November 12, 2016 by hotminnie
Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump because people tend not to like being talked down to by over-privileged, out-of-touch elites.
Most commentators seemed to believe that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in for the American presidential election in 2016.But the first doubt was planted in my own mind after a conversation in New York in the spring.
Esther was a classical New York Democrat – a near-contemporary of Hillary Clinton with a special interest in the arts. Her Jewish family had been in the clothing business when she was growing up. “But the garment trade has been completely destroyed in New York,” she said. “No item of clothing in any store is now made in America. Everything comes from China, or overseas.” This led her to remarking that she thought Donald Trump had a point about the way globalisation had disadvantaged American workers.
Trump might be coarse and vulgar and inexperienced in politics, but she added: “He’d hire good people. He knows how to use talent”. Whether she changed a lifetime’s habit of voting Democrat when it came to the ballot I don’t know, but she saw the way the wind was blowing and she alerted me to its course.
Many women wanted Hillary to win because she would become the first woman president and she had earned it with her years of political investment. But I don’t believe she lost because of misogyny or prejudice against a woman leader – Americans idolised Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel’s authority reigns undiminished.
Hillary lost, at least partly, because she was perceived as embedded in the liberal-elite establishment, whom some describe as ‘the Brahmins‘. This alludes, not to the high Indian caste, but to the patrician class which once held sway over New England, ‘the Boston Brahmins‘ – rich folk, posh folk, a plutocracy who embrace ‘liberal’ values such as open immigration (since it provides cheaper servants) and the ‘Brahmins’ themselves seldom have to compete for the lower wages which often follow.
The Clintons’ wealth clearly put them into this bracket – after resigning as secretary of state, Hillary made nearly $22m in speaking fees – $1.8m for eight speeches alone – and many of her fees came from big banks and Wall Street.
And that’s the same pattern which applies to the rise of the much-disparaged ‘populism’ in so many places. ‘Populism’ is regarded as something negative, but it’s surely a reaction against the ‘Brahmins’ and the evident disparity in income between the elite and average earners. We read that, in 1948, the executive class in an Illinois town were paid two-and-half-times that of the average worker. By 2014, the bosses were being paid 486 times that of the ordinary employee.
The ‘Brahmin’ class is not just about money; it’s about an air of superiority, of disparaging poorer people or people without a college education – ‘the deplorables’, as Mrs Clinton called the Trump voters. This pattern was also apparent during the Brexit vote. It was fashionable Hampstead against decidedly unfashionable Sunderland.
The showbusiness celebrities, be it Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Graham Norton or Bob Geldof, who add their voices and lend their support to these perceived elites may only serve to alienate ordinary people further – who feel they are being lectured by a glittering and over-privileged class.
And it’s also about values, including old-style patriotism. Most ordinary people feel a sense of patriotism as a natural attachment to their heritage and tradition, including, often, their religious traditions – globalised economics and secularised ideas have tended to iron out and exclude a simpler adherence to ‘faith and fatherland’, which may be summed up in such catchphrases as ‘make America great again’.
I felt sorry for Mrs Clinton in defeat, because it was patent that she had worked so hard throughout the campaign and maybe because I noticed that, while her presentation was glossy, she had begun to walk like an older woman. I felt sorry for her when it was repeatedly said that Hillary wasn’t ‘likeable’: that she exuded entitlement, but not warmth.
Donald Trump hasn’t been very ‘likeable’, either, but women find it more hurtful to be disliked than men do. And the end of a dream always brings a sense of personal failure. It’s hard to look in the mirror and think: “I’ve done my best, and still, I’ve been found wanting.” But, as President-elect Trump says, now is the time for the binding of wounds and uniting national endeavours.
It’s evident that we face troubled times and the world needs wise stewardship. But the political class – everywhere – must learn this lesson, from Trumpism as much as from Brexit: democracy means tuning your ears to the sensibilities of the people and picking up on grassroots problems with empathy.
The pride of a ‘Brahmin’ caste will always be penalised where it has lost touch.