When people asked me if I thought Hillary Clinton would win, I generally responded with, “Sure, as long as the voter turnout is high enough.” Well, it seems that was the crux after all. The overall turnout was mediocre as usual unfortunately; 66%. In battle states it was higher though, but not as high in the past and not enough to make the difference, unfortunately.
Pour voter turnout was the top contributor to Clinton’s loss – not Trump’s win, I say. I’ll explain further contributors below and they are interrelated. The main reason though is a level of decadence that has been reached in America that has been evolving over the years and was bound to influence the election. The decadence is basically a result of the American success story but with a socialization that was missing.
The post-war economic boom and the civil rights movement for example made it possible for almost all U.S: citizens to have a decent standard of living. There were few really vital things worth fighting for towards the end of the last century. Even pollution was being controlled.
Accompanying that was a vision espoused by Hollywood and television of unbridled optimism: “You can do it if you believe in it hard enough!” This became the mantra of the business and sports world. The “me generation”. Even the “bad guy” became a hero and could get away with crime. Churches too, in a way also part of the entertainment industry, valued belief over facts.
Thus emotional and irrational world-views became more common, in particular, but not only, among the lesser educated. Winning becomes so celebrated and heroes are so worshiped that costs are ignored. The quiet fact-based community is sidelined by faith-based loudmouths who gather the attention of the mass media seeking sensations and lately being boosted by social media.
So by my definition, decadence is the valuing of own emotions and their short-term satisfaction over facts, long-term development and the common good. This can be seen in the resistance to political reform, focussing on quarterly returns instead of long-term investment, cheap (imported) goods instead of employment security, unhealthy interest in conspiracy theories and irrational beliefs instead of the sciences and common sense, yearning for the good old days with a blind eye to everything that wasn’t good, expecting benefits without providing the input or ignoring the consequences, and so on. In fact, “everything that is wrong with the USA today.”
In no way do I say that all of America has gone decadent. There is just too much growth of that at the fringes however, which lately has been boosted by social media. The heart of society, Republicans and Democrats alike, I’m sure would like to move ahead, but the antagonism from the extremists (worse from the right, I dare say), is making even this cooperation difficult.
That said, let’s look again at the reasons Clinton lost, in particular where decadence fits in.
- One hazard of the polls is that it can lead to complacency. Voters say that since a certain candidate is a favorite, they don’t bother to go vote; someone else will - a decadent laziness. Pollsters have just begun to grapple with this phenomenon: People say or even lie how they would vote, but don’t do so after all. That was the trap that the Clinton campaign fell in especially in Michigan and Wisconsin. Clinton was leading there, but the margin was narrow. Yet they hardly campaigned there; Clinton spoke to campaign workers in Michigan and never showed up in Wisconsin. I asked Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook when he visited Berlin and spoke to the Democrats Abroad on March 12th 2017, why these crucial states where ignored. They evidently also relied too much on those figures and in hindsight everyone is smarter. A bit more listening to the local operatives and keeping in mind that Bernie Sanders had done so well in these states, plus the new rather restrictive voting regulations implemented by Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker should have been a warning.
Additionally, I think Clinton’s appeal to the mainstream could have been better if she would have stuck to and hammered in concrete fundamental economic issues instead of her and/or her campaigners being sidetracked by Trump’s circus or marginal social issues such as (trans-)gender issues.
- I’m sure many Greens did vote strategically for Clinton, but in those crucial battleground states, in particular Michigan, the independent votes were missing for Clinton. Sure, Greens in New York and California (and Utah) can get away with decadently “voting their conscience”, but the rest have to “do the hard or dirty work” to vote for the long-term good. Sorry, but that is the bi-polar US electoral winner-take-all system. Some day, the US should have a truly multi-party parliamentary system.
- Of course Trump also contributed to Clinton’s loss (i.e. his win). He is decadence in person. His appeals went to emotions, nether human instincts, and disregard of science and truth. He promises benefits and things he cannot realize. With his showmanship and egoism he drew attention away from more serious issues and the Clinton campaign got caught up in reacting to it. When Clinton announced a massive and realistic nation-wide infrastructure reconstruction program; I was glad she was providing a concrete campaign promise with jobs, boost for business, and a better future for all. Trump said he would do something like that too, without providing details, but calling her a liar and threatening to throw her in jail instead. Clinton is work – Trump is entertainment; how decadent.
Trump had a not too large hard core of supporters of course, but he also collected votes from more moderate voters who perhaps begrudgingly voted the party line, simply because they wanted to vote in their other Republican candidates.
- There are also the influences by Bernie Sanders. On the one hand he invigorated the party during the primaries, but on the other hand many of his supporters caused damage as well. He was fair enough to encourage his supporters to vote for Clinton, but I think there still were many like the Greens who decadently “couldn’t” vote for Clinton. Then there was a percentage that voted for Trump instead. Those crazy radicals probably would’ve voted for Trump anyway even if there were no Sanders.
- Last and least is the Russian hacker meddling and trolling on social websites. Sure, they caused a stir and I hope some fingers will get slapped (figuratively), but by the time this hit the news towards the end of the campaign, most people knew how were going to vote anyway and this swayed maybe the fewest of the undecided voters or possibly increased the number of nonvoters. What is decadent with this is the attempt to place the responsibility for the voting results in someone else’s hands instead of our own.
An interesting analysis can be found also here from CNN
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