The Day America’s Luck Finally Ran Out

It was early on the morning of November 9, 2016 that the unthinkable was revealed — the flimflam real-estate mogul and reality TV star, one Donald John Trump, was declared president-elect. America’s luck had run out.

This article is both a cliff notes and an expanded version of a Politico piece written by Michael Grunwald December 4, 2016. Those parts of Grunwald’s piece are italicized.

This article is edited and expanded by James M. Ridgway, Jr.

A Long Run Of Relatively Good Luck

It was early on the morning of November 9, 2016 that the unthinkable happened — the flimflam real-estate mogul and reality TV star, one Donald John Trump, was declared president-elect. America’s luck had run out. Until that fateful moment America has undergone a long streak of mostly good luck, or at least survivable luck.

The first great piece of good luck occurred at Yorktown Virginia in October of 1781. The American War of Independency, a semi gorilla affair, had been grinding along with no end in sight. But at Yorktown massive French aid in the form of a large French fleet in blocking position at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and a significant contingent of French troops in support of the American Continental army at Yorktown won a decisive victory. It did not seriously damage the mighty British war machine, but it did finally convince the British government that the cost of the war was not worth the effort.

The first bout of bad luck came with the second war with England, the War of 1812. But as with the first fight with the mother country, the British soon tired of the cost and sued for peace. By far the darkest period of American history was the American Civil war that would go a long way toward bringing freedom truly for all. In this blood bath between North and South, the conflict produced some 600,000 deaths, an enormous percent of the American population at the time.

Yet President Abraham Lincoln held fast against the Sothern alliance of states, the Confederacy. From the end of the American Civil War in 1865 America managed to grow ever stronger through numerous minor wars and two major world wars. Along with this period of growing strength, America’s civil rights continued to improve for all segments of society — blacks, Latinos, women and gays.

Worldwide Industrial Production Redistribution

Following the calamitous fighting of World War Two, 1942–1945 being America’s period of participation, a huge manufacturing aberration was manifested. Indeed, it came to be that much of worldwide industrialization was concentrated in the United States. This created between 1945 and roughly 1975 a middleclass bubble.

Since the mid Seventies this manufacturing and middleclass bubble has been naturally unwinding to the effect of causing great consternation among particularly the White working class — traditional union Democrats. This difficult unwinding process was then greatly exacerbated by the financial and housing collapse of 2008.

The Propaganda Machine

For some 30 years a right-wing propaganda machine led by Fox News and a Breitbart style of conservative talk radio has been spewing out a steady stream of red meat conspiracy yarns to the disaffected, severely undermining the public’s confident in the national government. This muck was especially aimed at enhancing the fears of White men to the notion that they were losing their special social standing as demographics more and more favored minorities as well as by the ever growing power and independence of women, particularly in the workplace.

The 2009 Republican Strategy

On January 29, 2009, the whittled-down and beaten-up Republican minority in the House of Representatives gathered for a strange celebration of defeat.

The Democrats had just drubbed them at the polls, seizing the White House and a 79-seat advantage in the House. The House had then capped President Barack Obama’s first week in office by passing his $800 billion Recovery Act, a landmark emergency stimulus bill that doubled as a massive down payment on Obama’s agenda. Even though the economy was in freefall, not one House Republican had voted for the effort to revive it, prompting a wave of punditry about a failed party refusing to help clean up its own mess and dooming itself to irrelevance.

But then the Republicans decided that party power was far more important than what was good for the country. If need be they would throw the nation under the bus to get their way

“I know all of you are pumped about the vote,” said Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip. “We’ll have more to come!”

The Republicans were pumped because they saw a path out of the political wilderness. They were convinced that even if Obama kept winning policy battles, they could win the broader messaging war simply by remaining unified and fighting him on everything. Their conference chairman, a then-obscure Indiana conservative named Mike Pence, underscored the point with a clip from Patton, showing the general rallying his troops for war against their Nazi enemy: “We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time! We’re going to go through him like crap through a goose!”

This strategy of kicking the hell out of Obama all the time, treating him not just as a president from the opposing party but an extreme threat to the American way of life, has been a remarkable political success. It helped Republicans take back the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016. This no-cooperation, no-apologies approach is also on the verge of delivering a conservative majority on the Supreme Court; Republicans violated all kinds of Washington norms when they refused to even pretend to consider any Obama nominee, but they paid no electoral price for it — and probably helped persuade some reluctant Republican voters to back Donald Trump in November by keeping the Court in the balance.

What has distinguished the opposition to Obama is not just the intensity — a GOP congressman shouting “You lie!” during a presidential address, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s admission that his top priority was limiting Obama to one term — but the consistency. Before Obama even took office, when official Washington was counseling cooperation and moderation for a party that seemed to be on a path to oblivion, Cantor and McConnell laid out their strategies of all-out opposition at private GOP meetings. And on just about every issue, from Obamacare to climate to education reforms that conservatives supported until Obama embraced them, Republicans have embraced that strategy.

Meanwhile Donald Trump had been running his own anti Obama campaign — Obama is not an American. Without Republicans realizing what he was about, Trump was looking to cash in on the GOP’s crude strategy.

President-elect Trump was really the ultimate anti-Obama, not only channeling but embodying their anti-Obama playbook so convincingly that he managed to seize the Republican Party from loyal Republicans. And in the process, he has empowered an angry slice of the GOP base that has even some GOP incumbents worried about the forces they helped unleash.

The Last Straw

In addition to the erosion of the middleclass economic bubble, the conservative propaganda machine dispensing poisonous lies among the electorate and undercutting the public’s faith in government and the crude Republican strategy of just saying no to everything Obama (regardless of how much his policies might benefit the nation), it fell to the archaic Electoral College system to actually lift the Donald to the presidency.

How much Trump’s operatives understood to what extent the Electoral College favored Trump’s prime target of rural working class Whites in flyover country is not clear. If one goes by the despondent sentiments of Trump’s team during the early evening of the balloting, it is hard to believe that they saw the Electoral College devise as their ace in the hole.

Other Complicating Reasons for Hillary’s Loss

There were so many reasons for Hillary’s defeat, having little to do directly with Trump. There was of course the FBI’s investigation of Hillary’s e-mails — twice. A second probe announced by Director James Comey within days of the election. Then there was the fickle factor whereby the electorate seems to always want to pick the next president as one having personal traits of an entirely opposite nature of that of the previous president. And certainly no one could be more unlike Obama’s sincerity, integrity and humanity than Donald Trump. Then there is the fact that Hillary seemed to forget the decisive mantra of her husband — it’s the economy stupid. Hillary projected no clear economic message.

And finally there were the protest change factors that were sort of blurred as being one and the same. As one female panelist of color said on Meet the Press: It is likely that many Democrats in key battleground states voted for Trump, not because they wanted him to be president, but simply as a protest vote, secured in the belief that Hillary was certain to win.

If the latter factor is true and the world by some miracle manages to survive four years of a Trump presidency, then after a term of Trump’s lying and conniving, these votes will almost certainly swing back hard to the next Democratic candidate. Meaning that the notion that the Electoral College favors Republicans is a mirage.

The Hard Reality

In any event that is all history at this point. The hard fact is that America’s and the world’s luck has finally run out. While the American Civil War was horrendous, as were both World Wars, what makes the election of the impetuous, vindictive and highly erratic Mr. Trump so dangerous is that never — during the no misstates can be made nuclear age — has the United States’ and the world’s fate been in the hands of such a capricious personality.

It is terrifying to contemplate what might have been the outcome of the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis had Trump and not Kennedy been president.

As it now stands with Trump, Mr. unreality reality TV personality, about to slip into the role of commander-in-chief, the doomsday clock will almost certainly jump to one second to midnight. This being perfectly in line with the ultimate law of the universe — probability balance. Meaning that all that human kind has achieved is very near to being offset, wiped away in a mere few minutes of fiery Hell, as thousands of nuclear tipped missiles so long in waiting are allowed to have their way.

Jim Ridgway, Jr. military writer — author of the American Civil War classic, “Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis.” Christmas gift, yes!

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