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Donald Trump pointing his finger

It may seem almost illusory now, but back in 2001, after the horrendous events of 9/11, much of the world reached out to the U.S. in an unprecedented show of warmth and sympathy. Governments and leaders from across the globe – some of them longtime adversaries such as Iran, Libya, North Korea, China and Russia – offered up words of support and solidarity that would have seemed unthinkable just days before, and in some cases made concrete offers of material help, such as the Cuban government’s offer of use of its medical facilities, airspace and airports.

The sheer scale of the attack along with the number of countries (78) who lost citizens in the carnage of the World Trade Center’s destruction gave the event a sense of being an attack on the world community as a whole. Indeed, the day after the tragedy, the French daily newspaper Le Monde ran the headline: “We are all Americans.”

Of course, that sentiment could never last – not in all quarters at least – but nevertheless it seemed to offer up the hope of a more unified, less combative world order. The sight of the most powerful nation on earth having to endure such an unspeakable act of death and destruction showed the world that despite all the bravado and implied superiority, America was, as they say, human after all.

Then came the wars.

Initially, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was seen by and large as a legitimate response to the cataclysmic events that took place on that infamous day in September. The aim of destroying al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization behind the attacks, and the removal from power of the Taliban, who’d been harboring them, seemed perfectly justified. It wasn’t long, however, before those early goals were significantly expanded and the perception of colonialism and nation-building began to creep in.

But it wasn’t until the U.S. invasion of Iraq two years later that the international well of goodwill truly began to run dry. The rush to war against a country that had no links to the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and that posed no direct threat to the U.S. appeared at best to be wanton act of aggression aimed at correcting a perceived past mistake (the decision not to remove Saddam Hussein from power after the 1991 Gulf War), and at worst – and more realistically – a blatant attempt at nation-building in a strategic area of the Middle East by the Bush administration’s powerful and highly influential neoconservatives.

In switching its foreign policy objectives from counter-terrorism to unilateralist regime change and nation-building, the U.S. brought upon itself a renewed level of hatred and distrust, not only in the Arab world but in many corners of its traditional allies, replacing what had only a couple of years earlier been a near-global sense of compassion.

However, after the disastrous Bush years, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 saw the U.S. attempt to rebrand itself in the eyes of the international community as a nation that was willing to listen to and cooperate with other countries, rather than bully or dictate to them. The arrogance of the previous administration’s “Either you're with us or you’re against us” swagger was to be replaced with something closer to “We’re all in this together.”

And indeed, in the ensuing years the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were drawn down, didacticism was replaced by diplomacy, and gradually the country began to regain its footing as a credible partner in the world. Obama wisely avoided getting the U.S. embroiled militarily in Syria’s civil war – despite his notoriously clumsy “red line” warning to President Bashar al-Assad – and when the situation in Libya required action, he shrewdly jockeyed for the British and French air forces to lead the brunt of the military action, thus avoiding the optics of the U.S. having lapsed back into its perceived ‘War on Islam.’

But while Obama was criticized for being far too soft on foreign policy for years by those on the right of the aisle – and not without justification at times – he nevertheless managed to reign in America’s reputation as a nation of trigger-happy adventurists and helped project an image of it being a pragmatic force for betterment whose foreign interventions were limited only to those it considered just and morally upright. Or in the president’s words: “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

Then came Trump.

In a staggeringly short span of time – before the Obamas’ U-Haul had even disappeared from view from the windows of the West Wing – the newly elected billionaire businessman has managed to turn all of that damage control on its head.

If the Islamic world – and that’s roughly a quarter of the world’s population – still harbored any suspicions about a supposed U.S. policy of ‘War on Islam’ they were surely confirmed when Trump signed his executive order temporarily banning travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Any justifications from the administration that the ban is not anti-Muslim, but rather solely to protect American citizens from Islamic terrorists, ring deafeningly hollow. Of the 94 people that have been killed in the U.S. by jihadist attacks in the past 15 years, all were perpetrated by either American citizens or legal residents and none of them originated from the seven countries on the president’s list. Not only that, the perpetrators of 9/11 – the worst terrorist attack in world history and the deadliest foreign attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor – came from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon, none of which were included on the administrations list of “countries of concern.”

But this executive order not only provoked outrage and drew furious condemnation from the Muslim world, but also from many of America’s staunchest allies. Huge protests erupted in cities across the globe, including London, Paris, and Berlin, as heads of state unanimously decried what they saw as a discriminatory ban on individuals based on their nationality and religion.

Then a few days later came the “Australia incident.” During a phone conversation with the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Trump allegedly became angered when Turnbull refused to back away from a previous agreement between the two countries – made during the Obama administration – whereupon the U.S. would accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Trump's solution? He hung up on him. The leader of one of America’s most faithful allies, yelled at, demeaned and dismissed like an insubordinate contestant on one of his game shows.

And it’s just the beginning.

The upshot:

Astonishingly, in less than two weeks, Trump and his right-wing ideologue advisors – notably chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Stephen Miller – have managed to transform America’s global image from what many saw as a beacon of progress into something fast becoming a global pariah.

It would be a little more reassuring to imagine this initial chest-thumping braggadocio as something akin to an inept and petulant child trying to assert itself at its new school. Unfortunately, however, everything points to the sad realization that the school now has a new bully.

Donald Trump pointing his finger

So here we are, at the beginning of 2017, with a brand new president in place. That’s a president who has never previously held elected office, never enlisted in the military, and who was chiefly known for the highs and lows of his past big business exploits and as the host of a popular reality TV show.

If a Hollywood scriptwriter had written a movie treatment about a bumptious billionaire who, after deciding to run for the highest seat in the land, breaks every political rule in existence, insults huge swaths of the electorate he’s courting, and in the final stages of the race is exposed in a lewd scandal over his appalling treatment of women, it would surely have been laughed at. By that I mean it would have been considered an uproarious script full of enormous comic potential that could easily be turned into box office gold – especially in an election year.

As it turned out, it was the drapes in the White House that were turned to gold, and the reality-defying storyline ended up doing just that.

There are those in the corridors of power who would consider this mind-boggling turn of events as a mere – if highly peculiar – anomaly, spurred on by the allure of the cult of celebrity. After all, these days everybody’s a big star on their own Twitter profile, and fake news reports and misinformation frequently get more eyeballs on them via Facebook, Twitter, etc., than real stories from the mainstream media.

But that explanation is, of course, a cop out. There are very real, very human reasons why Trump defied all expectations and now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They are the same reasons behind the underestimation of the Leave campaign during Britain’s Brexit referendum, and they are the same reasons we’re seeing a rise in popularity of far-right parties in many countries across mainland Europe.

All of those results are rooted in a disaffection and alienation from the political status quo. Too many people in too many places have been left feeling abandoned or ignored by those whose job it is to govern their lives and livelihoods. Too often, elected officials seem more concerned in furthering their own political careers than actually affecting positive change in the lives of those who entrusted their votes to them. Too often, campaign promises turn out to be carrots on sticks luring the hopeful to the voting booth. Too often, a change in leadership from one major party to another turns out to be about as consequential as changing one’s profile pic on Snapchat.

The turgid state of politics in Western democracies seems to have now finally reached a tipping point. Those who’ve felt sidelined or left behind are now willing to shake up the system and “drain the swamp,” even if it means cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face in some instances.

Hillary Clinton felt their wrath during her primary race against the contentious populism of Bernie Sanders. She felt it again, more painfully, in her campaign for the presidency. Brussels felt it from 17,410,742 Britons. And many countries in Europe will be grappling with it in forthcoming national elections this year.

The upshot:

Neither the Democratic National Committee nor the Republican National Committee can afford to dismiss Trump’s election victory as a quirk of circumstance. The days of political dynasties and family entitlement are coming to an end (just ask Jeb!), and until they begin some meaningful soul-searching and serious structural/ideological reorganization, the possibility of what happened in this election cycle happening again remains very, very real.

They’ve now both been taught a hard lesson: that idly presiding over perpetual partisan gridlock, before ambling matter-of-factly over to the Senate dining room for a little grilled Atlantic salmon is a surefire recipe for disaster. Let’s hope they learn from it.

When Hillary Clinton’s vaunted “Blue Wall” of Rust Belt states turned out to be a modern-day Maginot Line, the country suddenly had to come to terms with the stark reality that for the next four years it would be governed by President Donald J. Trump, leaving many in the Democratic Party shaking their heads, wringing their hands and pulling large clumps of hair from their scalps as they grappled with their angst in stunned disbelief.

“How did this happen?” they cried, most of them willfully unaware that all of the signs for something like this happening were in place at the very start of the primary process.

In 2015, both of the two main political parties saw a maverick candidate emerge to challenge the establishment status quo and give voice to millions of people around the country who’d had enough of feeling ignored, left behind or otherwise sidelined by the so-called “new economy.”

A bullish stock market and a rising S&P 500 index don’t mean a whole lot to people who struggle to pay their bills, work two jobs for wages that have stagnated, and have watched as their communities have unraveled at the seams in a data-driven economy that no longer needed them. They held no value for either party, except for when an election rolled around and they needed their votes.

Now that Trump has ridden that wave of populist anger and unrest all the way to the White House, the Democratic Party will be forced to look inward and ask itself some hard questions and confront some uncomfortable truths. And at the end of it all, it will have almost certainly learned nothing.

Before the primaries began, they knew what a divisive, polarizing figure Hillary Clinton was. They knew of all of the baggage that she would inevitably drag along with her were she to be their nominee. And they knew that she represented the farthest thing from change imaginable to the electorate at large – a quality that is almost de rigueur for any candidate after a two-term president leaves office.

They knew all of this and yet the Democratic National Committee still connived and colluded to make sure that their ultimate party-insider finally got her moment in the spotlight, hobbling Bernie Sanders at every opportunity and alienating a large swath of potential Democratic voters in the process.

The fact that Sanders outperformed Clinton in potential match-ups with Trump throughout the nomination race mattered not a jot. Their arrogance and complacency led them to believe that they were wiser and knew better than the passionate thousands who turned up at stadiums to hear Sanders speak. So what if Clinton’s rallies more often resembled somber coffee klatches. Who needs enthusiasm when you’ve got a war chest of millions and a political dynasty behind you?

The irony, of course, is that Sanders’ message of cleaning up special interest corruption in Washington and his anti-trade deal rhetoric were two of the main political planks that Donald Trump employed so successfully in his bid for the presidency. They both got it, Clinton and the Democratic Party didn’t.

Clinton had no message – unless you count her sleep-inducing promise of “incremental change.” In the general election she made her campaign solely about her opposition to Trump. Of course, defining your opponent in the eyes of the electorate can be an effective political strategy if done right. The problem was that Trump didn’t need to be defined by her or anyone else for that matter. It was all out there on display for everyone to see, and he never made any effort to be anyone other than himself, even if it got him into trouble at times (many, many times). So without any substantive reason to justify her candidacy, she made her campaign about voting against someone instead of voting for someone. And not enough people were prepared to do that.

The upshot:

Would Sanders have pulled out a win against Trump had he clinched the nomination? While we’ll never know the real answer to that question, it’s almost certain that he would have had a far, far better shot at doing so than Hillary Rodham Clinton ever had. And this time around, there were no greasy-palmed superdelegates available to push her into the winning column.

History should be kind to Bernie Sanders. He was the right candidate at the right time, brought down by the very establishment elitism he was seeking to depose, and Clinton’s loss will only serve to cement his status as the great Democratic president that never was.

He may have lost the nomination, but it’s fair to say that he ultimately won the argument.

Let’s be perfectly honest about this election: whichever of the two most loathed candidates in modern political history wins the presidency it’s only going to be a one term (or)deal.

Hillary Clinton, through a mixture of luck (hers, not ours) and chicanery, managed to squeak through to claim/rob her party’s nomination and now looks poised to move back into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But those stars won’t ever align the same way again, and after four years of hawkish foreign policy, pandering to her corporate sponsors, and a trickle of “incremental change” (i.e. no change), she’ll be chopped liver.

That’s assuming, of course, that her significant health issues enable her to even make it that far. And if anyone imagines that to be just another wacko internet conspiracy theory, they really need to dig a little deeper and start connecting all of those dots out there.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is perhaps the ultimate wild card. He’s supported and funded politicians from both the right and the left during his business career, and will brazenly switch positions on major issues at whiplash-inducing speed. What four years of President Don – were he to miraculously manage to reverse his current polling and emerge victorious – is anyone’s guess. But it’s probably safe to say that it would be controversial, tumultuous and have most of the voting public reaching for a fistful of Xanax by the time 2020 rolled around.

In fairness, to those who might argue that Trump doesn’t have enough intellectual horsepower or worldly knowledge to assume the presidency, let’s not forget that this country elected George W. Bush as leader of the free world…twice. That would the same man behind the following classic quotes:

“It was not a war against Islam or the country of Islamia.”

“More and more of our imports are coming from overseas.”

“Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream.”

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

That, of course, is not to excuse Trump of anything. It’s merely to illustrate that we somehow survived eight years with a dangerously ill-informed sock puppet in the Oval Office without the sky falling in, so one term of the unthinkable happening might also prove survivable, prior to the electorate uttering the ultimate two-word dismissal (no, not that one)…you’re fired!

Of course, there’s always the option to vote for one of the third party candidates, such as Jill Stein or Gary “Aleppo” Johnson, both of which would represent respectable, conscientious options for voters whose politics aligned with theirs. But, like it or not, neither of these single-digit-polling candidates are going to be the next president of the United States. While a vote for either may satiate a desire to make a principled choice, ultimately it will have no effect on the outcome of the race – other than perhaps to tip the balance in favor of one major party candidate over the other in some of the tighter battleground states.

There’s also the option of writing Bernie Sanders in on your ballot paper in the few states that allow it. But again, that would constitute an honorable, self-respecting gesture that had little or no meaning save for the personal satisfaction afforded to the individuals doing so. When Bernie was stiffed of the nomination, the country lost the only moral, ethical candidate with a real shot at the presidency this year. But as sad – nay, tragic – as that may be, writing him in at this point in time would be the voting equivalent of putting a message in a bottle.

So if a third party candidate isn’t ringing your bell, and you’re finding it impossible to distinguish any meaningful degree of “lesser” between the two major party evils, perhaps it’s time to write this election off as a bust and skip it altogether.

Doubtless there are many who would raise their arms (and voices, and social media accounts) up in horror at the very suggestion of not casting a ballot. “But it’s your democratic responsibility!” they’ll cry, quivering and aghast, so soon forgetting how fast and loose the rules of the democratic process were played during the primaries. Back then, “democratic responsibility” was was a relative term, and with regard to the shamelessly undemocratic DNC, it still is.

“But if you don’t vote for candidate X, you’re letting candidate Y win!” they’ll hiss, with shaming, accusatory glares. But if your olfactory glands judge both candidates to stink worse than week-old fish, why should you care?

Yes, voting is a right, a privilege, and an important personal statement…and so is abstention.

The upshot:

This election season has been nothing short of extraordinary. From the truly bizarre to the downright corrupt, we’ve seen our democracy turned on its head and put through the wringer, and at the end of it all we’ve been given a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

So perhaps – just for this anomaly of an election – choosing to wash one’s hands of the whole sorry business isn’t such a bad idea. Whomever you do or don’t vote for, the fact is that one of those two lamentable options will end up in the White House. But perhaps in taking yourself out of the equation just this once, you’ll be able to wake up on November 9th with a clear conscience and the knowledge that whatever fiasco unfolds over the next four years was none of your doing.

Roll on 2020.

This year’s presidential election should have been a cakewalk for the Democratic Party.

In Donald Trump they faced an opponent that is the most inexperienced, ill-informed, and most ridiculed candidate to ever have been foisted upon the American public. He brazenly changes his stance on positions (and back again) almost hourly; he’s a serial self-harmer, routinely undermining his candidacy with controversial gaffes and petty spats and squabbles; and his unfavorability rating has reached historic numbers.

And yet somehow – mind-bogglingly – Clinton and Trump are neck-and-neck in what’s proving to be an extraordinarily tight race.

Wait, what?

In fact, in the latest CNN poll, their survey found Trump actually topping Clinton with 45% of likely voters compared to her 43%. Furthermore, the most recent Quinnipiac poll found that four key swing states (Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania) also extremely close, with Trump slightly ahead in Ohio and tied in Florida. And now the latest Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project tells exactly the same story. All things considered, this is an astonishing situation/predicament for the Democrats to find themselves in.

This is especially true when you consider that this comes on the heels of a particularly bad month for Trump – which in itself takes some doing – dragged down as it was by a major shakeup of his campaign staff, defections of high-profile Republicans to team Clinton, the Gold Star Family wrangle, and a (continued) barrage of negative headlines from the Clinton-friendly mainstream media. And yet despite all of that, Clinton’s post-convention 8 point lead is now…gone with the wind.

So how did we get here?

Well, aside from the malfeasance of the DNC and a hefty dose of election fraud, it really comes down to those most undemocratic of Democrats…those pesky old superdelegates – many of whom, one imagines, are crying in their beer right now, recalling those heady days of the nomination race when Bernie Sanders consistently outpolled Clinton in hypothetical match-ups with Trump by large margins. The writing was on the wall back then but they chose to ignore it, acting willfully blind to Clinton’s manifold liabilities and doing what so many before them had done to their cost…underestimated Trump.

Compounding all of this, of course, are her two most recent controversies.

At a fundraiser on Friday, fully aware of the press corps in her midst, she made the extraordinary decision to publicly malign half of Donald Trump’s supporters as “a basket of deplorables.” In doing so, she not only insulted all of Trump’s supporters, but also a lot of undecided voters as well – voters she doubtless would very much like to have the support of.

It was the kind rookie gaffe you’d expect to hear from a novice politician who’d yet to figure out how to filter what they think from what they actually say, not from a seasoned campaigner famous for her buttoned-down approach to the media. Alienating large segments of the electorate when you’re running for office is unsound behavior to say the least.

Talking of which, on Sunday we witnessed an even bigger brouhaha due to her early departure from a 9/11 ceremony in New York. Initially dismissed as her being merely “overheated” by her campaign staff, this was later updated to a diagnosis of pneumonia by her personal physician. But the real damage came from a piece of video footage shot by a passerby showing an almost catatonic Clinton being propped up curbside, then tottering insensibly and falling almost headfirst into a waiting vehicle.

The optics of this couldn’t be worse. At a time when issues surrounding her health are rampant on social media, this will only serve to further fan those flames. And whatever the truth about her health, this latest episode does nothing but reinforce the suspicion that we’re not getting the whole story.

Coming so close to the election, does this give the impression that she’ll be able to hit the ground running…or just hit the ground?    

The upshot:

With every possible advantage given to her, Clinton has still somehow managed to turn what should have been a romp to the finish line into a down to the wire nail-biter.

Clinton likes to blame her polling woes on not being a “natural politician” (an excuse she also trotted out back in her 2008 campaign, incidentally), but the simple reality is that a great many people dislike her and, more significantly, an even greater number of people simply do not trust her.

And while it may be true that she’s not a natural politician in as much as she doesn't have an appealing or engaging personality, she is most certainly a natural politician when it comes to the more shady aspects of that profession.

So keep crying in those beers, superdelegates, because if she does lose in November, the lion’s share of the blame will fall on your not-so-super shoulders.

Yes, the ominous “October surprise” – the very mention of which can send presidential candidates reaching for their anxiety medication – looks like it’s set to make a comeback. And this year it’s Hillary Clinton who’ll need to have her Xanax at the ready.

An October surprise – the name of which sounds deceptively fun-filled – is the political equivalent of an improvised explosive device, timed to detonate right before voters start heading for the polls, thus providing maximum impact at a moment when the time left for meaningful damage control has all but run out.

Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of the WikiLeaks media organization, isn’t particularly fond of Hillary Rodham Clinton. He’s called her a “war hawk with bad judgment” who gets an “emotional rush out of killing people.” And earlier this year he tweeted: “A vote today for Hillary Clinton is a vote for endless, stupid war.”

For her part, Clinton has long called for WikiLeaks to be shut down and for Assange to be extradited to the U.S. on espionage charges (the mishandling of sensitive information, of course, being something the former Secretary of State knows a great deal about).

Earlier this summer, Assange offered a foretaste of what he had in store for the Clinton cabal when he released a host of hacked DNC emails – timed precisely to coincide with the start of the convention – which ultimately resulted in the forced resignation of controversial DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, along with several other DNC staffers. Assange had even foreshadowed that release several weeks prior in an interview with Britain’s ITV network.

So Assange’s warnings of a slew of further damaging leaks to come should be dismissed by only the most foolhardy.

So far we’ve been given no indication of when those new leaks will take place, but except for a potential drip-drip of revelations over the coming weeks, perhaps timed to coincide with notable moments such as the presidential debates, it’s safe to assume that the most damaging information will hit the media sometime in October – early enough for the damage to resonate but late enough to thwart any attempt at recovery.

While this new material is certain to contain further revelations from hacks into the DNC, Clinton’s unauthorized private email server, and the Clinton campaign itself, perhaps the most explosive disclosures are likely to come from its hacks into the Clinton Foundation.

Judicial Watch recently released 725 pages of new State Department documents that have already shown a glaring number of examples of apparent “pay-to-play” influence from special-interest donors to the Foundation during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.

In the case of the Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain, for instance, we know that Clinton had declined to meet with him after he’d requested an audience with her through “normal channels” at the State Department. However, after longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin then appealed through Clinton Foundation executive Douglas Band for the meeting to take place, it was miraculously arranged within a mere 48 hours. The Kingdom of Bahrain has reportedly given between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, while the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program, set up through the Clinton Global Initiative, has contributed $32 million to the CGI.

This, however, may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Since we’ve yet to discover just what Assange has up his sleeve, the impact it may have on November’s election is impossible to gauge. But with the controversies over the private email server and the Clinton Foundation already hanging like an albatross around the neck of one of the most disliked presidential candidates in a generation, any further bombshells are likely to be crippling.

Furthermore, if these new revelations prove to be cataclysmic, we could very well find ourselves in uncharted territory. Were they to be damaging enough to preclude her from continuing on as the Democratic Party’s nominee for the presidency it would result in a situation that is without historical precedent – unless you count Ross Perot abandoning his independent bid during the 1992 presidential race, before jumping back in again a couple of months later. But his was a third party (the Reform Party) effort, meaning the election of a Democratic or Republican president that year was inevitable even if he’d remained out of the race.

The Democratic Party’s charter and bylaws state that the DNC is responsible for filling vacancies in the nomination for president and vice president (though in reality, of course, thanks to Assange’s previous leak, we now have proof that their current remit also includes filling the presidential slot from the outset).

But while many establishment cronies might lean instinctively toward a Joe Biden, an Andrew Cuomo, or perhaps even an Al Gore as an alternative, it would be inconceivable that they could deny filling – or at least offering – that vacancy to the man who came so very close to claiming it for himself to begin with. With over 13 million votes, victory in 23 states, and more than 1800 delegates awarded, anything but a straightforward handover to Sanders would likely be met with open revolt.

And considering that the Vermont Senator polled consistently better against Trump than Clinton did throughout the primary race, such an eventuality should in fact be met with unbridled enthusiasm by the party elite.

The upshot:

Clinton has said of WikiLeaks that it “tears at the fabric” of responsible government. But let’s be honest, it does nothing of the sort. What it does do is tear at the fabric of corruption and collusion that so often lurks in the dark corridors of power. It unveils the most base and underhanded practices of those whom we have placed our trust in. And the bottom line is, if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.

WikiLeaks has already revealed that the DNC had plenty to hide, and Clinton – one of the most distrusted political figures of the modern era – must surely have a closet full of skeletons that’s stuffed to bursting point.

Just what Julian Assange’s October surprise will be is…well, a surprise. But however much political havoc it may wreak upon the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton and her party, they’ll only have themselves to blame.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Rarely in modern U.S. elections do we get to witness the astonishing sight of a massive grassroots insurrection against the mainstream establishment parties as we’ve seen in this year’s Democratic and Republican primary races. In both instances, the leaders of those uprisings were initially dismissed, ignored or simply sniggered at behind hands by the condescending chattering classes that had seen it all before and knew so much better…until they didn’t.

In the case of Donald Trump, who threw the political playbook right out the window and made just about every naysaying political pundit on the planet eat their words, his improbable quest to achieve his adopted party’s nomination ultimately, and against all odds, proved successful. But for Senator Bernie Sanders and his equally quixotic journey, the movement that he spearheaded fell tantalizingly short of that goal.

Many of the reasons for that, of course, are well-documented. The Clinton campaign’s blatant complicity with the Democratic National Committee to undermine her rival is no longer social media rumor but proven fact, thanks to the WikiLeaks email exposé. And countless examples of election fraud in states all across the country continue to come to light. Throw in a happy-to-oblige mainstream media, a horde of financially-incentivized superdelegates and a whole lot of industry lobbyist cash, and it’s not hard to see why the Vermont Senator was eventually denied the top spot.

But whatever the causes, the reality is that Hillary Clinton – by fair means and foul – is now the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

This left many Sanders supporters at something of a crossroads, especially after the man they’d pinned their hopes and dreams on was now officially endorsing the candidate they’d so reviled throughout a long and increasingly bitter contest.

Hard data on what those voters now intend to do with their support is impossible to accurately quantify, since available polling information on the subject varies wildly. On July 25th, for example, the Washington Post ran a story touting a poll from Pew Research (the nonprofit, nonpartisan and non-advocacy think tank) that claimed to show 90% of Sanders supporters now backing Clinton, while a more recent article in FiveThirtyEight touted data that claimed a third of his supporters were still not “with her.” So the only fact we know about that percentage is that we still don't know what it is.

But however those numbers eventually shake out on the ground, it’s clear to all but the willfully blind that a significant percentage of Sanders voters have thrown their support – however grudgingly – behind the former Secretary of State. How then, after so much animus and acrimony, could so many foot soldiers of the “revolution” simply abandon a future to believe in for a future that, until very recently, they passionately did not?

Could it be, for want of a better term, a case of Clinton Stockholm syndrome?

Without doubt, the vast majority of those newly minted “with hers” would not only have been aware of the deceptive practices and dirty tricks perpetrated against their beloved candidate – and indeed their very votes – they would also have been downright furious about it. Moreover, for the past 12 months or more they’d joined the rallying cry against big money in politics and put twenty-seven of their hard-earned dollars where their mouths are to help counteract it – only to give up the fight in the space of a few short weeks and back the candidate who was the biggest recipient of lobbyist cash of any candidate in either party…by a very, very wide margin.

According to Merriam-Webster, Stockholm syndrome is “the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.” But if we were to switch out the words “hostage” for “voter” and “captor” for “vanquisher” it might go some way into perhaps explaining the baffling volte-face of so many ardent adherents of the bern factor.

Psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg, who originally defined the term, describes it this way: “The hostages [voters] experience a powerful, primitive positive feeling towards their captor [vanquisher]. They are in denial that this is the person who put them in that situation. In their mind, they think this is the person who is going to let them live [save them from Trump].”

The upshot:

The level of heart and soul invested in Senator Sanders’ campaign by his supporters was a marvel to behold. This was truly a grassroots movement of the people, by the people, for the people. To witness, then, so many of those same voters offer their allegiance to the antithesis of everything they’d been fighting for and against boggles the mind and demands explanation.

So yes, perhaps after being browbeaten and outfoxed by an establishment foe that utilized everything that’s wrong with modern political campaigning, those voters simply acquiesced to the fact that they were once again under the thumb of politics-as-usual. And with the specter of a Trump presidency darkening their sky, Clinton the vanquisher had now, reluctantly, become Clinton the protector.

A bitter pill to swallow to be sure, sweetened only by her promise to embrace many of the policy goals that their candidate had so valiantly championed…but don't hold your breath on that one.

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