In some paranormal circles, “dead time” refers to the period when otherworldly spirits are most likely to be active. Even though it’s not official – and really, nothing in the paranormal realm is considered official – it’s generally believed to occur between midnight and 5 a.m., with the two to four o’clock hours considered the key time. Nothing in the political arena – especially here in the U.S. – is considered normal either. But, for those who didn’t vote for Donald Trump in last fall’s presidential elections, dead time started materializing just as Tuesday, November 8 was turning into Wednesday, the 9th, and it appeared the bombastic real estate magnate was going to be our nation’s 45th Chief Executive. Trump’s entry into the race nearly two years ago surprised few; his name had arisen more than once since the late 1980s as a potential candidate. But, as he marched forward – taking out one competitor after another – the mainstream Republican Party stood dumbfounded; recoiling as each individual dropped from the race quicker than a Texan would drop a bottle of warm beer.
And, for the second time in sixteen years, Americans found themselves with a president-elect who didn’t win the majority of the popular, but still managed to garner most of the electoral votes. The vast majority of liberals and moderates were shocked – and appalled – that such an event could happen again within so short a period of time. As the Democratic National Party scratched its head, people began to question the validity of the Electoral College system that original framers of the U.S. Constitution had created as a means of spreading the generosity of power.
U.S. intelligence had surmised last summer that Russian hackers were trying to infiltrate our voting system. Now comes proof they actually did manage to sneak their way into it. Exactly how they were able to do that remains uncertain. Were votes eliminated, or were votes added? Was someone in the Electoral College bribed? Even if no one hacked into the system, would Trump have won anyway?
It’s bad enough that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump garnered their respective party’s nominations last summer. But they plowed through the campaigns with the lowest favorability ratings of any presidential candidates in U.S. history. In other words, no one really liked either of those fuckers, but felt compelled to vote nonetheless. Voting is more of a right and a civic duty than it is a privilege or an inconvenience. I have to admit that – for the first time since I began voting in 1992 – I went rogue and selected Green Party candidate Jill Stein. I knew Stein had as much of a chance of getting into the White House as I do of going a month without a mixed drink or a glass of wine. But it’s always the thought that counts, right?
I’ve always liked Bill Clinton, but Hillary never had much appeal to me. Most of my friends and relatives voted for her. A few criticized me for choosing Stein over Clinton; emphasizing that I was inadvertently voting for Trump instead. I don’t care. Opting for the lesser of two evils isn’t much of a choice. I did that in 2004, when I voted for John Kerry. Regardless, I wasn’t going to be swayed by party loyalists this time. While Trump is atrocious, Clinton is as hollow as the empty bottles of hair dye she leaves on the bathroom floor.
Yet, as the world looks at the United States – that self-proclaimed beacon of democracy and freedom – with a mix of horror and amusement, the Democrats are still patching up their emotional scars and sorting through the morass. But let’s pretend for a moment that no one had hacked into our voting system, or that any such attempts were successfully uncovered and squelched months before election day and that Trump still managed to win. The Democratic National Party would still have to undergo some serious soul-searching and understand what they did wrong. I can help and have narrowed the fiasco down to three primary issues.
Affordable Care Act (ACA) – While millions of average Americans were losing their jobs, their homes and their life savings because of the 2008 economic meltdown, the Democrats curiously focused their efforts on one issue: health care. Yes, it’s great if people don’t have to choose between a flu shot and the light bill. But ensuring that citizens will have adequate health care is not nearly as significant as ensuring they have gainful employment. I don’t know why the Democrats went off into an ideological black hole with this issue. That Democrats seemed more concerned with the ACA than boosting the economy was matched only by the Republicans’ determination to destroy the program. Both parties operated within a vacuum. Nothing else – mainly that economic thing – seemed to matter.
Inequality – The “Great Recession” almost completely destroyed the U.S. economy. So many factors contributed to the calamity, but the USD 8 trillion housing bubble burst was the primary culprit. More people than ever before were buying homes, which would normally be a good thing. But, in this case, people were getting into homes with little or sometimes zero money down. How reasonable does it sound for someone earning roughly USD 30,000 a year to buy a USD 500,000 house without making a down payment of even 5% of the structure’s value? Such a practice was inconceivable two decades ago. But that’s exactly what people were doing. And both financial institutions and homebuilders were part of the fiasco.
When I got laid off in the fall of 2010 (in the midst of a fragile recovery), my top concern was the job market; not whether I could afford to get my teeth cleaned. By the end of that year, the “Great Recession” was, from a purely technical standpoint, over. But to those of us trapped in its putrid residue, it was alive and well and sucking up our savings and maxing out our credit cards.
Between the fall of 2008 and the summer of 2009, the U.S. economy lost 8.4 million jobs, or 6.1% of all payroll employment. It was the worst job loss since the Great Depression. When people mention inequality, they’re not referring to racial or gender disparities. They’re talking about the wealth gap; that ever-widening abyss that separates the middle class from the upper class. After-tax income has been shrinking for the past three decades, while the cost of living has been increasing. Sen. Bernie Sanders made this a key point of his own bid for the presidency last year, and it certainly gained a great deal of attention. But the Democrats seemed more intent on denigrating Donald Trump’s character and highlighting his personal foibles. People working two or three jobs just to stay afloat financially don’t really care if the real estate mogul fondled a young woman at a beauty contest. They want to know if they’ll ever be able to stop working so hard for so little.
Illegal immigration – For decades politicians have said, if they want to appeal to Hispanics, they have to devise a comprehensive immigration plan; meaning that illegal immigrants from anywhere in Latin America must be treated better than others. This ideology assumes two things: that most Hispanic-Americans are immigrants and that we only care about providing sanctuary for people who emigrate to the U.S. illegally from Latin America. Immigration – legal or illegal – is NOT the top priority for most Hispanic-Americans. As a group we’re concerned about the same things most other Americans are concerned about: jobs and the economy.
Obama’s demeanor – Barack Obama is one of the smartest and most verbally gifted men ever to ascend to the nation’s highest elected office. He had the right message with the right tone. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. His demeanor is as remarkable as it is unimposing. It’s one of his greatest attributes. But, once in the White House, it became one of his greatest faults. You’d think someone who came of age in the rugged world of Chicago politics would be a little more forceful. But I felt Obama was too conciliatory, too nice, and too willing to compromise. The Republicans made it clear from the moment he won the 2008 contest they were determined to ensure he wouldn’t garner a second term. Their efforts didn’t pay off: Obama won again four years later. And, as Obama himself stated in his 2016 ‘State of the Union’ address, there was never any doubt he actually won. But the level of disrespect and recalcitrance the GOP displayed towards Obama has been unprecedented. From Rep. Joe Wilson shouting “You lie!” at Obama during the 2009 State of the Union address to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer jutting her finger into Obama’s face (later claiming he intimidated her), I can say without a doubt Obama endured more shit than any of his predecessors.
I’m certain race played a major factor in their behavior. A gaggle of (mostly) old, White men just couldn’t fathom that a half-blooded Negro actually won the presidency. So, instead of working on behalf of their constituents (that is, doing their jobs), they opted for the asshole category and tried to stifle Obama at every turn. If he tried to compromise, he’d be viewed as weak; if he talked back, they’d consider him uppity. He just couldn’t win no matter what he did. And I know he could see this. Therefore, he should have responded accordingly.
Politics in any nation is a blood sport, and the United States leads in the sanguinary nature of this. Obama needed to get ugly with those clowns. And not just ugly, but fuck ugly; telling them, ‘Look, I’m president and I run this joint. You either work with me, or I’ll use my executive powers to slaughter your ass.’ That wouldn’t have earned him any fans among the right-wing crowd. But he might have earned their respect. I’ve learned that the hard way; sometimes you just have to stand up and scream at people to get their attention and make them bestow upon you the dignity and deference you deserve. It’ll definitely piss off some people. But in politics, like in business, you have to draw the line somewhere and tell people to shut the hell up and listen. It’s just the nature of both realms. You may not win any friends like that, but you’ll generally get the job done.
Overall, though, I’m satisfied with the Obama years. One person – even the President of the United States – can only do so much. History will be kinder to him than his contemporaries. It’s already treating George W. Bush with more compassion than he deserves. If the Democratic Party intends to remain relevant in the future, they need to be tougher with their opponents. But they also need to be more forward-looking and emphasize that we can’t go back in time when things seemed simpler and calmer. Otherwise, they’ll be digging an early grave for themselves, and only their most devout followers will be in attendance.