Wikimedia commons image of Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore
A week ago the election was over. After strong showings in all three debates and the Billy Bush tape falling in Clinton’s lap many polls showed Hillary winning by double digits. It was the sensible narrative that most smart people predicted all along. Trump would lose big and everything would be restored to normalcy. This would be like the Sarah Palin debacle, a footnote about this odd moment in American history, where one of the most patently ridiculous media stars in the world ran for president, and set the Republican party back for a decade. Shockingly, one of the most historically accurate polls conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News
(you couldn’t get more mainstream media) shows Trump is not only edging closer to Hillary, but he’s actually winning the race by one or two points.
Nate Silver, the election guru who successfully predicted every state but one in the last two elections, looked very stupid predicting Trump could not win the primary without endorsements. Now his formula is giving Trump a 29% chance, up from 9% a few weeks ago. The weakness of Silver’s analytics method in such an unconventional race is that it fails to factor in what happened when Brexit passed. Trump supporters like Brexit supporters are much more passionate than liberals (many of whom can barely stomach Hillary and wanted someone who represented real change like Bernie). The right will be getting to the polls with fervor and uniting together to make sure they get to election booths. They will also get the closeted socially conservative voters who secretly want the wall to Mexico, are fed up with Caitlyn Jenner and don’t see the point of letting in 55,000 Syrian refugees, which Trump has repeatedly unsubstantiatedly said could be anywhere from 200,000 to 650 million. This is why as I predicted in July and repeated on my Facebook page two weeks ago when people thought I was crazy, Trump would win.
Half the country is absolutely perplexed how this is happening. How can a pussy-grabbing narcissist with a penchant for lying pathologically be winning the presidential race? While it’s spoken about like one of the great mysteries of our day, it’s actually very easy to see how Trump does nothing but win. Like Bernie Sanders convinced half of the democratic party, Trump has made the argument that the corporations and banks that support Hillary are destroying America and that the mainstream media is owned and operated by these corporations. The fact corporations and banks do horrible things routinely, with the built in shareholders excuse, does make these conspiracy theories all too plausible to hundreds of millions of Americans. He also repeatedly calls Hillary “Crooked Hillary,” to reinforce this point so much that even generally liberal uninformed voters believe Hillary is more corrupt or prone to lie than an average politician, when by the standards of a run of the mill tea party candidate or Donald Trump she’s Honest Abe Lincoln.
It isn’t hard to ask one’s self how this came to be. What elevated obvious con artist tactics to the presidential stage? The problem begins with a population that is willfully misinformed. Out of the dust of Watergate, Paddy Chayefsky’s vision of a decaying world, the 1976 film Network, alerted us to the dangers of the propaganda machine called television. The film brilliantly illustrates how profit margins and ratings were killing the once pure (at least not driven by profit) news divisions of television networks. It was clear the viewers raised on the tube didn’t have the attention span or the desire to keep informed. They craved spectacle, and thus they glued themselves to Howard Beale, a mentally unstable “truth-teller,” screaming about the injustices of the world. This ratings bonanza lasted up until Beale began to get to the true crux of the truth, which was that nations, ideologies and individuality were all lies in the service of global banking system that operates everything. The message was too depressing. Beale lost his viewers and to salvage the network the executives planned his execution, which would take place on live television. While the film is highly nuanced and doesn’t aim to illustrate a single point, what stuck with me is that most people aren’t driven by rational thoughts and figures, but their emotions. They don’t want to confront reality head on. When Beale convinced the people to express their anger to be an instrument of change, he gripped them, but when he told them the truth that no matter what they did nothing would change, he was destroyed.
Today Network almost feels quaint. Not only is all television news done in the Howard Beale mode of commentators expressing fake outrage and distracting us from real issues, but hard news is dying and being replaced by the internet. Newspapers don’t have the budgets to cover local politics, which will almost certainly lead to unprecedented corruption. Politicians have been lying to us probably since the beginning of time, but there were once checks and balances. There was this assumption that if politicians lied, the press had the responsibility to confront the liar and find the truth. The internet’s vortex of irrational conclusions and conspiracies, along with Trump’s dismissal of the media, has made the media irrelevant, and the noble intentions of the originators of the internet to share information has been disproven. The internet became a device to watch porn, listen to music and share misinformation.
In the 90s, many charlatans and geniuses alike had grand utopian ideas about the positive consequences of information sharing on a new consumer product called the internet. They sold a lot of Wired Magazines with druggy youthful optimism that information could set us free from tyranny. There would be a truly democratic space for the expansion of thought and exchange of ideas and true equality. While the evolution of the internet has been fascinating, neither wholly good nor bad, it clearly falls short of the noble hopes early adopters had for the information superhighway. It is a purely democratic space, where everyone has the freedom to innovate and share innovations. The problem is that it does exactly what people want and gets much better at this as it evolves. Much like democracy, it is a fair but not necessarily moral system, and as it gets smarter it gets to know what we like, making us more complacent and splintered into subcultures and unaware of the thoughts and groups we disagree with. It divides and weakens us by feeding us exactly what we want. And we frankly don’t want to know the truth.
It doesn’t matter that Trump’s statements are mostly false to bald-faced lies 70% of the time to Hillary’s 25%, his confidence and tendency to say politically incorrect things without an ounce of apology projects honesty, while Clinton’s political expertise and lack of perceived sincerity paints her as a corrupt liar. Facts no longer matter to the majority of voters. It doesn’t matter that the economy has grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years, when Trump describes the wasteland of Chicago as he claims Mexico is laughing at us. Trump understands better than anyone that people no longer pick candidates based on reason. Statistics don’t matter. People vote in numbers, when they are swayed into the booths by their emotions.
This is why Barack Obama was able to destroy the seemingly clear incumbent Hillary in 2008. He extolled hope and change, while Clinton tried to deflate the optimistic message in favor of something more realistic. Hillary knew how government worked, which is something Obama needed to discover in his first term. As Obama described on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF last year, the job of the president is to make slow change. “Sometimes the task of government is to make incremental improvements or try to steer the ocean liner two degrees north or south, so that ten years from now, suddenly we are in a very different place than we were at the time. But at the moment, people may feel like we need a 50-degree turn, we don't need a 2-degree turn. And you say to yourself, well if I turn 50 degrees the whole ship turns 50 degrees and you can't turn 50 degrees. It’s not just because of corporate lobbies. It’s not because of big money. It’s because societies don't turn 50 degrees. Democracies certainly don't turn 50 degrees and that's been true on issues of race, issues of the environment, issues of discrimination. As long as we are turning in the right direction and making progress government is working the way it’s supposed to.” Hillary is promising this form of practical incremental change, and it isn’t sexy. Trump is taking his lessons from Obama’s first campaign to promise the world. This is the meaning of “Make America Great Again.” No matter how impractical his plans and lack of plans are, his supporters and many people from both sides are looking at the recent wave of terror and a country divided by racial lines, and feel the need for a 50 degree change Hillary fails to promise.
The sensationalized media on the right does paint a picture of America that is broken and irreparable. The figures do the exact opposite. By invalidating the last vestiges of responsible media and the facts and statistics they trade in, Trump has been able to paint whatever picture of America he chooses. Scarier still, the rallying cry of Trump supporters that Americans are brainwashed by the mainstream liberal media has them disseminating the conspiracy-theory ridden far right diatribes of sites posing as legitimate news sources like Breitbart and The Blaze, as well as straight-up conspiracy theory sites making the misinformed views of crazies not as valid, but more valid than the mainstream media they claim that Hillary controls and the corporations use to brainwash the public so that America’s elite can maintain their power. It doesn’t matter that Trump plans to cut taxes for these evil corporations from 35% to 15%, because Trump is immune to rational attacks.
An uninformed and misinformed population sees reason as an enemy to progress. The tyranny of the majority that Alexis de Tocqueville predicted in his study of Democracy in America in 1835 is becoming a reality, wherein he found that "Social frustration increases as social conditions improve." A majority of voters, with little to complain about as evidenced by the median income of a Trump supporter being above the national average at 70k a year, want to subvert the rights of Mexicans, the LGBT community and Islam, to regain a country they feel they are losing hold of. While there are people expressly advocating hate speech since Trump has lifted the bar on the admittedly overly sacrosanct political correctness of liberals, the majority of Trump’s minions I see posting on the internet take cues from their hero attacking Hillary relentlessly.
Without a good BS detector, by looking at the comments on my Facebook page it would be clear that Bill Clinton is a serial rapist and child molester, and Hillary has devoted her life to covering this up. Hillary wants to bring millions of refugees without knowing who they are and where they come from. Hillary orchestrated the Iran Deal (though it was enacted years after she resigned as Secretary of State) in order to ensure a nuclear bomb will destroy Israel. She knowingly funded Isis and beyond that, murdered many rivals over the course of her long political career, to hide this, as well as to cover up the bribes she gave and investments she made. While a rational person knows these claims aren’t remotely true there is enough misinformation, packaged convincingly enough to prove to many people that Hillary is the devil incarnate. In an investigation last week, The New York Times spent time with Trump supporters so stuck in their bubble that they believe if Trump loses, it means the election is rigged and many were weighing the pros and cons of toting their guns and starting a second Revolutionary War. Hillary, win or lose, should be very afraid for her life.
The distrust for institutions that began after the JFK assassination and were confirmed under Nixon, reached a boiling point in 2008, when Wall Street awarded bonuses to many of the men and women who collapsed to the economy. By 2015, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ The Big Short was a hit and the time to process how hard things were a few years ago in America, made people rightly lose faith in institutions. People seem to forget the idiocy of Ted Cruz filibustering to shut down the Federal Government. This total lack of faith in systems made it possible for Bernie Sanders to nearly win the Democratic nomination by chastising Hillary Clinton for things like her friendship with Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs that many people think should be behind bars. Even though Sanders didn’t have a clear plan to reform Wall Street, his desire to spoke to people. While unlike Sanders, Clinton is a politician that weighs corporate interests to ensure her political power, something tells me that she didn’t wait this long to ascend into the throne of the presidency to let Lloyd Blankfein make decisions for her.
Though she is a moderate candidate in most respects who has done some things you probably disagree with, she takes the responsibility of the presidency seriously. She wants to make incremental changes in government that improve the quality of life for the majority of Americans. A safe, tough, and experienced candidate who has always been relatively conservative is not going to destroy the foundations of America. The fact Hillary takes meetings with some truly terrifying world leaders who donate millions of dollars to her foundation is not the same as an irrational and unstable man who wants to tear Mexican families apart and build a gigantic wall, create a tariff and tax system that will destroy the American economy and knowingly denies doing and saying things he does on CNN like mocking a disabled reporter. He has no respect for the truth, uses the legal system to stiff people he owes money to and threatens people who criticize him publicly, while creating personal vendettas with anyone who ever dares criticize him. Are these really the traits of an effective leader who will often be weighing two bad options? Like all politicians who make tough choices, her record is not spotless. However, Hillary’s ties to strange bedfellows are a necessity in our complex global world, not evidence that her and Huma Abedin are puppets of the Muslim Brotherhood. As clear as this is to you and me, I urge you to read the mire being spread by your friends and family to do your best to change one vote calmly and rationally, because this election is going to be a nail-biter.
Jesse Bogner is a twenty-eight year old author, screenwriter and journalist. His memoir and social critique, The Egotist, has been translated into four languages. In 2013, he moved from New York City, where he was born and raised, abandoning a decadent lifestyle chockfull of substance abuse, to study Kabbalah in Israel under Michael Laitman. Since then, his work on the subject has been featured in The Huffington Post, Shatterproof Addiction Blog, The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel. He is the subject of a forthcoming documentary for Larry King’s The Spirituality Network and is currently working on a post-apocalyptic Kabbalistic novel. jessebogner.com
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