Saturday 18 February 2017

Thoughts in Progress

In Denzel Washington’s latest film, as both actor and director, there is an unusual supporting character. Fences features a baseball hanging by a thin rope in the back garden of the house shared by Washington’s Troy, his wife Rose (played by Viola Davis) and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo).  Though inanimate, this ball serves as a witness to all the tribulations of this black family in post-war US. Hit every which way by Troy and his son Cory, this baseball is also a metaphor for how we shape our lives and how far we can go in determining our own destiny.

To me this baseball also reminded me of the recent US election. Before you close down your browser sending my post in the process to the land of oblivion, I would like you to give me a few minutes of your time. I am fully aware that we are all now pretty Trumped-out (his latest press conference being a case in point. How low can the guy go? Well, you ain’t seen the bottom yet, I suppose). The dust has now settled. To quote Leonard Cohen: “Everybody knows the good guys lost/Everybody knows the fight was fixed/The poor stay poor, the rich get rich”. Except that it was not a good guy who lost but a woman.

It would be arrogant of me to attempt to figure out why Hillary Clinton lost to a misogynist, racist, sexist and xenophobe. Plenty of opinion pieces have been churned out since November. But what I cannot stop thinking about is the reasons why her manifesto might not have struck a chord with most voters. To recap, Clinton lost the election, but won the popular vote. You could say that electoral changes are needed urgently in the US and you would be right. Yet, that would be like trying to hit that ball in Troy’s garden out of the park. That ball ain’t going nowhere.  It’s still hanging on a rope.

Team Clinton bashed out a series of proposals and ideas that they thought would capture the public’s imagination. Overall, I thought, sitting comfortably on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, that they banked more on the Trump’s machine imploding than they themselves causing their explosion. Wrong. When your opponent realises that the ball you’re hitting is not moving, they grow stronger, not weaker. In order to get at Trump team Clinton had to untie that baseball and play real ball with it.

That would have meant casting your net much wider, beyond identity politics. I will not delve deep into identity politics in this post because I am in the process of drafting one up on the left and the case for/against identity politics.  The truth is, however, that Clinton got caught up in a feminist/multicultural/gay-friendly agenda. Nothing wrong with that. But what is eating most Americans right now is where the next dime is going to come from.

When Barack Obama entered office in 2009, one of his first actions was to summon the top banking executives. Remember that this was post-2008-crisis and Wall Street was on its knees. The usual villains, politicians, had been given a short-lived respite, to be replaced by bankers. At that point president Obama could have asked for the moon to be delivered on a silver plate and every single person in the room would have coughed up enough money for a space expedition leaving the next day. But Barack dithered and bankers smelled blood. Instead of the far-reaching economic reforms that were needed then, all bankers got was a slap on the wrist and, guess what, within a couple of years, the multi-million-pound bonuses made a comeback.

This was the financial situation Clinton inherited as the Democrat front-runner. Never mind the fact that under Obama more jobs were created than during Bush’s eight-year reign. Never mind that Obamacare became an immediate safeguard for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of families. The crux of the matter was still, a lot of rich people were getting richer and poor people poorer. Obama, for all his credentials as a liberal and the hope he represented, explicitly stated in that strikingly beautiful poster (remember?) was seen as part of the same machinery that had ceded ground to China and had allowed Putin’s Russia to start calling the shots on the international stage.

By the time Clinton entered the frame, the electorate was jaded. Cynical voters are the toughest to turn around, especially if one of the candidates comes from what could be assumed to be a dynasty (Bill Clinton served two terms as president. Chelsea Clinton has already been discussed as a possible candidate for 2024 or 2028). It was not Clinton’s fault that the election went to Donald. It was, as I said at the start, a combination of factors. One of them was the Democrats focusing on policies that might have gone down well with the already-converted but did very little to enthuse the fence-sitters, the refuseniks, the hard-to-reach.

Donald Trump is not infallible and he definitely is not unbeatable. I seriously doubt he will be re-elected in 2020. But, and this is an important “but”, for the Democrats to win the White House again, they will have to untie that baseball and take it to places where they are rarely seen, engaging voters whom they barely know or whose views they disparage. Clinton got the vote of mainly poor, young, Latin and black women (four different categories in themselves).  Trump’s camp was the beneficiary of chiefly white women from a working-class background and rural areas.

An average baseball game lasts nine innings. We are barely in the bottom of the first. Hitting a baseball on a string makes good practice but it is not the real game. The real game is won by the team with most runs. Already team Trump has made a few gaffes. What Democrats need to do now is to capitalise on those players who have reached base. What’s the next step: steal or sacrifice bunt, or both? How about going for the big swing? Whatever happens, it is about putting runs on that scoreboard. Untie that baseball and hit it hard. Just hit it as hard as you can.

© 2017

Next Post: “Of Literature and Other Abstract Thoughts”, to be published on Wednesday 22nd February at 6pm (GMT)


  1. Interesting observations on out election. I live on the west coast and don't know anyone who voted for Trump.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. One of the often bantered phrases during the election was (bless her heart - Michelle) "When they take the low road, we take the high road." This may actually be a theme of the entire Democratic party for eons. We're too good to fight.
    Democrats think that Republicans are ugly and that we (yes, I'm a Democrat), the beautiful, are righteous, smarter and more evolved, oh yes - and we dress better. hahaha We like to help the homeless and addicts and we champion Black life's and wave the banner for the returned honor of our original Father's, the Tribes. But when it comes to that strip down the center of America where all those icky, creepy people live, (I swear to God - that's what a LOT of Democrats think!)then we want to stay as far away from them as we can. We might catch something. So we don't look at them, think of them, nor listen to their voices - their heartbroken, beseeching voices. Shame on us. All that self righteousness and superiority got us in this hell hole. She was looking up and she should have been looking down, at the fallen ones and listening to their hoarse, tired voices. --- And she? She was doing what we were telling her to do. Same old/same old. (my thoughts, no agreement is necessary)

    You are so right, Mario, we need to grow up and hit that ball hard, the one that cracks the ankles of those trying to step on us all. And not do it just for "us", but for "them" too. Because you know what? - they think the same damn shit about us and all there really is is US. But somebodies got to put their hands on that bat first and be willing to get hurt....

    I've been sick for so long and haven't been able to read or, like a person on a desert island who hasn't seen anyone for a long time, I need to talk!! :)

    And that poem to your mother was exquisitely done. I kept thinking the whole time that I hoped she could hear you and your beautiful voice. Such a lovely woman and a lucky son.

  4. A good analysis of why a good woman didn't become president.

  5. A fascinating way of understanding it - thank you. (I try not to watch the News, but there's something compulsive about it. Car-crash television!)

  6. I have no idea what to think, but I know one thing - I am glad I don't have to vote in the US. I have many US contacts and have yet to hear anyone say they actually think Trump is or will be doing a good job.

  7. One fact is true will not be boring with Trump!Lol!!

    Everday there is something new on the news we can debate..bring people together!

    Good you share your point of views Cuban!

  8. Yeah, I doubt he will get back in. Both were crummy options, but in the end not much will change, probably, because all the old coots that can keep getting voted back in forever in congress and such won't allow it. That is where the true change needs to happen.

  9. :( I do think this man id a disaster. I would like everybody to dismiss him. that might work to silence him up. If I lived in eh US I would be ashamed!

  10. Excellent post. Bill Clinton liked to say that people vote for Republicans when they stop thinking and vote for Democrats when they start. People certainly stopped thinking in November and handed themselves over to Trump's hate speech. Clearly the man has no idea what he wants to do except enrich himself. Yet he hit the right buttons with the right amount of people in the right locations. We have to untie the baseball and unshackled our minds.

  11. Good observations and I like the ball on a string analogy. And the thought of Chelsea as a candidate in 8-12 years makes me feel really old. I still think of her as a school girl with a dad that's President.

  12. I am not a fan or supporter of Clinton (make that x 2)and for many reasons.

    As far as Trump is concerned, I don't think that insanity will go on much longer. Something has got to give. Some dignity and intelligence needs to be restored to the White House.

  13. Hi ACIL - thanks ... things have to change that is for sure, but not the way it is happening right now ... and the damage it is causing ... We need strong balanced leaders ... thanks for your excellent approach and thoughts - I need to see Fences when it gets down here ... cheers Hilary

  14. You've written a terrific analysis, and for the most part, I agree with you. However, I think the democrats didn't do themselves any favors by nominating Hilary. We could have done a lot better, and I think just about ANY other democrat could have beaten Trump. I'll be surprised if he lasts the full four years.

  15. I was a supporter of neither and feel that both major parties are too wedded to corporate monies and so far away from their constituencies that something must change. Another issue is that our Electoral College failed to keep 45 out and the Dems treated one of their own so shabbily...He wanted to retain his voice in the Senate when all was said and done though I'm not sure how effective it will be now...I hope we survive without another war...

  16. Ahh, ever the scorpio strategist. I think your points are all well taken. The things that nobody considered was how deeply racism and misogyny are entrenched in this country. There are many who voted for Trump simply as a reaction to having a black president for two terms, in an effort to get the power back where it has traditionally been , which is with white men. There were also many men and women who simply could not get past the idea of a woman leading the country. It's hard to fathom but the U.S. is not as progressive as a lot of us assume. Of course, all of that is being exposed, which is one good thing that comes from the election. However, I'm not convinced the current government will remain in place very long..

  17. I would like to throw my two cents in to cut through all the bullcrap and hyperbole that the rest of the commenters are throwing in.

    I can describe in one word why Clinton lost: arrogance.

    Arrogance that she believe there was no need to do the necessary grass root/groundwork required to get people to vote. She and her team automatically assumed that people would flock to the voting booths w/o her having to go through effort of actually going door-to-door asking people to vote for her.

    While yes, she won the popular vote, but if you look at where the votes came from, they came from the urban/city areas, where there is a greater concentration of the type of people that would vote for her. The rural areas (among others) did not vote for her because she treated those people like throwaways.

    She lost because Trump had a game plane (of sorts) when it came to the electoral college. While she won some of the traditionally strong Democratic states and thus built a large lead, he kept winning the smaller states, thus chipping away her lead.

    Ultimately, to quote a previous president, "It was the economy" that propelled him towards victory. While I didn't personally vote for him, I certainly can sympathize what the average American who voted for him is going through financially, because I'm going through the exact same thing.

    When one party has been in power for an extended period of time, complacency sets in. Ultimately, those who are throwing the hissy fits are the ones who had gained the most from having one party in power to cater to their every whim and now find themselves having to share.

  18. I think the resistance that has risen against Trump is a really good sign of a re-engaged electorate. I don't think Trump can last, but he'll be replaced by Pence, whose views are even further to the right, though he is at least an experienced (though not from what I've read respected) politician



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