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The Scarlet & Black

The Disenchanted “Deplorables”


With the presidential election a mere 31 days away, Hillary Clinton seems to be the consensus candidate. She enjoys the endorsement of dozens of major newspapers and hundreds of public officials, moderate Republicans are looking to her as a savior from their party’s nominee and she has been hailed for an unparalleled lifetime of public service. Her opponent has received the endorsement of racist, right-wing fringe “news organizations,” is a chronic liar, tax cheat and has never served in any elected office. Nevertheless, Trump stands a real chance of being elected to the presidency of the United States.

As of the time of my writing, FiveThirtyEight gives Trump a 25% chance of being elected. Their polling aggregates suggest he will win Ohio and the great state of Iowa. It leaves open the possibility to him flipping other swing states in favor of the Republican Party in the month before the election. But how did this happen? Certainly in any functioning democracy, there would be no question as to who voters should elect if only to prevent the alternative. But the caveat is that we do not live in a functioning democracy. The reason that Trump still has a decent chance of winning and was selected in the first place is entirely symptomatic of the structural problems within the Republican party that prevent it from being truly democratic.

Republican politics are still a rich white man’s game. Vested interests in political structures from the local to the national party level are intended to prevent more extreme party elements from making their voices heard, and solidify the technocratic powers-that-be in the cozy status quo. Eventually, however, these fringe elements of the party grow strong, feeding on the racist and reactionary ideology spewed by their chosen candidate. This time, that candidate happened to be Donald J. Trump.

The most extreme right-wing elements of American society — white supremacists, alt-righters, conspiracy theorists and whoever else fits into the so-called “basket of deplorables” loved his “anti-establishment” bonafides and rhetoric and saw him as their avatar in defying the larger party structure. With the reactionary hijacking of the Republican party complete, the years of discontent from suppression exploded into the firestorm of contemporary Republican politics. In spite of the drama at and during the lead-up to the convention, any attempts to stop him ultimately failed.

Though Trump’s success with fringe elements of the Republican Party can be explained, why is he succeeding with the party base? The answer lies in the inherent undemocratic principles of contemporary American politics that isolate us from political discourse. The first problem is a lack of effective opposition to the two-party structure. The dominance of Republicans and Democrats, and the disarray of the Libertarians, Greens and all other third parties, ensures the stagnation of American politics. Because Trump has cast himself as the “true” change candidate, people who are disaffected with the political system flock towards him. Isolation from the political system has bred contempt among American voters that is ultimately expressed in support for Donald Trump’s anti-establishment brand.

Republican politics is a game of competing elites. In their political machinations, they abandoned the blue-collar white voters that were the party’s most loyal supporters. Party luminaries took in vast amounts of money from vested interests with a complete disinterest in the affairs of the party base. In other words, they took the base for granted. As the Republican agenda strayed further from supporting this group, blue-collar white people saw a party hostile to their interests and wanted a candidate who seemed to care about them. In his populist, anti-immigrant, pro-protectionist rhetoric, Donald Trump electrified these abandoned people into his most loyal supporters. In failing vast segments of their voter base in favor of their own profit, party leadership cultivated the ideal environment for the tragic demagoguery of today.

The success of Donald Trump is not a failure of democracy — he is a failure of the undemocratic practices in the current system. The American people have been failed by a political process whose very nature prevents change. In destroying any hopes for an effective opposition and becoming subject to the political games of powerful forces, the American people have been largely removed from their political system. Change is urgent, and I hope inevitable. Democracy is, after all, supposed to be rule by the people. But reading this column can only do so much for you — the real power is in going out and making your voice heard.

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