A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted November 9th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Buffalo, New York – It was a mild, picture-perfect day for fall leaf peepers walking the tree-lined streets of Buffalo’s Elmwood Village area this past Tuesday, November 8th.
Yet along those same streets, one could also feel the stress and strain in the air.
It was election day in America – a day of reckoning at the end of one of the ugliest, most divisive and disturbing presidential races in modern American history – and one could literally read that stress and strain on the faces of people coming and going from a polling station set up in a spacious meeting room attached to the Unitarian Universalist Church at the corner of Buffalo’s Elmwood Avenue and West Ferry Street.
“We are doomed,” a young African American woman told me as she left the polling station after casting her vote for the lesser of what she felt to be two evils.
The woman went on to say that she was a Bernie Sanders supporter when Sanders was running in the Democratic primaries earlier this year against Hillary Clinton. But when she waited in line at the same polling station with several other Sanders supporters to vote for him this past April in the New York State primary, they (like hundreds of thousands of other would-be Sanders voters across the state) were told that they could not vote because they were not properly registered to cast a ballot as a Democrat.
Hillary Clinton went on to win the New York primary despite polls showing a high level of support for Sanders, who was routinely attracting audiences of a size at his rallies that Clinton could only dream of, she ultimately amassed enough delegates (including hundreds of super delegates made up of Democratic Party elite) to clinch the party’s nomination to run for president.
“So in my view, we are doomed,” repeated the young lady of the choice the country was left with after Bernie Sanders bowed out of the race. “God bless you,” she finished with a sad smile, “and God bless the United States of America.”
At a bookstore I went to a few hours later, a student in his early 20s – noticing a ‘Buffalo for Bernie’ button I was given by a Sanders supporter during that April primary the young woman and her friends were barred from voting in, and that I had pinned back on my jacket for my visit to the city this election day – said “he was the only one who really cared about us.”
What he meant by that is that, in his view, Sanders was the only candidate vying for the presidency who introduced the idea (one that was later partially adopted by Clinton) of making college and university tuition free for students like him, who are finding themselves buried in debt with school bills.
“I can’t vote for either one of them,” he added of the choice left between Clinton and Trump.
Another guy who liked like he was in his late 40s and who was listening in to my conversation with the student, said he was a Sanders supporter, but switched to Trump when, in his opinion, Sanders made the mistake of backing Clinton after losing to her in the primaries.
Sanders should have continued on running as an independent, he said, because people needed a candidate to shake up the system, and the only one left who was vowing to do that was DonaldTrump.
When I asked the guy if he was concerned about Trump’s temperament and about any possibility that a President Trump might reflexively do or say something that is terribly damaging or dangerous, I received the same kind of response that the New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd said she received when she put that question to people attending Trump’s raucous rallies.
Dowd said people told her, in so many words, that they felt so ignored and betrayed by the political system in Washington that they want to take a baseball bat to it- “And,” they added, “Trump looks like a pretty good bat.”
And obviously, as the results of the November 8th election has shown, there are far more millions of Americans feeling that way than almost anyone among the elites in politics or media imagined.
Indeed, Steve Schmidt, a mainstream Republican who worked on Senator John McCain’s 2008 campaign for the presidency, and who has shown no affection for Trump’s candidacy, said on a cable news program this November 9th that a great many political pundits, including himself, underestimated the strength of the backlash against the establishment on the party of many millions of people who feel the system has left them behind.
In the end, those people turned to an outsider like Trump who was able to tap into that sense of betrayal and anger and use it to crush the elites in both mainstream parties along the way.
Before I left for home on Election Day, I stopped by Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery where I briefly visited the mausoleum where the late U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm was laid to rest in 2005.
For those who perhaps don’t know or remember, Shirley Chisholm made some history in 1972 as the first black woman to make what would turn out to be a failed run for the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party. I arrived at the Chisholm’s grave site to find some people gathered there, honouring her pioneering bid in anticipation of Clinton being the first woman elected to the highest office in the land – a history making achievement that was not to be.
Trump’s victory represented a stunning defeat for Clinton and the Democratic elites that worked so hard over the past four years to assure her candidacy.
It also represents the possible end of anything left of the grand old Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. After leaving the cemetery, I drove around Delaware Park past a grand old home on Buffalo’s Lincoln Parkway where a crew was busy cleaning up after cutting down an oak tree that had died after growing there for more than 150 years, back to the time when Lincoln was president.
How telling that this tree, that had survived so much for the better of two centuries, came down on the day Donald Trump was elected to the U.S. presidency.
Could the same feelings of anger and betrayal bring down political elites here?
The next municipal and provincial elections in Ontario are now less then two years away.
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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders