Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post-Election: The Moral Imperative of Optimism

In the wake of the election, here is what I posted on Facebook:

My friends: The election is a shock, the people we will be hearing from will not be congenial to us. What I will try to keep in mind is this: We have a moral imperative to be optimistic. No one knows what the future holds; it's too complex to offer predictions that will hold water. If we are optimistic, our chances for positive outcomes increase. We need to take joy and hope where we can find it, be it in little things or in big things. We need to take care of each other as best we can. I believe in the moral imperative of optimism!

By way of explanation, there are many. Hillary did get the popular majority – just – so the technical explanation of the skew of the Electoral College toward small, rural states is significant. It's the second time in five elections that this has happened, and the last time it happened prior to that was in 1888. This skew also biases the Senate, and is a major reason we have had gridlock for so many years, and why we have had consistent conservative politics as well. Even in the New Deal, FDR had to accept segregation as the price of progress. Let the working man (sic) advance – not so fast there, African-Americans.

Hillary also failed to turn out enough of the Obama coalition – Nelson Polsby, the great American political scientist at Cal once sat on the couch and told me, elections turn on turnout. She couldn't do it. She got youth, but not enough of them. My brother blames Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, and he has some truth there, they definitely damped Hillary enthusiasm. I blame Jill Stein, whom I revile as Ralph Nader without the charm (snark, in case you missed it.) Special place in Hell for her, she who prevented the first woman president this year, perhaps – I'd have to see where her turnout was, and if those voters would have gone for Hillary instead if Stein were not on the ticket. Or as my brother Bob says, self-righteousness might not be all it's cracked up to be. Or you could say, Hillary's lack of charisma took its toll.

But beyond all that, although there are many explanations, and this might just be me, I think the biggest thing that sunk Hillary was her taste for money, her cupidity.  I don't think she is a hypocrite, I think she is sincere, but the optics of making all that money makes her suspect.  The Obama's stayed far away from the ethical line, way inside it.  The Clinton's stood on the very edge.  I don't think they did illegal things.  But avidity for money is a funny thing.  When you're out of the White House, OK, make some money.  Make $10 million, $20 million, write books and give speeches.  Fair enough.  But hundreds of millions?  Goldman Sachs?  The King of Morocco??? Bill's $17 million deal for being Honorary Chairman of some for-profit education company? Hanging out with people you shouldn't be hanging out with?

To me, that conflict in word and deed could be the deepest explanation. It could have killed enthusiasm of the Hillary voters and fueled deep resentment among opponents. People don't look at policies, they don't think things through, they process images through the filter of their hopes and their resentments.  The image of the Clinton's just couldn't square with what their policies would be. They became super-rich while espousing the causes of the poor, and minorities.    Chelsea - what the hell has she ever done, although she was probably a competent member of the Foundation? - lives in a $9 million very large apartment in Manhattan.  She seems like a nice person in public, but living large and espousing the causes of the poor – well, I understand it, but it's bad optics. Or, as Obama would say, “C'mon, Man!”

I guess I should also mention Hillary's fractionating of the electorate, which I always found irritating as well. Even in her graceful – and for once persuasive concession speech with emotional closeness rather than distance, Hillary continued with her list of the put-upon, and still did not list the millions of the working class who were the ones she lost! The stitching together had a missed spot that wasn't small.

But, as I said, through it all, I cling to the moral imperative of optimism. Who knows what the future holds? I am deeply suspicious of the comfortable Establishment, I was very impressed by Gretchen Morganson's book on the housing bubble and how the Democrats fixed themselves a nice money stew over at Fanny Mae. I'm impressed also by my new Eisenhowerish depiction of health care would-be reformers as the academic-institutional-corporate-governmental faction, all of whose prescriptions for change incidentally benefit themselves. The mantra of Trumpism could be, away with all that!

Maybe something good will come of it all. If only.

Budd Shenkin

No comments:

Post a Comment