An Olympic Presidential Election
I didn’t think I would be writing the essay, but the words on this page prove otherwise. I plan a little personal history, some political background, some sarcasm, and my take on how Donald Trump became the President-Elect.
I came of age in the New York City of the 1970’s. The Trump family were known in the outer boroughs of the City (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island), Donald Trump wanted to enter the city’s inner sanctum, Manhattan. (Public Broadcasting did a special on Frontline before the election.) Old money on the Upper East Side of Manhattan did not approve of the brash outsider. He made his mark on Manhattan, in the disco era. I was a college student. His world and mine didn’t cross.
I was interested in politics back then. The first Presidential election I could vote in was 1976. My father, Marvin Charton was a chemist had many friends and colleagues from behind the Iron Curtain (that is now a dated term). They stayed with us and acted as surrogate uncles to me. I tell you this because I learned early how important my freedoms were and how lucky I was to be living in the United States. The right to vote is sacred. When I get to the 2016 election, you’ll understand why.
I knew of Watergate, but not the role Mrs. Clinton played in the hearings as a lawyer. Would, of course, learn more about the Clinton’s later.
Fast forward to almost two years ago. It was a given Hillary Clinton would run to succeed Barack Obama as President. I couldn’t imagine who the Republican nominee might be.
Then Donald Trump announced in his palace Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue his intention to run for President of the United States. I’ll be honest. Knowing the history of Mr. Trump, I wasn’t surprised.
The next thought I had, went back to former Chrysler head Lee Iacocca’s book. He was tempted to run for President in 1988. He went to spend a weekend on Cape Cod, with his good friend, Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. “All politics is local,” Tip said. This will come up more often later. Iacocca told O’Neill he planned to run for President. O’Neill burst out laughing, “President of what?”
Tip explained you can’t run government like a business. A business at the end of the day makes a profit, or it doesn’t. Tip told him, if you don’t have a heart attack in the first year, you’ll be assassinated in the second for pushing the envelope too much. That seemed a bit extreme, but Tip was trying to drive home a point.
My first reaction was, “He has too much baggage and doesn’t stand a chance. I’ve already written satirical essays about Mr. Trump being Caesar, and I’ve enjoyed it.
I never said the Clinton’s weren’t without baggage, and in neither case did I mean luggage. We, the American People ended up with the two most disliked candidates in our history. For the record, I voted for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Not because I agree with all the party platform. Both he and William Weld were good governors of their respective states, (My neighbor, New Mexico, and Massachusetts, where I lived for four years and married someone from there). My conscience would not allow me to vote for either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump.
OK, why you ask? Much of this is my personal reaction. I will start with Mrs. Clinton. Bill Clinton is a rogue, no other way to put it. Overall, I remember things going well during his administration. This is with twenty years hindsight and remembering how my life was.
I’m not here, though, to discuss his Presidency. Where does Mrs. Clinton fit in?
I’ve written before about my former boss at the Close Up Foundation, in Washington, DC in 1976, Susi Baldwin (May she rest in peace. I miss her badly). She was also a friend and big sister.
I was helping her clean up after a hurricane in the Florida Keys in 2000. You remember 2000, where another Democrat won the popular vote, and probably would have won the election if in Florida chad’s weren’t hanging off punch ballots. I remember the BBC show Castaway when a man and a woman became a couple after a year on a Hebrides island. It showed a commercial where they were in the pool at what I think was the Breakers in Palm Beach. (You’ve heard of Palm Beach, Donald Trump has a club there. Allegedly, he lets all comers who can pay in, but I just threw that in there as an aside.) “Trish, what’s the advantage of being on a deserted Scottish island for a year?
“Not having to know who Chad was or how he got pregnant.”
That was the 2000 election, and the first time the Democrats won the popular vote but lost the electoral because Chad got pregnant and the Supreme Court handed Florida to the Republicans, to prevent chaos.
Susi knew various politicians from working for Close Up. She explained Hillary made it clear to Bill when he was done; it was her turn. Well, they moved to New York, and she became Senator.
Fast forward to 2008. Some charismatic dude named Barack Obama beat her out. He offered her the State Department. Mrs. Clinton was already planning her 2016 run.
I think she figured she would get the Democratic nomination with no issue; the only question being who her Republican opponent would be.
Then, an older gentleman came along. Growing up in Brooklyn, I could imagine him and another older gentleman having a conversation on an Ocean Parkway bench. (An old friend grew up in the same neighborhood). The older gentleman is a guy named Bernie, Bernie Sanders.
Bernie later moved to Vermont and became a Senator from there; a role he still has.
You wouldn’t have thought he would have a snowball’s chance in hell. Instead, the curmudgeonly old grandpa galvanized the millennials. I will make an educated guess, saying he might have beaten Mr. Trump.
The Democratic Primaries have a system called Superdelegates. They are party officials and office holders. The original reason for the system is sound. It was to prevent another election, like 1972, where Richard Nixon walked all over George McGovern.
As much as the old smoke-filled rooms were secretive, they would have been more logical about choosing a winning candidate. Our present primary system gets the most active participants on extreme sides. No room for centrists.
Then came the Russian hacking and emails: Providing an article for you.
It’s in Vladimir Putin’s best interest to have Mr. Trump as President. Mr. Trump has talked about NATO and the United States not protecting certain places.
One of those places is Eastern Europe, a place I have personal experience. Did I mention my surrogate uncles from childhood? Well in 1999, I got to stay with them in their homes. I was in Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Especially in Poland, they, had me so worked up about Russians, every time I looked East. Not sure what I would have done if I’d seen a Russian tank. Tell him he was trespassing? A bit like the scene of the lone man in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local?” In Poland, that’s an understatement. One of the men I grew up knowing never met his father in law because the man was a Polish army officer, who was murdered in the Katyn Forest in 1940, by Soviet troops on Stalin’s orders. My point? For Eastern Europe, fear of the Russian Bear never goes away. I have individual Russian friends, but the bear’s fur remains the same, Czarist, Communist, Putinist.
Eastern Europe fears we will leave them to it after they broke free in 1990.
Now Russia is weaker militarily. Therefore, Putin employs hackers.
Add to that Julian Assange and the leaks against Mrs. Clinton In other words; we learned how Mrs. Clinton was helped by Debbie Wasserman Schultz to make sure she got the nomination. Was Mrs. Clinton the wrong candidate? More on that when I get to the recap.
Now to Mr. Trump. Seventeen Republican Primary candidates, including him. So many candidates, there had to be a “kid’s table.” with the lower polling candidates. A bit like English soccer you can be promoted to Premier League.
Donald Trump defeated sixteen other candidates, not all of them professional politicians, including Dr. Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina.
Donald Trump managed to insult all sorts of candidates, reporters and everyone else along the way. I certainly thought Mr. Trump would fall out eventually, even thinking there might be a brokered Republican convention.
The Democrats would have been a brokered convention, were it not for the Super Delegates.
OK, we have Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton. I was hoping it would be Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump for only one reason. For those of you who are Monty Python fans, remember the beginning of the movie Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. The old men sail the old London building to the modern American office building. Imagine Bernie Sanders leading angry protestors to Trump Tower?
I’m not sure debates is the right term. I was on my high school debate team. My debates weren’t like that. These were just insulting parties, with moderators who couldn’t handle it. I mentioned the old money of Manhattan earlier. It’s why Anderson Cooper should have been removed from moderating. He is from the old Manhattan elite that already disliked Trump. I am not saying this as a Trump supporter but as a student of New York City (Really Manhattan) history.
Mr. Trump has been saying some insane things all along. Telling Mrs. Clinton she would be going to jail? Well, I will sum all that up at the end. The debates were a joke. It was personalities. Saturday Night Live skits covered it well.
My personal feelings about the candidates”:
I will start with Mrs. Clinton. No doubt she knows her way around the system. The PBS Frontline special explained both candidates very well.
Mrs. Clinton is a hard driving, not particularly likable, highly secretive woman. Friends have told me she is run partly by the financier George Soros. I’m not sure how true that is, but I do suspect through the Clinton Foundation, her interests are really for an international elite. Did she commit a crime with the emails? Maybe, maybe not, but why have the separate server in the first place? That’s asking for trouble. I suspect but can’t prove the reason for the private server was a way to have blackmail on people. Does the President have to be a likable person? There’s an interesting take. How different is that from a workplace where the two most valuable people to the organization cannot stand each other but have to work together for the sake of all?
When she used the word “deplorables,” even with my education, I thought “Wait a minute. With my build and looks, she’s talking about me!”
Mrs. Clinton tends to see the world in demographic groups, not people. She sees African-Americans, for example as a focus group, not individual people. I thought of my Rwandan buddy Anastase. Isn’t he the ultimate African-American? I suspect if Hillary met him, she wouldn’t know what to do with him.
I know someone who was a volunteer in the First Lady’s office when Bill Clinton was President. She said Mrs. Clinton has a mouth that would make a sailor blush. Talk about temperament. I find her unlikable, but that is me.
Ah, we have moved on to Mr. Trump. I know more about him from growing up in New York. Mr. Trump’s father, Fred Trump was a major developer in the Outer Boroughs of New York City. He believed in black and white, win or lose and passed that on. He expected his kids to be “Killers.”
I guess Donald was too problematic and finally had to be sent off to New York Military Academy. I’ve heard it referred to as “Reform school for the rich.”
With Trump’s bankruptcies, you have to question his business acumen. He is more skilled as the developer and the frontman, best as a showman.
I know the stories about Mr. Trump cheating contractors. Him asking intelligence briefers about the nuclear option like a little kid. The tape with Billy Bush really did it for me. My Dad raised me to honor women. If it were me, instead of Mr. Trump on that tape, I don’t want to think about how I would have explained my behavior to my Dad. Enough said.
Election Day, November 8th, 2016
I was already in shock about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. This has really been an eye-opening year. I’m calling this essay an Olympic Presidential Election because it was. Almost six hundred days, with a constant new territory.
We voted early by mail. I mentioned being proud of being able to vote and knowing what I have? This was the first time I voted holding my nose. I brought the ballot to the mail, as though I was throwing out animal poop. I am saddened I felt that way, but that’s how I felt.
Last Tuesday evening, I stayed up until twenty minutes of eleven watching the returns. I turned the TV off and went to bed when I realized the math was in Mr. Trump’s favor.
I woke up the following morning to a Trump victory. Much of what I interpreted will be no surprise. Many things will change quickly.
I will start with the whys.
- She didn’t reach out to the white working class. Read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, and I am waiting on the library list for the book White Trash by Nancy Isenberg. https://www.amazon.com/White-Trash-400-Year-History-America/dp/0670785970
- She isn’t a natural campaigner. Many who voted for President Obama stayed home this time. She might have won Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin if the African-American vote had been higher, possible Texas and Arizona, if the Hispanic vote had been higher. (That’s more of a stretch, though, because about a third of Hispanic voters consider themselves Conservative). Again, I think Mrs. Clinton sees the world in demographic and focus groups. Maybe certain groups can show, the Democrats can’t take their votes for granted any longer. Another candidate, maybe Bernie Sanders might have won, but we’ll never know.
- This NPR article will explain this in more detail.
Why Mr. Trump won:
- Again read Hillbilly Elegy. Mr. Trump is first and foremost a salesman. He’s sold these people, saying they will be getting their high paying coal and steel jobs back. He may not do anything for them, but he was paying attention to them.
- Read this article.
- Trump again, ever the salesman. The Political Science major in me figured the crazy statements and lack of organization would do him in. Proved to be wrong. I’m moving on to a general, more personal take.
My personal view:
By all logical polling and the past of political advisors and pundits, Hillary Clinton should have won easily. This was not a typical election
Much has changed. The twenty-four-hour news cycle and the Internet. You can live in an echo chamber and only hear your own views. Possibly the closest we have to this election is Andrew Jackson when his people trashed the White House at the Inaugural celebrations.
The parties are very separated. My beloved friend, Susi Baldwin, explained working for Close Up in the 1970’s, she saw how you became friends with people across the aisle because you were in Washington more than your district. That changed, and now you see the other party as the enemy. No compromise. Look what happened to President Obama. There are no guarantees for President-Elect Trump because he so picked on the Republican Party. How much of what he wants to do will be opposed by his own?
Did Bigotry Drive the Trump Victory?
To a certain degree yes. He didn’t disavow the bigots and of course the statements about Mexicans, Muslims, and Women. The Guardian had an article about this and Wikipedia shows the vote. McDowell County, West Virginia. Almost all white. Voted for President Obama in 2008, President Trump this year. So while racists and Anti-Semites have jumped on the Trump Express, they are not all like that.
As I stated earlier, all politics is local. My friend Anastase considered voting for Mr. Trump. Why? His feelings about the Clinton Administration. Another Mexican-American friend liked the idea of Trump University. My point? I mentioned earlier why I couldn’t support either major candidate. It went from person to person. I know many would like easy labels, but they aren’t there.
Donald Trump seems to know more about what he was doing in his campaign than the rest of us. I kept waiting for the Trump Candidacy to crash and burn. The polls and Electoral College strategy should have pointed to Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Trump turned all this on its head. Who needs political pundits and polls? They turned out to be wrong, anyway. Did the polls find those people in Appalachia and the Rust Belt?
Did Donald Trump think he could win the election?
After what was reported from the meeting with President Obama, reading the subtext, I don’t think Mr. Trump thought he would win. I think he figured he would just barely lose, setup Trump TV and be a permanent gadfly.
I have other opinions of what happened:
- One subject I enjoy now politics and genetics. As we discover more about genetics, how does that affect politics? Here is one article I’ve read. Conservatives are driven more by fear. Maybe not all, but many, Instead of Liberals I like to use the term, Adventurers.
I like to give the following example: A Salvadoran restaurant has opened in your neighborhood. Is your reaction, “Hey, that’s nice, let’s try it,” or “Oh no, does that mean they are going to move in and the neighborhood is going to change?” Maybe a touch simplistic. In this election, the more racist Trump supporters voted out of fear, but how many Trump supporters strictly wanted a change. How many Clinton supporters wanted status quo? How many voted out of fear of the other, Trump.
- John Clesse with his therapist and later friend Dr. Robin Skynner wrote two books together. Families and How to Survive Them and Life and How to Survive It. In the first book, they had a chapter they called Politics and Paranoia. What drives people in politics and people to take part in political issues? In the second book, they talked about the United States. They thought celebrities had become our nobility. You could say that’s why Donald Trump won. He’s the celebrity. I can only ask, which celebrity will the Democrats put up in 2020? Mrs. Clinton couldn’t compete with that.
The protests? Keep something in mind. Forty-six percent of the eligible electorate stayed home. The first question I want to ask the protesters: Did you vote?
The choices were stark. Many have called me to the task, for saying we have to try and make this work. If we don’t, what’s the alternative?
Allow me to start with a caveat. I said endeavor to make it work, not surrender. There is a point, where my back will go up. I will stick up for those who take a Trump victory as license to be cruel. I remember an advertisement growing up with Bill Bradley and Walt Frazier of the New York Knicks. We can either live as brothers and sisters or die as fools. A stark choice, but there it is.
What are our choices?
- We need to ask some serious questions. What unites us as Americans? Do we avoid politics, and just concentrate on going to Walmart and watching NFL Sunday Ticket? Can we work together?
- If we can’t work together, what then?
Again, as a student of history, we in the United States, had a division once. A President was elected, then rejected by a good chunk of the populace, especially in the American South. A man named Abraham Lincoln. We had to be reunited by force. West Virginia became a separate state, because of it. In the Border States, like Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, it really was neighbor against neighbor. If we don’t come together now, there is no separate region to tell the other side to get lost. You really will be wary of your neighbor. There is a place that happened. It’s called Northern Ireland. My friend Anastase has to flee a nation, where one million people murdered each other in three months. Do you really want that? Do you want guerrilla groups making trouble for one side or the other?
Do the dissatisfied say “It’s not my country, I’m leaving? In my case, I will be sixty years old December 7th, possibly too old to start again somewhere else.
We’ve never had an election like, this nor do I want to live through another one.
I will probably write more, but let’s at least see what happens? The President-Elect isn’t inaugurated for another two months. Lots of time to sit back and think. So enjoy your holidays and worry about it in 2017.
My overseas friends have basically said, “Michael Charton, explain yourself!” Well, I tried. Ask questions! I hope I am not hit by lightning. Well, at least that’s the way I see it!