‘They came in the same old way’: In the midterms, echoes of 2016

RT News

The 2018 US midterm elections are shaping up to be not just a rematch of the 2016 presidential race but a rerun, as Democrats and the media seem determined to repeat the same mistakes that produced the presidency of Donald Trump.

Just look at the headlines, the polls, and the talking heads on television. Doesn’t this remind you of 2016? Once again, celebrities and late-night show hosts are beseeching their fans to vote, while newspapers pen fawning pieces about Democrats “making history,” the inevitability of the “Blue Wave,” and the racist, racist, RACIST nature of every Republican ever, especially Trump.

The only thing that has changed is that most media outlets – which had overwhelmingly endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 – don’t even bother hiding their preferences. Everything is out in the open now, stripped of all pretense and posturing. Ironically, that is one of the effects of the Trump presidency.

Much like the armies that are always studying how to re-fight the last war, US politicians appear to be obsessed with re-fighting the last election. Both major parties see the 2018 midterms as a rematch of 2016, but for different reasons. Democrats are hoping that Trump’s victory was a fluke, a glitch in the matrix, and that their inevitable march to power will be put back on track. Trump’s Republicans, however, believe that 2016 was a revolution in political affairs and that their tactics will work once again.

The “most important election ever” is a worn-out cliche, but these midterms are not your usual election. That’s evidenced by the sheer amount of money spent on them, a record $5 billion. Yet it is worth recalling that in 2016, Clinton both outraised and outspent Trump, to no avail.

“They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing,” is a quote attributed to a famous diplomat from over 200 years ago, about a French royal dynasty. It applies just as well to the American political dynasties – the Clintons and the Bushes – and their coteries, deposed by Trump in 2016.

What they did not realize then, and do not appear to realize even now, is that their tried-and-tested tricks simply didn’t work against Trump, who is not a professional politician and doesn’t react like one. Love him or hate him, agree with his policies or not, this is a fact. Rather than recognize that fact and deal with it accordingly, Trump’s critics just stuffed more wool into their ears and continued screaming “RACIST,” as if that invocation was somehow magical.

It is this sort of magical thinking that doomed the Democrats in 2016. It wasn’t just bad data, or a terrible job interpreting it, but the fact that both the media and the Clinton campaign wanted to believe their own hype. Instead of reporting reality, the media thought they could create it. So they pretended the railroading of Bernie Sanders did not happen, and confidently predicted Clinton would crush Trump. Then came the night of November 8 and the shocked, stunned long faces in TV studios and at the Javits Center.

That right there was the perfect moment for self-reflection, understanding what went wrong and where, and learning from it. Instead, Clinton blamed Russia, and the media quickly followed suit. The alternative would have been admitting they had made a mistake, after all.

Today, they argue that history shows the ruling party always loses the first midterms. Fair enough, but history also shows the incumbent party going strong when the economy is good – and by the standards accepted by the media, that’s observably the case.

So what we get are headlines along the lines of “Economy has never been better; This is why it’s bad and also Trump’s fault.”

Remember it was Hillary Clinton who first used the phrase “fake news”? Yet it was Trump who flipped the script, so to say, associating the phrase mainly with CNN and other mainstream outlets, to their perpetual frustration. It’s not the first or only attack that’s backfired.

Who can forget Hillary Clinton dismissing Trump supporters as the “basket of deplorables… racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic – Islamophobic – you name it”and “irredeemable”? She also insisted that “they are not America.” That worked out so well, didn’t it?

Who, now, remembers “Russiagate”? Yet in the months after the 2016 election, the media spoke of little else, giving airtime and column space to every grifter who pitched a narrative about “evil Kremlins” subverting “our democracy” with Twitter ads, or something. As details emerged about the origins of the Steele Dossier, its role in the spying on Trump’s campaign and the text messages between FBI lovebirds entrusted with the task… well, notice how the “Russia” story has been conspicuously absent of late?

Desperate to deny reality, Democrats and the media latched onto pipe dreams: the “Hamilton electors” will fix it and vote for Clinton (they didn’t); Trump will be impeached over “emoluments” (what?); the FBI will find “Russian collusion” (it didn’t); special counsel Robert Mueller will force Trump’s closest associates to “flip” on the president and Nixon the Orange Man right out of the White House… Nope, nope, nope. Didn’t happen.

Instead of criticizing Trump’s policies – and there is plenty there to pick a fight with – his critics settled into the mantra of “Orange Man Bad.” Though it failed in 2016, they’re betting the bank it will work this time.

“They came in the same old way, and we saw them off in the same old way,” is a quote attributed to the Duke of Wellington after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo. As best as I can tell, it’s apocryphal. The actual Wellington described the battle as “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” Which will the 2018 midterms more closely resemble? We’re about to find out.

Nebojsa Malic


America Heads to the Polls

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After a divisive campaign marked by fierce clashes over race, immigration and other cultural issues, Americans voted on Tuesday to determine the balance of power in the U.S. Congress and shape the future of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The first national elections since Trump captured the White House in a stunning 2016 upset will be a referendum on the polarizing Republican president and his hardline policies, and a test of whether Democrats can turn the energy of the liberal anti-Trump resistance into victories at the ballot box.

Striking a dark tone at a rally in Indiana on Monday evening, Trump accused Democrats of “openly encouraging millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our borders and overrun our country.”

All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 35 U.S. Senate seats and 36 governorships are up for grabs in elections focused on dozens of competitive races from coast to coast that opinion polls show could go either way.

Democrats are favored by election forecasters to pick up the minimum of 23 House seats they need for a majority, which would enable them to stymie Trump’s legislative agenda and investigate his administration.

Republicans are expected to retain their slight majority in the U.S. Senate, currently at two seats, which would let them retain the power to approve U.S. Supreme Court and other judicial nominations on straight party-line votes.

If they do win control of the House, Democrats will try to harden U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, Russia and North Korea, while maintaining the status quo on hot-button areas like China and Iran.

People fill out their ballots at Philomont Fire Station, in Purcellville, VA, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

U.S. stocks opened flat on Tuesday as investors awaited the election results. Political gridlock between the White House and Congress could hinder Trump’s pro-business agenda and raise concerns about U.S. political instability, but investors may have already priced this in.

Analysts expect pressure on stocks if Democrats gain control of the House and a sharper downward reaction if they take the Senate too. If Republicans hold their ground, stocks could gain further, with hopes of more tax cuts ahead.

‘RACIST’ CONTROVERSY

In a last-minute controversy, NBC, Fox News and Facebook on Monday pulled an ad by Trump’s campaign that critics have labeled racist. The 30-second spot featured courtroom video of an illegal immigrant from Mexico convicted in the 2014 killings of two police officers, juxtaposed with scenes of migrants headed through Mexico.

Critics, including members of Trump’s own party, have condemned the commercial as racially divisive. CNN had already refused to run the ad, saying it was “racist.”

Facebook also blocked about 115 user accounts after U.S. authorities tipped it off to suspicious behavior that may be linked to a foreign entity, the company said hours voting began.

Slideshow (19 Images)

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election with social media posts meant to spread misinformation and sow discord, an accusation denied by Moscow.

Voter turnout could be the highest for a midterm election in 50 years, experts predicted. About 40 million early votes were likely cast, said Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who tracks the figures. In the last such congressional elections in 2014, there were 27.5 million early votes.

At least 64 House races remain competitive, according to a Reuters analysis of the three top nonpartisan forecasters, and Senate control was expected to come down to a half dozen close contests in Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana and Florida.

Poll: Voter enthusiasm surges among U.S. Hispanics

Democrats could also recapture governor’s offices in several battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, a potential help for the party in those states in the 2020 presidential race.

Wrapping up the campaign in recent days, Trump repeatedly raised fears about immigrants, issuing harsh warnings about a caravan of Central American migrants that is moving slowly through Mexico toward the U.S. border.

A debate about whether Trump’s rhetoric encouraged extremists erupted in the campaign’s final weeks after pipe bombs were mailed to his top political rivals allegedly by a Trump supporter who was arrested and charged, and 11 people were killed in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Trump said in an interview with Sinclair Broadcasting on Monday that he wished he had a softer tone during his first two years in office – even as he continued his relentless attacks on political rivals.

Trump blamed the political vitriol on election season.

“I’d love to get along and I think after the election a lot of things can happen,” Trump said. “But right now they’re in their mode and we’re in our mode.”

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump planned to spend Election Day making phone calls and monitoring the races from the White House, and would watch the results later with family and friends. He had already voted by absentee ballot.

Many Democratic candidates in tight races shied away from harsh criticism of Trump, focusing instead on bread-and-butter issues like maintaining health insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and safeguarding the Social Security retirement and Medicare healthcare programs for senior citizens.

But Democratic former President Barack Obama hit the campaign trail in the election’s final days to challenge Trump, questioning his policies and character.

“How we conduct ourselves in public life is on the ballot,” Obama told Democratic volunteers in suburban Virginia.

Reporting by John Whitesides; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton, Eric Beech and David Alexander; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Peter Cooney and Frances Kerry