United States: How could this happen? Some initial thoughts

A Trump rally.
A Trump rally.

From US SocialistWorker.org

Why? How? Those questions are dominating the mainstream media as they take stock of Donald Trump's victory in the presidential race.

They are dominating us at SocialistWorker.org, and no doubt our readers, too. It is hard to come to terms with the upside-down results we are seeing. But here are some thoughts.

The opinion polls and big-data analysis pointed to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton was ahead by a narrow but significant margin in the popular vote, and in enough states to win a majority in the Electoral College -- the archaic 18th-century institution that actually decides who the president is.

Clinton is still expected to win the popular vote, and in an actual democracy, that would be the end of the matter. But at this point, she is behind or defeated in key states that are likely to give Trump a win in the Electoral College.

It's a staggering turn of events -- and if Trump wins, it will upend politics in the US and internationally in ways we can't explore now.

But the "why" of Trump's success -- or rather, Clinton's failure -- is already clear. Having abandoned the Democratic Party's more liberal base to chase traditionally Republican-voting suburbanites, Clinton left the field open to Trump to claim that his reactionary program would benefit ordinary people who have seen their living standards stagnate and decline even in the period of "recovery" from the Great Recession.

Trump's promises are lies -- a pro-worker camouflage for helping the 1% with gigantic tax giveaways and the like. But Clinton's promise of continuing an intolerable status quo didn't sound like a real alternative to people at the end of their rope.

Bernie Sanders' left-wing campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination nearly upset Clinton by making an appeal to workers to challenge what he called the "billionaire class". Clinton, who has spent her political career ingratiating herself to that class, buried Sanders' message- - and Sanders abandoned any opposition after he endorsed Clinton. Trump could thus continue almost unchallenged with his agenda of channeling legitimate economic grievances into racist scapegoating.

Even when Clinton tried to counter Trump's racist, woman-hating, immigrant-bashing and Islamophobia, it rang hollow. As a personification of the political establishment, Clinton bears responsibility -- often directly -- for policies that led to the mass incarceration of African American men, the sweeping deportation of immigrants and the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have fueled anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry.

There's much more to be said about Election 2016, and even more discussion that needs to take place about confronting the ramifications of what seems more likely than not to be a Trump presidency.

But what we can say now is that Trump's showing has highlighted the urgent need for left-wing movements and political organizations independent of a dysfunctional two-party system that produced this dreadful election.