On Trump: The things we failed to see

Hillary always faced a more formidable rival than the media was ever willing to grant us

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By George Marenya

I was at a friend’s house when his sister said she liked Donald Trump because he is kichwa ngumu (stubborn). That got me thinking. If this woman, thousands of miles away in Nairobi’s Greenspan, was so enamoured of Trump, for no apparent reason at all, how many more of her lot existed out there? More so, how many of such women (and men) were American voters?

So it came to pass that when results were finally in, Trump had triumphed, after all. Where had the Clinton machine gone wrong? What was her strategy? Did it backfire? Was it always a bridge too far? Did Americans just get tired of kizungu mingi?

As Donald Trump never tired of reminding us, Clinton has been in politics for 30 years. What else did she want to do that she had not done in those three decades?

In fact, let us just calm down, shall we? The good lady had been in White House for a good eight years. People have often complained of the Bush-Clinton dynasty. You see the heart is never neutral. We can shout about ideals and all those other things but, at the barest minimum, we are human and we cling to our biases. So, as Kenyans would say, Clinton alikuwa anabeba watu ufala (she took people for granted).

Then the media did not help matters by being openly biased against Trump. They would not tell you that Trump has always talked about being President. Since the 1970’s his line was always something like he doesn’t really want to be President. But, at the same time, he does not see anybody else ready to do the job the way it should be done. That must have been his short hand for saying, “well, one day I will step up to the plate”.

Then there is the small matter of his businesses – especially the Casinos of Atlantic City – having all but collapsed. But what was interesting was how he negotiated his way with bankers to bounce back and stay afloat. Besides, there is his renewal of New York by refurbishing and putting up new buildings in the 1980s.

Next was his rocky marriage life. Even this did not break him. An ordinary mortal would have wobbled badly under the intense and personal media scrutiny. Most men would have been badly shaken by these multimillion-dollar divorce settlements. Not Donald. So Hillary always faced a more formidable enemy than the media was ever willing to grant us.

When one thrives best when under intense heat, when he can deflect any scandal with the wave of a hand, when the same fellow has an uncanny capacity to make predictions without explaining how he has made them, it is wise to watch out. Poor Hillary – and the rest of us – did not.

Historians will soon tell us whether the Clinton people ever read the story of Barrack Obama’s campaign titled Audacity to Win. Here, Obama’s chief strategist, Richard Plouffe, outlines, in great detail, how Obama destroyed both the Clinton machine and the Republican might to clinch the Presidency. Of note is the fact that the team believed that the war is a state-by-state contest and not a nationwide campaign. Hillary did not pay much attention to the so-called Rustbelt states.

In these states, the former American industrial heartland, one is bound to come face to face with the ugly side of globalisation. You may preach to voters here with all the idealism you wish but at the end of the day, all they know is that they once had jobs in local factories. They see those jobs no longer exist. They were shipped away to Mexico and China. You may call that Business Process Outsourcing or give it other fancy names. But all they know is that they no longer have the dignity that comes with a decent income. If you tell those people that all this is thanks to shareholder greed and that you have a magic wand for all their woes, they are bound to listen. In fact, in communication psychology, it is a well-known fact that you are bound to have sympathy with those who show an earnest disposition to offer a shoulder to cry on. Simply put, before you lecture me, empathise with me. You need to first show you understand my pain.

The reason Bernie Sanders swayed so many young people was because he sounded unusual; he was not “Washingtonian”. Clinton came through as the establishment candidate.

Then, in the name of God, why did she use a private email account and server as State officer? Is it really true that she was merely naïve? Really? It does not help to have the baggage of dishonesty hanging over your neck running into Election Day.

Africans have a base and uncanny way of expressing such things. They will simply tell you it was not meant for you, that you tried to cross a bridge that was too far. This seems to have been the case with Clinton. Running roughshod over Sanders was narcissistic. She paid for it. Moving forward, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) must move quickly and hire the now famous Michael Moore as a consultant or internal critic. How on God’s Earth was he able to so accurately predict not only that Trump would win, but to so neatly foresee the reasons?

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