The End of a Lie

Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 Presidential Election provides a wonderful opportunity to re-examine some of the myths that have persisted during the Obama era. That era will now conclude, rather bitterly, with the man who supposedly 'ended' racism handing over the White House to a man who seems to have legitimised it once again for a huge number of people.

MYTH #1: Obama's election in 2008 would lead to the 'end' of racism.

This one was thought up in a moment of madness by British historian Simon Schama, who, like millions of other middle-aged people with an interest in politics, looked at Barack Obama and thought he was re-living his youth. Although most people of that generation gave up on 'the dream' back in about 1970, when they cut their hair and got into real estate and paid through the nose for their kids to go to the best schools, they were only too happy to re-claim the old ideology and pat themselves on the back for getting the ball rolling back in the 1960s. In fact, Obama's election was an even bigger lie than that. I sat and watched the television that evening, thinking I was watching the credits roll at the end of a Hollywood movie, and knew what must be painfully evident today, which is that people voted for Obama for the sake of their own consciences, and for the purposes of passing themselves off as 'decent' people. It was clear there and then that 'I voted for Obama' would soon be joining 'I'm a Christian' and 'I always send a thank-you note' in the long list of hilarious arguments offered every day in America as qualifications for being a 'good' person. Perhaps more importantly, 'I voted for Obama' also offered a Get Out Of Jail Free card for those who wished to vote idiotically in future elections. With ammunition like that, it's relatively easy to decline to support a well-qualified African American candidate because 'we did that before and look what happened' but vote for an idiotic bigot such as Donald Trump because 'we're taking our country back.' Back from what, exactly?

Whatever it is, they have achieved it. And how we have the horrifying, yet predictable sight of sweaty white men with names like 'Cory' and 'Todd' screaming with joy until their faces turn purple, while wearing that inexplicable and uniquely American combination of a suit and a baseball cap.

MYTH #2: The Republican Party is in crisis/chaos.

This became a popular one after Obama's re-election in 2012, and it is interesting to examine the evidence. The Republicans now control the Presidency, the Senate and, by a huge majority, the House of Representatives. They also have more Governors. If anything, their 'crisis' has only aided them in winning elections, and the 'chaos' seems to have facilitated their success in achieving power. In 2010, halfway through Obama's first term, the Republicans secured 242 seats in the House of Representatives (to the Democrats' 193). Six years on, according to the latest results, the Democrats have gained only seven seats. Of the twenty-one Republican Senators elected in 2010, nineteen have been re-elected. Only one has lost, and the other is in a very tight race where the winner has yet to be declared.

MYTH #3: America is not ready for a female President.

There might be some truth in this, but it can never be taken seriously if the only examples on offer are Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries of 2008 and her loss to Donald Trump in the Presidential Election of 2016. The only credible conclusion is that America does not want Hillary Clinton to be President. Furthermore, it was quite predictable that any Democratic candidate who was incapable of building on Obama's achievements in increasing turnout in 2008 was probably doomed to failure, unless of course the Republicans nominated a truly toxic candidate. As we have seen, the Republicans did nominate a truly toxic candidate but even that wasn't enough to generate excitement for Hillary Clinton.

MYTH #4: Thanks to Obama's impact, the Republican Party now has no choice but to reach out to non-white voters.

Indeed, which is why they have just won the White House and both Houses of Congress with a ticket headed by a man who has proposed a complete ban on Muslims entering the country, referred to Mexicans as rapists, and spoken of uppity blacks being dealt with the 'old-fashioned' way. One might also wonder how he managed to win the state of North Carolina, which was secured by Barack Obama in 2008 thanks to a huge black turnout. I haven't looked at the statistics yet but it seems logical that Donald Trump won this state (as did Mitt Romney - remember him? - in 2012) thanks to massively reduced black voting but a healthy turnout among disgruntled whites. And are we to believe that Trump swept the Midwest and the South by appealing to non-White voters? 

It is also worth pointing out that MYTH #4 was alive and well at that ridiculous conference I attended in New Orleans (see blog entry from January 2015, entitled 'The Big Not-So-Easy').

MYTH #5: The Tea Party era (2009/10) is well and truly over.

All of the Senators who won election in 2010 as 'Tea Party' candidates have just secured second terms, including Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey and Marco Rubio. They will not face re-election until 2022. As noted above, 2010 saw the election of a great many Republicans in the House, and the loss of seven seats has merely dented the party's ironclad control over that body in 2016.

MYTH #6: Nate Silver is a genius.

He isn't. Someone who predicts the US Presidential Election of 2012 correctly is clearly bright. But someone who predicts a hung Parliament as the outcome of the UK General Election of 2015, and a Hillary Clinton win in the US Presidential Election of 2016 is definitely not a genius. There will no doubt be another round of semi-apologetic, semi-defensive pieces from pollsters and political commentators, similar to those that appeared after Trump secured the nomination and they all had to explain why they'd been so smug and skeptical. There will probably be comments about huge numbers of Trump voters who were not polled, or voters who said they would vote for Hillary because they were too ashamed to admit they would vote for Trump. But isn't it part of their job to anticipate this kind of thing?

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Dr. James O.