"Donald is great at the one-liners but he is a chaos candidate and he'd be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe."
Jeb’s ill fated campaign provided some great moments. His awkward attempts to spar with Trump rank amongst my favorite. Donald pummeled “Low Energy Jeb”, wearing him down and sending him toward an early exit. The battering was most ably documented by Vic Berger at a time when this whole mad sequence of events was still absurd & enjoyable.
Jeb’s enduring counterpunch came in the form of a prediction during a December debate, lunging with the phrase “Donald is great at the one-liners but he is a chaos candidate and he'd be a chaos president”. Unfortunately for Jeb, portions of the electorate where not only chaos-curious but leaning heavily toward it as a preference.
Intending the line as a bruising blow, it only highlighted Trumps single strength. He is an outsider eager to disrupt everything. In a country where political and economic power have been systematically transferred to an ever more narrow elite this turned out to be everything.
Jeb’s resume might include careful and able administration of a large state and a bloodline rare for it’s rich connection to the American Presidency but he was beaten by a man who improvised more than he prepared, abandoned insight & advice for quick instinct and promised to dismantle the status quo in every form.
Entranced by Trump’s absurd vulgarity and dumb execution, the Democratic establishment largely ignored Jeb’s prediction, even as it was validated by his eventual nomination. For their part, Democrats nominated “An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.” as Thomas Frank notes in The Guardian.
It’s important to say that many voices on the left were eager for radical change as well. Clinton saw serious competition in the form of Bernie Sanders and his promise of sweeping reforms.
Left of center voters criticized Clinton’s embrace of notorious members of America's right wing establishment, her often dumb attempts to connect to millennial voters and even mocked the cadre of sycophants willing to envision Clinton as something more than the Democratic establishment’s best hedge to maintain power and continue the process of incremental administration. She was no more “khaleesi” than the sulfuric demon that Alex Jones imagined.
While her use of a private email server was ill advised it paled in scale to less investigated controversies.
The deeply damaging hack of her campaign and leaking from the FBI were coordinated by an obscured network of enemies sharing an interest in her defeat.
The proxy attacks by way of Bill Clinton's infidelity, litigated in the 90's but resurrected by a sexually rapacious predator (assuming his own words and the testimony of dozens of victims are to be believed), flanked by serial philanderers named Gingrich, Giuliani and directed by a man accused of assault by his own wife (Bannon) were disgusting and low. Conspiracies about her physical and mental health flourished. She was accused of using murder as a tool of advancement.
In Hillary Democrats had a flawed but confident and uniquely tough candidate. Every brand of dishonest malice was directed against her. She deflected the barrage with a patience and grace that served as a powerful bullet point on her presidential resume. No civil nation would promote a uniquely unqualified male vulgarian over a more qualified women. Abusers would not be rewarded with acceptance and victory.
In the days leading up to the election the consensus view that Clinton would win was nearly unquestioned. The GOP establishment did not busy themselves with policy proposals or compromise solutions. Instead they outlined an effort to strip Clinton of authority granted her through combination of constitutional writ and the sovereignty bestowed by a voting public.
A Clinton win would have energized an increasingly influential right wing media skilled at growing their stable of consumers thirsty for content, products and spectacles that attack, humiliate and promise punishment of Democratic members of the political establishment.
Clinton’s election would not have ended in calm. For their part, members of the alt-right and white nationalist movements plotted against members of the government, media and their families, promising to spread violence and chaos should Clinton win. A right wing domestic terror group plotted to slaughter Somali immigrants after the election.
Trumps acceptance speech was interrupted by a call to assassinate President Obama. While some on the right ask for peace, others shout for war even still.
Everyone can see the system is broken. We cringe when the ruling class reaches to salve our gangrenous national ethos with slick rhetoric. We understand uniformly that our institutions don’t need cautious caretakers or experienced technocrats but people bold enough to lead radical and smart rebuilding.
We need institutions that better honor our unique talents and prepare us for well compensated and meaningful work. We need networks that are more diverse, disentangled from digital life and respectful. We need to manage a difficult consensus about our place in the world and how much blood and treasure that position should consume.
Very few Clinton voters imagined they were electing a fierce dragon queen. Instead, they weighed Trump’s promise of radical change against Clinton’s promise of careful and studied incrementalism and rejected chaos. “Sure the system is broken, but can you imagine a Trump presidency? I don’t think the country could survive.”
Clinton voters chose the technocrat over the wrecking ball because Trump’s proprietary brand of American Chaos™ was sold with a set of ingredients that have real side effects. An expansion of state power that aims at black and brown folks, promising arrest, expulsion and religious exclusion will cause suffering and a just (potentially violent) counter-response. Undoing legal progress and replacing it with religious moral authority will send us backward when civil and human rights should always move forward. Wielding the military as a tool that proudly converts international law into flayed collateral damage will diminish our global standing and makes us less safe.
This chaos will not bring us security. We can not rebuild America with a program that excludes, diminishes and assaults. Trump's policies will be rightly rejected by both the people they threaten and those who stand with them. Our institutions will erode at an accelerating rate and the chaos President will leave us less safe.
Jeb’s "low energy" swing missed Donald Trump, but it connected with a more important mark.