Like most American’s, I’ve been eagerly following this nightmarish Presidential Election. I have not been able to get myself enough together to write about it, but trust me, I’ve been talking about it with friends, family, and random people in the street who will listen. The threat posed by Donald J Trump to American Democracy is a unique one. Mainly because although his “winning” right wing Demagoguery threatens to unhinge Democracy as we know it, it also springs from the unique nature of American popular Democracy. And the one thing Trump has going for him (besides his money and his melanin deficiency) is his money. Maybe the size of his mouth and the brain attached to that mouth, but that’s clearly a double edged sword. Some Republicans claim shock at Trumps antics, but that’s merely because he’s foolish (and smart) enough to say in public what they’ve been uttering in private for many years. As an episode of Roots the Next Generation once had a character mention, the classical post Civil Rights act Republican politician has generally been one who’s had the dignity to use code words (Welfare Queen) when they want to signal out the word “Nigger” (or “Arab”, or “Liberated Woman”, or “Hispanic”) to their base. But Donald Trump is that child who curses in public. From the way the child cusses, you know how his Parents speak in private. As polarizing as Trump is to those who oppose him, he’s just as much of the right candidate for those who support him. He’s ridden a wave of racial anxiety brought to the surface by President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. This is a wave that has been building for a long time. It had such warning signals as George Wallace’s campaign for the Presidency, Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign. George H.W Bush’s “Willie Horton” ad. Ronald Reagens whole Presidency. In the 1990s we saw it in the standoff at Ruby Ridge and Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma. We saw it in Pat Buchanan’s failed run for the Republican nomination in 1992, and his more upfront twin, David Duke. We even saw it in President Obama’s election in 2008, in the fire bombing campaign of Sarah Palin. As soon as Obama got elected we got more of it in the Tea Party, and Birthirism, through which Trump finally found his entire onto the legitimate American political scene. It’s the same attitude Carol O’Conner immortalized on television through his portrayal of Archie Bunker back in the ’70s, but the election of the first Black President, and the changing Demographics of America have made it even more desperate.
One of my best friends told me about a saying he grew up with in San Francisco back in the ’60s. He told me that he and his friends would talk about buddies they had who could “play something all the way to the bus stop.” These were dudes who were guilty of one crime or another and would still maintain their innocence after they were released from jail, all the way out of the jailhouse to the Bus stop to go back home, long after other people had accepted their guilt. Donald Trump is that kinda dude. When you catch him in a lie, he lies some more. When he’s wrong, he argues. If he’s guilty, he’s gonna show why you’re guilty as well. Nothing particularly new about that, we all probably know someone similar. The problem with Trump is that a certain section of America, which claims Democracy, would actually view Donald Trump as “strong.” For me? Donald Trump is a three card monty player. He’s a used car salesman. He’s a boss with camera’s in the bathroom. He’s not strong in the slightest, in the traditional moral and spiritual definitions of strength, he’s simply a hustler who does not respect anything but the dollar and his own reputation.
There have probably been political candidates throughout the years who have been as ugly as Donald Trump. But the scary thing about this particular moment is the way the media, celebrity, racism, legitimate economic problems, and the American worship of the false God Mammon, has led to this moment where the most spectacularly unqualified individual to ever run for the Presidency stands perilously close to the Oval Office.
Donald Trump has been a name I’ve known all my life. He was the epitome of fast talking, New York City wheeler dealer wealth in my youth. In the 1990s, I saw him from a different angle, as I watched my Hip Hop heroes like Russell Simmons, Puff Daddy, the RZA and several other figures “politic” with “The Donald.” And it was quite a fitting connection because I realize Trump is just like those figures in many ways, with less talent, and millions of dollars in seed money from his father. I grew up in the ’90s when “Trump tight” was a hip hop phrase of praise! But the Donald exemplifies Jay Z’s eternal line, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” He also exemplifies the paper rich economy created by Reagenomics. The economy that does not truly produce any value. Trumps business is Trump. The image of success, be it real or illusory. Just like the rappers who admired him, he’s done television shows, started clothing lines, and ejaculated his name across any willing surface if it would make him a dollar or two.
And that’s part of the reason some people respect him. The first time I saw it assumed that a businessman would run the country better than politicians was in the candidacy of Ross Perot in 1992. George W Bush ran on the same idea and actually “won” in 2000. But the idea itself is actually an old Republican one expressed during the days of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.
But Trump isn’t simply a businessman, he’s a fast talking, trash talking white man, and an entertainer. He’s just as much of an attention whore as any reality television star the country claims to be tired of. And any attempts he’s ever had to spread his business acumen have been frauds because his business acumen has been more personality based than technical. Yet, Trump sits very close to the Presidency.
I don’t believe Donald Trump will win this coming election. But it matters little whether he wins or not because he has already broken the hymen of Lady Liberty. Some Americans believe that a billionaire who’s catchphrase is “you’re fired” is the most capable person to look after the needs of middle class and working people. All because at the end of the day a white guy with orange hair is the one they feel they can trust.
This is by no means an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, mind you. But a diatribe against “The Donald.” I was a critic of The Clintons in my teenage years during the 1990s! I was always appalled at the term of praise laid on Bill Clinton, “The first Black President.” I was also quite aware of the provisions of the 1994 Crime Bill, as many of them were originated right here in California, including the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law. The Clinton’s contribution to American politics has been for many of us a terrible one, which is a Democratic Party that was no longer Liberal. This was not some new decision that came on a whim. Bill Clinton was chairman of an organization called “The Democratic Leadership Conference” that formed after the Dems lost two elections badly to Ronald Reagen. That organizations goal? To destroy the Democrats reputation as the party of the poor and minorities and make it more appealing to the “Reagen Democrats” a group of Middle Class voters who voted for Ronald Reagen, but were traditionally Democratic.
What were these policies? A focus on “Middle class tax cuts” instead of cash handouts. In education, things such as charter schools and vouchers to combat the Republicans call for Private school choice vouchers. A get “tough on crime” stance that included both policies Republicans hated such as assault weapons bans, and policies they loved, such as sentencing laws that would disproportionately affect minorities. And for the most part it worked. Clinton caught the good wave of the Internet boom to preside over the best peacetime economy America has ever seen. He also managed to do something, win the White House twice, that was thought to be impossible for a Democrat post-Ronald Reagen.
But even though Clinton won the White House twice, he did so with a minority each time. Also the agenda he ran on left little room for the Democrats to enact their traditional social agenda’s. This was seen when GWB won the White House pretending to be a “Compassionate Conservative.” Some people say the damage had been done however, as some Democrats had finally accepted Ronald Reagen’s America, an America of limited government, as the framework for American life. Of course the racists support “Limited government” because it would mean no Department of Education, no Affirmative Action, no student loans, no Head Start, and no other program to challenge the unfair advantages gained during the bloody founding of our nation.
As a person who was there at that time, getting my first lessons in politics, it is through that sense I see Hillary Clinton. She got her first lessons in this way before Ronald Reagen was elected, in 1972 when George McGovern lost to Richard Nixon by a landslide. The message was clearly that the 1960s, with its activism and hopes for equality in America, was over. She’s been a politician ever since, even though she has only been an elected one since the early 21st Century, conflicting with Trumps charge that she’s been in office “30 years.”
The claim that she’s been in office “30 Years” is a part of the sexist energy that has always made American uncomfortable with Hillary Clinton. People forget that when she came on the national scene she was still known as “Hillary Rodham Clinton.” Which meant that she was one of those “unmastered” women who still held on to the name their daddy’s gave them. I saw men like Pat Buchanan get up on Republican stages and attack this woman simply because her husband respected her opinion.
One of the interesting features of this election is Black people’s outlook on it, which is the outlook I’m most concerned with. Some of the ill will that was built up for Hillary during the 2008 election cycle when she ran a dirty campaign against Barack Obama has not subsided. Also, many people in the Black community are finally getting hip to the Clintons mixed record on racial relations.
However, I’m not sure if Hillary is to blame for Bill’s history of triangulation and neo Liberalism. To me it seems to be a classic case of “blame the woman.” My mother always told me, from experience, one of the hardest things for a woman to do is be the wife of a charismatic man. A charismatic man’s wife is the ultimate “Bad cop.” Hillary has always been the “bad cop” in her relationship to Bill, the scapegoat for all his failings and even his biggest failed policy, the 1994 Health Care Bill. “Super predators” comments and devilry in Haiti aside, I see that as Hillary’s main problem politically, the bright light that her husband shone and the way she comes off in comparison.
At the end they’re both people after power for their own reasons. But a Trump Presidency is simply intolerable for me, and I believe anyone else as well, whether they currently know it or not. My only sentiment is the same one Stokely Carmichael used to raise, “Are you ready to survive America!?!?!”