Korean shopkeepers, and Filipino nurses. Many, perhaps most, are socially conservative and economically successful: natural Republicans, in other words.

A more pertinent breakdown of America’s diverse population might be drawn from looking at languages spoken at home. On 2014, 79% of the U.S. population spoke only English at home, 13% Spanish. Chinese was spoken by one per cent of the population, but no other language was spoken by more than 0.5 per cent of the total. Other minorities? In 2013, only 1.6% of American adults described themselves as “gay,” 98% as “straight.”

Hillary Clinton and her advisers, in other words, were relying on a warped and distorted depiction of the American population in order to win. Crucial to her plans were the votes of women, whom she was centrally relying upon for victory. Sadly for her, they voted in a manner similar American men: 53% of white women voted for Trump, crude misogynist or not, while a majority of non-whites (95% in the case of Afro-American women) voted for Clinton. Once again, the Clinton forces, for all their sophistication and money, didn’t have a clue, while the buffoon proved to be worthy of a Nobel Prize for political savvy.

Comments [15]

  1. Don A. Veitch says:

    You can feel the the political tectonic plates moving – bring it on!

    Why did Henry Ford pay high wages? ‘So my workers can afford to buy the cars they produce’. Simple economics.

    • Jimbob says:

      Now there’s a thought – share the riches with those who produce the goods and all get richer still!! The same Henry Ford wanted to do that as well as pay high wages but was stymied by rather selfish and greedy minority shareholders (the dodgy Dodge brothers). Trump may be on to something here….revisiting a hitherto “buried” strain of humane capitalism. How exciting.

      There’s an old saying; the devil leaves you alone when you don’t challenge his kingdom; he throws the rotten meat at you and sets his dogs loose when you do…certainly a lot of angry barking around but ironically, we may all be in for the unexpected.

  2. en passant says:

    Unless any pundit commenting on the ‘inevitability’ of a Trump win, like me, risked their personal wealth and had $20 on Trump BEFORE the election no opinion counts that they now express with hindsight

    • Don A. Veitch says:

      So much for much of written History, oh Great Oracle!
      I never factored in how stupid, lazy, incompetent and hypocritical were Hilary’s Feminists.
      History is often a close run thing: Trump is a minority President and M/s Clinton gained about 2 million more popular votes; if 100,000 votes had flipped in the right place if, if, if… That is History

      • ianl says:

        > ” … popular votes …”

        Suddenly, first-past-the-post is lefty de rigeur.

        It wouldn’t matter if ALL the California cuckoos voted for Hillary, the number of EC votes she garners from that State stays the same. If you want to revoke the EC requirement, then just say so, out loud. Then we can wish you bon voyage.

        Not fooled, Don. A bloody big Mack truck has just barrelled through the middle. Whining won’t alter that.

  3. mags of Queensland says:

    I think one of the telling factors between Clinton and Trump was that Trump offered something that has been sadly lacking in American politics for a long tome – hope for something better. All Clinton had to offer was more of the same.

  4. Jody says:

    Take care about your expectations of Trump: keep them low because then you cannot be disappointed!!! I strongly urge caution, not hubris.

  5. Bran Dee says:

    And pleasantly surprised, Jody.

  6. Bwana Neusi says:

    Can everyone see the parallel with Australian economics?
    The only aspects of our economy that slowed the demise of our deficit blowout were the mining and agricultural sectors. Paradoxically that golden egg was the catalyst for our extravagance.
    Rudd, Gillard et al were hell bent on milking the mining sector too, until the bottom fell out of demand and the additional tax was axed.
    Wages in Australia are amongst the highest in the world and the removal of tariffs only allowed us to buy overseas goods and more TVs whilst on the dole. Once tariffs were removed, our car industry was guaranteed to fail in the face of competition as were our manufacturing industries. High wages and restrictive practices coupled with inefficient manufacturing practices are a recipe for the banana republic.
    Trump’s determination to reintroduce tariffs will go part of the way to restoring the economic balance, but the cost will be a higher and more realistic cost of goods. The same applies in Australia, where until we address our excessive incomes, relative to our output we will continue to borrow from the future to pay for the present indulgences.

    • ianl says:

      More or less. But the “mining tax” was very specifically restricted to iron ore and coal. Demand for these commodities boomed like desert flowers after heavy rain because the Chinese needed them for infrastructure construction; demand fell off when the Chinese slowed construction down. I noted then that the Aus Treasury was still pumping out their “this boom will last for decades” propaganda and realised that this could only end in a vale of stupid tears. And the Feds, Canberra, didn’t and don’t own these minerals – the State Govts did and do … yet the Aus population was constantly bombarded with the Robin Hood myth that their rightful share, to be distributed through Canberra once expropriated, was being siphoned off by foreign multinationals. Another vale of stupid tears.

      I have hope – but not in Australian politicians and bureaucrats. Nor crony capitalists.

      • Don A. Veitch says:

        Just a few additional provocations:

        * Bernie Sanders would/could have won the Democratic Party nomination if he had shown some fight, some gonads – he was just a left flanker for the Clintons! He is too ‘nice’ but clearly did a treacherous deal to sell out his supporters;

        * Democrats today, will not fight, to the point of cowardice – the likes of FDR,JFK, LBJ would be appalled;

        * Trump gained about three billion in free advertising (especially Fox), because he was entertaining (a much better performer than your ‘Ronnie’). No conspiracy just good business! M/s Clinton was an appalling candidate.

        * Wikileaks helped, through the Breitbart faction of the FBI in New York/eg the Comey intervention. Who is Julian Assange working for?

        * If Trump/Putin now co-operate and liberate Syria/Iraq from ISIS/Nusra/AlQaeda, then he (Trump) has served humanity,- big time.

        * Finally, political parties, USA/Australia, seem to be rather redundant against dirty tricks (eg wikileaks), foundation funds, mass psycho-politics, etc. The oligarchs don’t need people anymore.