Donald Trump, after months of having his presidential effort hobbled by the leadership of amateurs, has finally found a grizzled political professional to lead his effort.
Her name is Hillary Clinton.
Team HRC has had three disasters in the last few days. The first two: the revelation that Clinton called Trump supporters — or “half of them” — a “basket of deplorables”, while attending an LGBT meeting/fundraiser; and a near collapse during a 9/11 commemoration ceremony in New York, from which she had to be spirited away.
The collapse came after an earlier coughing fit and swirling rumours that the 68-year-old Clinton was desperately ill, with her condition being hidden from voters.
Thus, the 9/11 collapse was a godsend to Trump. As was the announcement that she had been taken to daughter Chelsea’s apartment “nearby”. Nearby? Yep, Chelsea and hedge-fund manager husband have an apartment in the iconic Flatiron building, on an island city no one on a normal wage can afford to live on.
The collapse, and cancellation of a California visit forced team Clinton to make an announcement: Clinton was suffering from pneumonia, had been for some weeks and months, and was soldiering through it. These two disastrous occurrences were followed by a third, disastrous non-occurrence: Donald Trump did nothing stupid to draw focus. With two months to go, Fantaman/The Big Carrot/the Orange Badger has managed to master the first rule of politics: let your opponent’s losses run, give them plenty of space to keep screwing up.
[Rundle: Trump’s too busy bashing immigrants to land a blow on Clinton]
He has been rewarded munificently. A huge NY Times story alleging on good evidence that the Trump Foundation is a huge scam has gone unprosecuted by the Democrats. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns is being similarly ignored. And the attention is now focused firmly on the Clinton camp — who will be cursing their luck, for the pneumonia, a bout of bad luck.
The “basket of deplorables” remark, on the other, is an unforced error, and a product of one of the most beguiling political no-nos, the desire to suck up to a welcoming audience. For a mainstream LGBT crowd, drawn from the Progressive Class, Clinton is the goods, an organic representative of their concerns, struggles and worldview. The urge to give such a crowd what they want is overwhelming.
President Barack Obama fell into a similar trap when, appearing at a San Francisco fundraiser in 2008, he talked about red-state poor voters “clinging to their god and their guns”. The Republicans were doing too badly for it to make much of a difference. It would have in 2012. But by then, Obama wasn’t making those sort of mistakes any more.
Clinton still is, and will continue to do so, and she can’t afford to. She is, by her own admission, not a “natural” candidate, and that is beginning to show. To date, her campaign has outspent Trump’s nine-to-one, and her opponent has all but destroyed himself with feuds and a farcical campaign organisation. Yet the post-conventions benefit of all that has worn off, and he is starting to slowly convince some wavering independents who had written him off to take another look.
Clinton’s leads, in double figures in places like Colorado, Virginia and Pennsylvania, is now slipping to the 5-9% point range. Still a healthy lead, but not an insurmountable one for Trump. Florida, Ohio and Iowa, having widened to 2-3% for Clinton, are now back at evens to 1%. That would put Trump in a position to take the latter three, and have a breakthrough in one of the others, and take the presidency — or do it with Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania alone.
Pneumonia is a dose of bad luck — but as the old adage goes politics is about “being willing to be lucky”, and bad fortune demands as full a response as good. Pneumonia — if it is pneumonia, (I can’t believe I typed that) — has become an issue because it is simply impossible to trust the Clintons. The pandering to sectional voters — my favourite was when she told a Harlem radio station that she always carried a bottle of hot sauce, a soul food essential, in her handbag — has been so epic, for so long, that even things with a reasonable explanation become suspicious.
A candidate has no requirement to disclose a passing affliction such as pneumonia. But you find yourself wondering of Clinton “yeah! Why didn’t they say anything!”. That feeling has been amplified by her absence from public appearances over past weeks — which, we now surmise, may have been due to the pneumonia. But malaise has not stopped her from attending a couple of dozen fundraisers, meet-‘n’-greets with 40 to 50 donors and “bundlers” (those who specialise in lining up large groups of individuals willing to make the maximum $5000-odd contribution) — events where she has been snapped arriving and leaving, sliding out of big black cars, hotel door to donor mansion and back again.
Such events are quite possibly no less taxing than a stadium rally, but they’re less visible, and less chance of the sort of collapse as happened last weekend — at an event that couldn’t be avoided. That can’t help but make you wonder how ill she has been, and whether it is nothing other than a passing infection.
The clannishness and secrecy of la famiglia Clinton has now become a disaster for them, and that is producing some odd political effects. Donald Trump has lied so often and about so much that any demerit from that has long since been recorded. You either care or you don’t. Fresh revelations thus have a gonzo character to them — they simply add to the hilarity, confirm Trump’s candidacy as the perverse and reversed final outing of the ’60s carnivalesque spirit.
Thus, when Trump’s medical assessment — “he’s in the most excellent health” — is revealed to have come from a long-haired pink-shirted Doctor Feelgood, who wrote it out in the back of Trump’s limo, there is simply no more space in the news cycle or the wider culture for it to have any effect. When this doctor says — or did one hallucinate this? — that he certified Trump as the man who would be our healthiest president ever, because all the other presidents are dead or sick, there are no words. But his opponent gets a malady commonly produced by overwork and stress? Check the chemtrails for clues.
Hillary Clinton’s troubles arise from the fact that a certain tranche of voters — low-income, working-class people too smart to go for Trump, genuine left-progressives across all communities — know that Clinton will sell them out once in power. That’s a given. The commitment to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to supporting living minimum wages and home-grown economic development — that won’t last the inaugural winter.
President Clinton II will most likely have a Republican House to deal with, and she will make her claim to greatness by negotiating a full budget and economic program with them, as well as a more re-assertive military foreign policy. She will tell the left that there’s no choice — the country can’t run forever without a real budget, rather than the series of improvisations of past years — and define the struggle against Islamic State as in the best traditions of liberal imperialism.
Everyone knows this. Yet, everyone on the progressive left will still come out for her. If nothing else, she’ll appoint reliably liberal Supreme Court justices. Trump lost the chance to claim a crucial slice of such voters when he made his noxious xenophobia and economic nationalism into one package. To a degree, the Democrats are lucky they got Trump. Had there arisen a white economic nationalist, talking about opposing ‘political correctness’ and ‘the elites’, but with an inclusive message about race and religion — well, I think the rust-belt states would have fallen to her or him, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and that would have been that. The map would have been remade, as would have the particular alliances of the two-party system.
That won’t happen now. Trump’s victory, should it occur, appears to me to have only one realistic path, and that is through Virginia (if that falls, at 5%-plus for Clinton, Florida, Ohio and Iowa will surely have fallen, too). Of course, Trump may not want to spend time there — he’s still agitating to campaign in California. And by late October Clinton may be touring the state in an iron lung. But it will be a goddamn iron lung, ’cause she’s country strong. Whatever it’s going to be, it’s less likely to be the walkover we looked like getting a few weeks ago.
Praise the Lord for that. And watch the chemtrails.