Death by a thousand cuts

By Hassan Arshad Chattha
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 10, 2016
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Donald Trump's supporters celebrate on the street after Trump won the Presidential Election in New York, the United States, Nov. 9, 2016. U.S. Republican Donald Trump defeated his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's presidential election. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards."

                                                                                   - Soren Kierkegaard.

Following the unexpected Brexit outcome, many at the time jokingly warned the U.S. public to think wisely before voting in the presidential elections. The only way many Americans could comprehend the outcome of the Brexit vote was by considering it as a distant second to the cataclysm that would be a Trump presidency.

That far-fetched, part joke, part hypothetical worst-case-scenario has now turned into the new American and global reality as Donald Trump clinched a historic victory from an election that was Hillary's to lose. What was unfathomable before its occurrence is now etched indelibly in history.

But there are many lessons to be learnt from this election. This is a brief analysis of how a candidate that had unrelenting support from the mainstream media, full corporate backing and considerable clout over the inner workings of her party and upper echelons of the political elite, lost to a lone wolf, a political pariah shunned by his own party, derided by intelligentsia and mainstream media, managed to clinch a victory supported by voters referred to by Hillary Clinton at one point as a "basket of deplorables."

Looking at Trump, it is now clear that he knew better than most what his strengths and weaknesses were. From the onset, he chose the most opportune time to jump into politics. Rural America was struggling to cope with the new realities of life post the second great recession as well as marginalization through corporate interests, suffocating under the increasingly neo-liberal media which they felt disconnected from and where there was little tolerance of different opinions. All of this under a Democratic president serving his second term that was rife with America adjusting to decreasing affluence and global influence and long seething racial tensions boiling over into rioting and killing.

Trump, no stranger to controversy due to his previous stints in reality TV, played to his strength as a controversial "outsider" rendering ineffective the most powerful weapon his enemies planned on using against him by using it himself, better than even they could.

He constantly managed to preemptively create, lead and ultimately control the firestorms of controversy that ensued thus turning the entire election process into the Trump Show. This strategy also had the added benefit of keeping him in the spotlight permanently and his opponents out of it. To fund a campaign to generate that much airtime and social media engagement would have cost an astronomical amount of money. Trump synergized his shrewd business acumen and reality TV experience and weaponized it to neuter his opponents' attacks and gain immense popularity.

As for Hillary, barring a few mistakes, this was her election to lose. She did little to distance herself from the image and perception of her as being the quintessential establishment insider, the status quo personified. This caused a disconnect with many voters that felt that Obama, through small yet meaningful gestures, conveyed that he was one of them.

To make matters worse, Hillary's length of time in the establishment had left not skeletons, apart from the walking dead in her closet that refused to stay put. Scandal after scandal arose ranging from the Benghazi report to the private email server and then the final straw, Wikileaks' DNC and government email hacks. This revealed not only the detailed inner workings of the DNC and Washington but also affirmed what many had feared, and Trump and Sanders had shouted themselves hoarse stating; the system was rigged.

To make matters worse, the incredible grassroots popularity that Bernie Sanders created was shattered by that very rigged system and allowed Hillary to clinch the party nomination even though polls consistently showed Sanders beating Trump through bigger margins than Hillary beating Trump.

In another case of irony, the DNC email hacks also revealed the "Pied Piper" strategy of the DNC to allow perceived "unelectable" candidates of the Republican Party to be propped up by the media to weaken the capable candidates and lead voters astray. It's now obvious that this strategy backfired spectacularly.

This election is also indicative of the tectonic paradigm shift taking place across the Western world. Not only is there a move towards the right, but there is a backlash against the ultra-liberal mainstream media and its stifling of dissenting voices as well as failure to reflect or express the unpopular sentiments of the disenfranchised. The "protest vote" phenomenon was also prominent in the Brexit decision.

Live streaming platforms and Wikileaks became the sources of truth for the people. Scathing issues such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, NSA's ubiquitous snooping, Law Enforcement Agencies' (LEAs) heavy handedness in punishing minorities, the ongoing pipeline protests and the email scandals and leaks greatly damaged the Democratic Party's reputation as it appeared centered around pursuing corporate and self-interests. One email revealed that a mail sent in September by a Citigroup executive to the DNC leadership had a list of "recommendations" for key positions months before the elections. Not only was the list largely adhered to, but Citigroup was also among the recipients of the largest bailouts by the Obama administration. Meanwhile the mainstream media was busy parodying Trump or dissecting his tweeting habits.

In the end, it was a combination of these various factors that helped cement a negative and untrustworthy perception of Hillary and the DNC that drained away those crucial votes that allowed a number of galvanized and united "basket of deplorable" to elect a reality show star to the position of the 45th Commander in Chief of the USA.

Hassan Arshad Chattha is a digital media producer and analyst from Pakistan currently based in Beijing.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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