The presidential election was over the moment the word “deplorable” made its run out of Hillary Clinton’s unguarded mouth. As the whole world now knows, Clinton told a Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender fundraiser Sept. 10, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that, and he has lifted them up.”
Hillary is road kill.
She apologized, to be sure, but no-one will believe her: she was chilling with her home audience and feeling the warmth, and she said exactly what she thinks. The “Clinton Cash” corruption scandals, the layers of lies about the email server, health problems, and all the other negatives that pile up against the former First Lady are small change compared to this apocalyptic moment of self-revelation.
You can’t win an American presidential election without the deplorables’ vote. Deplorables are America’s biggest minority. They might even be the American majority. They may or not be racist, homophobic and so forth, but they know they’re deplorable. Deplorable, and proud. They’re the median family whose real income has fallen deplorably by 5% in the past ten years, the 35% of adult males who deplorably have dropped out of the labor force, the 40% of student debtors who deplorably aren’t making payments on their loans, the aging state and local government workers whose pension funds are $4 trillion short. They lead deplorable lives and expect that their kids’ lives will be even more deplorable than theirs.
Americans are by and large forgiving people. They’ll forgive Bill for cavorting with Monica “I did not have sex with that woman” Lewinsky in the Oval Office and imposing himself on any number of unwilling females. They might even forgive Hillary for losing tens of thousands of compromising emails on an illegal private server and then repeatedly lying about it in a way that insults the deplorable intelligence of the average voter. But the one thing you can’t do is spit on them and tell them it’s raining. They’ll never forgive you for that. They’re hurting, and they rankle at candidates who rub their faces in it.
Mitt Romney’s campaign was unsalvageable after the famous 2012 “47% remark,” by which he simply meant that the 47% of American workers whose income falls below the threshold for federal taxes would be indifferent to his tax cut proposals. The trouble is that these workers pay a great deal of taxes–to Social Security, Medicare, and in most cases to local governments through sales taxes and assessments. After a covert video of his remarks at a private fundraiser made the rounds, Romney spent the rest of the campaign with the equivalent of an advertising blimp over his head emblazoned with the words: “I represent the economic elite.” Clinton has done the same thing with the cultural elite.
There are racists and homophobes in the Trump camp, to be sure. Everybody’s got to be somewhere. Trump is no Puritan, however, and really couldn’t care less what sort of sex people have, or who uses what bathroom (as he made clear), or who marries whom. He built a new country club in Palm Beach two decades ago because the old ones excluded blacks and Jews. He’s no racist. He’s an obnoxious, vulgar, salesman who plays politics like a reality show. I’ve made clear that I will vote for him, not because he was my choice in the Republican field (that was Sen. Cruz), but because I believe that rule of law is a precondition for a free society. If the Clintons get a free pass for influence-peddling on the multi-hundred-million-dollar scale and for covering up illegal use of private communications for government documents, the rule of law is a joke in the United States. Even if Trump were a worse president than Clinton–which is probably not the case–I would vote for him, on this ground alone.
That’s not why Trump crushed the Republican primaries. He won because Americans are tired of an economic elite that ignores them. Americans know the game is rigged against them. For generations Americans could make their way from the bottom to the top of the heap by starting businesses. In some periods more of them succeeded than others, but everyone knew someone who got rich more or less honestly. That came to a crashing end during the Obama Administration. There were fewer small firms with fewer workers in 2013 than there were in 2007.
Small Firms Decline in Number and Total Employment between 2007 and 2013 (Census Bureau)
|ENTERPRISE EMPLOYMENT SIZE||NUMBER OF FIRMS||NUMBER OF ESTABLISHMENTS||EMPLOYMENT|
The deplorables look at the American economy as a lottery. They aren’t sophisticated, but they’re sly: They know the game is rigged, because there aren’t any winners. The American economy is more corrupt and more cartelized then at any time in its history. Productivity growth was negative for the past two quarters, and five-year productivity growth is the lowest since the stagflation of the 1970s.
Corporations are making money by gaming the regulatory system rather than deploying new technologies. Close to half of the increase in corporate profits during the past decade can be attributed to regulatory rent-seeking by large corporations, according to a June 2016 study by Boston University economist Jim Bessen. Bessen concluded that “investments in conventional capital assets and R&D account for a substantial part of the rise in valuations and profits especially during the 1990s. However, since 2000, political activity and regulation account for a surprisingly large share of the increase.”
That’s why Trump won the nomination. Ted Cruz, an evangelical Christian, solicited the religious vote (what Hillary Clinton thinks of “homophobes”), but the evangelicals by and large voted for Trump. They want an outsider with a big broom to come in and sweep away the Establishment, because the Establishment has given them deplorably few crumbs from the table these past eight years. As “Publius” wrote Sept. 5 in Claremont Review, “A Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”
There are any number of things I would like Donald Trump to do as president. I have no idea what he will do when elected. Deplorably, we’re going to find out.
(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)