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Making her story

November 15, 2016

It’s been seven sleeps now and it’s long past time to accept that last Tuesday wasn’t just a bad dream. After January 20th next year, when the President of the United States speaks on the news, gone will be the grace and dignity and intellect we’ve seen for the past eight years, replaced with incoherent pronouncements delivered through a pouting mouth that looks like an anus. You couldn’t make it up.

The day after the US election I wrote to a friend in Seattle, offering my sympathy and a big hug. She replied later with her two main conclusions. The first, like mine, was that the Democrats had wildly underestimated the mood in the Rust Belt. The second was that perhaps it had been too much to expect the country to elect its first female President in the first election after the first black President. Or perhaps, she conceded, Clinton was simply the wrong female candidate.

Back in the 1980s, in order to rid herself of Ken Livingstone, Maggie Thatcher legislated the role of the mayor of London out of existence. In the 1990s, when Tony Blair legislated the job back into existence, Ken Livingstone, by then a London MP, was inclined to believe he was getting his job back. But the last thing “New “ Labour government wanted was an Old Labour mayor of London. Blair told Livingstone he could not be the Labour candidate for the job. “Screw you,” said Red Ken. “I’ll run as an independent.” He won easily.

What Blair, who hated what he saw as the troglodytes of the Labour Party, could not fathom was the innate sense of fair play ingrained in the British psyche. Maggie got rid of Ken’s job. Blair has brought Ken’s job back. Who’s job is it? It’s Ken’s job, of course.

I’m not sure why, but I was reminded of that this week as all the post mortems began.

I’m not saying the US people thought the presidency was Hillary’s job, no questions asked. Nor should it have been. Obviously there were a lot of questions asked and the answer to most of them was apparently No. (Even though, like Al Gore in 2000, Clinton did win the popular vote.) But the Democratic National Committee certainly thought it was her job.

I don’t know whether deals were made in 2008 after the young Senator from Illinois triumphed over her in the primaries. I rather suspect they were. In fact, I’m sure Obama promised then to do everything he could to get Hillary elected when his time was over. It was, after all, only fair. She’d put in her time. She’d done the graft. She’d turned herself into, as Obama pointed out in his convention speech, the most qualified candidate to ever run for the job of President of the United States. It was her turn.

But if there was one thing most Americans can agree upon it’s not liking coronations. A clear sense of entitlement rubs them the wrong way, too. The launch of Clinton’s campaign last year seemed like the former and much of her campaign this year had more than a whiff of the latter.

Last winter I suggested that a lot of women, desperate to see the first female President, might have been looking longingly at Elizabeth Warren. And why not? She has the same amount of government experience that Obama had when he ran for the nomination in 2008. Why not Warren? Because it wasn’t her turn.

It wasn’t Obama’s turn in 2008 either, but the Clinton machine was going to make damn sure that didn’t happen again. Not with Warren. And certainly not with some socialist pensioner.

Whilst I disagree with almost everything Trump said during his horrible campaign, he was right about one thing: it was rigged. And the mainstream media played a decisive role in this. Not only did they give Trump billions of dollars of free airtime, because he was “good TV”, but on days when Clinton was hard pressed to get a few hundred people in a room, there was absolutely no coverage of Bernie Sanders filling stadiums just as big as those filled by Trump. (Obviously the hopeful message of Sanders was not as entertaining as Trump’s hate speech.) Could Sanders have beaten Trump? I don’t know. A lot more young people would have turned up to vote. That is certain and it could easily have made the difference.

The person I feel for the most is Obama. Rumour has it he personally intervened to talk Joe Biden out of running. (Would Biden have beaten Trump? Almost certainly.) He kept the promise I’m sure he made in 2008. When he – and even more importantly his wife Michelle – spoke at the convention and at Clinton rallies the sun (metaphorically) shone so much more brightly than it did when the actual candidate spoke.

It is no wonder that images like this suddenly began to appear.


If she’d thrown her hat in the ring at the convention I’m not entirely sure she wouldn’t have stolen the nomination from Clinton.

Of course, Michelle Obama would never have done that. She and the President were keeping his promise. They really, truly gave it their best shot. (And who knows? If it hadn’t been for James Bloody Comey, perhaps today I’d be writing about President-Elect Clinton. Comey fed right into the Trump narrative and it seems Bernie Sanders was wrong when he said at the first Democratic debate that the American people were sick and tired of hearing about Clinton’s emails.)

But the bad guy won. And now Barack Obama is staring helplessly at the prospect of every progressive thing he somehow managed to accomplish in the past eight years being wiped off the books in the next twelve months.  I feel a lot more for Obama than I do for Hillary Clinton, whose political career is now officially over. (Although I was filled with admiration for her gracious concession speech. Like Gore in 2000, many wished she’d been able to connect so honestly with people before the campaign was over.)

A couple of days ago I watched the first interview Elizabeth Warren gave after the election debacle. She said it was up to the Democrats to be the grown-ups. None of this hell-will-freeze-over-before-we-allow-this-guy-to-pass-any-legislation that Obama faced from the Republicans for six of the eight years of his presidency. If Trump surprised them by putting forward a proposal that would be good for the American people, the Democrats should support the proposal. On the other hand, they must make it clear that hell really would freeze over before they would support any of the racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic promises he made on the campaign trail. Oh, right, that is how grown-ups are supposed to behave. (The sight of Paul Ryan looking like a kid who’d just been let loose in a candy shop on election night made me feel physically ill.)

At the end of the interview Warren was asked if she was already thinking about her running mate in 2020. She laughed and said no, that for the next two years she was going to be concentrating on making sure the Democrats won the respect of the US electorate in order to ensure they took as many seats as they could in the mid-terms.

I suspect Elizabeth Warren is actually thinking about running mates in 2020. I suspect many people are encouraging her to do so. Although probably not as many as those currently praying Michelle Obama will run.

As truly historic as it would be if the first female President of the United States was a black woman and as thrilling as I find the prospect of Michelle Obama debating Donald Trump, she is not going to be running in four years, folks. I cannot wait to see what she will be doing in four years (or less), but that will not be it.

It could indeed be Warren 2020 and that would certainly not be a bad thing.

But if you asked me (not that anyone is asking – and why should they, given that I got everything wrong this year except Clinton’s in-the-bag nomination?) no one should be taking their eye off Corey Booker.

The barnstorming speech Booker gave on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention may not have rattled the rafters quite as much as Michelle Obama’s speech two nights later, but it rattled them as much as Obama’s speech to the convention in 2004 – four years before he ran.

Worth a watch.

From → Columns

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