They need to address the politics of class and reform the constitutionby Anatol Lieven / November 23, 2016 / Leave a comment
The Democrats, and related parties in Europe, need to recognise that while Donald Trump deserved to lose the US presidential election, Hillary Clinton did not deserve to win. That she could not achieve a smashing victory over an opponent as personally compromised and politically empty as him is a condemnation not only of the condition of the country and its working classes, but on the candidate herself, her programme and the party leadership that she represented.
Clinton has attributed her loss to the FBI statement on her emails in late October. But its main cause was likely the millions of working-class Americans who voted Democrat in 2012 but who this time voted for Trump or stayed at home. And there are wider issues. Twice now in the past 16 years, the candidate who won the popular vote has lost the election. The distribution of Senate seats favours a tiny proportion of the population and for a generation, the results of the elections for the House of Representatives have had less and less to do with the national popular vote. In other words, parts of a constitution drawn up by late 18th century patricians and slave-owning landowners may not be appropriate to a 21st century democracy and may indeed not be democratic at all. This is an issue of critical concern for the future of the US political system, to which I will return later.
The meaning of Trump
Trump’s victory, terrible though it is, has a positive and liberating side for the Democrats, as does the level of support that Bernie Sanders received during the primaries. Ten years ago, the idea that a self-declared socialist could be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination would have been called insane. But Americans are sick of the focus-group approved establishment candidates of the past generation. They are prepared to vote for much more abrasive, even foul-mouthed candidates with radical programmes. Trump is proof of this and future Democratic presidential nominees can do it too.
In their different ways, both Trump and Sanders have proved that it is possible to run without being in the pocket either of the party elites or the lobby groups with which they are intimately bound up. Trump won by gambling that, despite the deep anger with him among Republican elites, ordinary Republican voters (and others) would vote for him. A future Democratic candidate running against Trump and his like can make the same calculation about the elites and lobbies that dominate the leadership of the Democratic party.