Sophistry vs. Political Reality

Caribupdate

It’s been more than a week since Donald J Trump was elected to become the next President of the United States, and according to the widely accepted political dictum, the Leader of the so-called “Free World’’ as well. Hence, since we, who live in these fair isles of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, are wont to consider ourselves part of the “Free World’’ — not to mention the tens of thousands of our nationals living in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’’ itself — it is not surprising that many here and in the US remain in a tizzy fit over Mr Trump’s November 8 election victory over Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.

In the days since Americans voted for Trump as their replacement for President Barack Obama, there have been protest marches across the United States, with chants of, “We reject the President-elect’’. Consternation and fear, uncertainty and confusion, have been expressed as Americans, Grenadians and others around the world, wonder aloud on whether President Trump will follow through with some of his jaw-dropping campaign rhetoric, like mass deportation of immigrants; and whether the presidency will be infused with his racist, sexist and misogynistic comments of the election campaign; and riddled with repeated — though still unproven — allegations of sexual assault levelled against the businessman and soon-to-be Republican President of the USA.

In all of this, there are some undisputed facts. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton entered the campaign, knowing full well what the rules for winning were; rules that were established more than 200 years ago. To win, and become US President, you must capture at least 270 Electoral College votes. Trump did that and more. He won the presidency — fair and square.

It’s ridiculous when some people criticise Trump as somewhat not being legitimate because Clinton won the popular vote. Indeed, she did; but, there is no prize for winning the popular vote. Just as there is no prize for hitting the most sixes and fours in a cricket game, if you end up losing the champion’s trophy and winner’s prize to your opponent.

It also reminds us of the whining from some in Grenada on the two occasions we had a 15–0 whitewash in general elections. Everyone knows the ground rules of our political system. When elections are conducted, you can win 0 seats, 15 seats or any number in between. There are no mercy rules, no consolation prizes. Yet, when polls are called and Grenadians decide to give all 15 seats to one party, you hear the losers bellowing loudly about an “unfair’’ system.

The original blunder, the original sin — if you may — for Clinton’s defeat lies with the Democratic Party. To use another analogy from sports, when you field a team, you prepare a game plan and you come with it to the contest. The Democratic Party’s game plan was primarily the hope that Trump’s unforced errors, and his off-the-wall comments and statements, will turn off enough voters, thereby handing Clinton the victory.

In every election, including right here in Grenada, parties make calculated risks. For instance, the NDC did so 4 years. Going into the 2013 elections, the NDC expelled 10 senior party members; one female strategist proclaimed that the NDC’s chances of winning were as good as a 9 out of 10. It’s well-known that the strategist and NDC were completely wrong. So very wrong, too, was the Democratic Party in choosing Clinton as their presidential candidate.

Politics has its own reality, quite separate from how passionate we believe in, or wish for, another reality. We have the option of either accepting or rejecting that political reality. The most disastrous example we’ve had in Grenada of rejecting political reality was in 1983. There were objectives problems inside the People’s Revolutionary Government and New Jewel Movement; PRG and NJM leaders of the day, unfortunately, ignored the reality that Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was widely popular and put him under house arrest, leading to a massacre on 19 October 1983, and a foreign invasion 6 days later.

With all the scientific data and information available to the Democrats, the party must have been acutely aware that Hillary Clinton faced an onerous uphill task in winning a general election. Still, the party was hell-bent on making Clinton its candidate, apparently banking on the notion that a Clinton victory — history-making as it would have been, with her becoming the first female President of the United States — would have been enough to surmount her conceivable weaknesses.

Clinton lost to Trump for some of the same reasons she was defeated by Obama in 2008 for the Democratic Party’s nomination. She became the 2016 nominee with guaranteed support from among just a few groups: elected Black officials and older African-Americans, especially southerners; the establishment folk who control the Democratic Party apparatus; and from first and second generation Caribbean-Americans. It was long determined that Clinton either was disliked and not trusted by whites, male and female, Republicans and Democrats; and that young people — the millennials — of all race and class, were not enthused by her candidacy. There is a thing in politics that some people call charisma; we believe it’s more than charisma; it’s more like an “X Factor’’, an indeterminate something, that a politician either possesses or does not. Obama has it, Clinton does not; Eric Williams had it, George Chambers did not; Eric Gairy and Bishop had it, Ben Jones did not.

Then, all kinds of extenuating issues kept adding to Clinton’s troubles; none the least was what she did or did not do with her emails while she was Secretary of State. One particular email revelation, which showed that the Democratic National Convention was actually favouring Clinton and working against Bernie Sanders — her political rival in the Democratic Party primary contest — pushed many millennials further away from Clinton.

Another example of Democratic Party shenanigans surfaced in Georgia. A few days before the Georgia primary, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed published a column on cnn.com, praising Clinton and ripping Sanders. Reed attacked Sanders as being out of step with Democrats on gun policy, and accused him of elevating a “one-issue platform” that ignored the plight of the “single mother riding 2 buses to her second job.”

However, emails released later from Reed’s office indicated that the column was primarily written by a corporate lobbyist, and was edited by Correct the Record, one of several pro-Clinton Super PACs.

In essence, The US Democratic Party rigged their internal political process to benefit Clinton, and blindfolded themselves rather than confront political reality; they cast the Clinton dice, gambled and lost.

Grenadians also, as indicated earlier, have been in the habit of ignoring political reality and believing in their own press and PR, even dabbling in sophistry. Again, one clear and recent sign of this was in February 2013.

With political reality pointing to a thumping of the NDC of Tillman Thomas and Nazim Burke in the February 19 polls, some commentators and broadcasters opted for sophistry over reality. The day after the elections, they confessed to head-scratching and bewilderment at the NDC’s utter defeat by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party.

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