It’s not that Trump failed to stand up to the world’s preeminent dictator for his: use of nerve gas in Syria, killing people with nerve gas on English soil, annexing Crimea and Georgia, invading Ukraine, shooting down airliners of civilians, or meddling in elections of Western Democracies. The tragedy is that enough Americans elected him because they felt he was the Best Choice for them. Yes, he lost the popular vote, and his electoral college win was 46th out of 58 (one ahead of Kennedy), but it was a win.
And it was a win because enough American citizens are afraid and suffering. Afraid of cultural changes and races replacing their norms. Suffering wage and wealth inequality unprecedented for over a century. Losing jobs to automation, globalization, and immigration. And it was a win because neither party produced a candidate that 46.4% of those voting, and 26% of eligible voters, found more worthwhile. And it was a win because 48% of eligible voters either did not vote, or voted to let someone else decide. Some of those 48% decided to make a statement that neither candidate was what they wanted. Some were too lazy to care. In spite of known criminal behavior by Trump, those 48% would not pick the lesser of two evils, or thought Hillary was worse.
But Hillary is not the only reason Trump won. Yes, Comey meddled in the election. Yes, she called Trump supporters “Deplorables” rather than acknowledging their concerns and trying to work with them. Yes, there were two decades of monied Right Wing Propaganda piled upon her reputation. Yes, the Russians meddled in the election. And yes, part of that meddling disclosed the bias in the Democratic Establishment against Bernie Sanders – which, when disclosed by the Russians, turned off many Sanders supporters and they failed to vote for Clinton. All of that is true, but misses the larger point.
The larger truth is that the entire Republican Party, and the entire Democratic Party, could not come up with a candidate who realized and spoke to the concerns of enough of the 26% of voters who passionately supported Trump to form a broader consensus for a better person. They could not motivate the other 48% of eligible voters to support a more competent, more ethical person than Trump.
And so we have the destruction of worldwide alliances – both diplomatic and economic – birthed over 70 years ago in the interest of fostering democracy, and the acceptance of dictatorships all over the world. This is not to avoid mentioning that Bush was asleep at the switch before 9/11, and then picked the wrong war. Nor is it to avoid pointing out that Obama was not strong enough in Syria, and accepted China’s and Russia’s hacking and trade practices without sufficient pushback. Nor is it to avoid mentioning that Clinton lobbed 60 cruise missiles at Al Queda in Afghanistan, avoided following up, and set a standard for Character in the White House that had not been seen since Nixon. When have we last had a President without flaws?
The larger problem is that we have a political system controlled by money and corporate interests which is unable to find, develop, and present excellent candidates to the American public – candidates who work in the best interests of the majority of our citizens. The money that brought us Trump, also brought us a legacy of candidates whose dominant actions (and inaction) ignored the middle and working classes for a long time (all the while speaking otherwise), and that frustration is enshrined today in the person of the current President – because there was no better option.