Words can ere express my reaction to yesterday’s stupefying event. Everyone got it wrong, which is small consolation to those of us aching to press a more progressive agenda, one that tackled climate change, inequality, and economic security—for all.
But the people had a different idea, or at least half of them. They’d had enough, of what we’re not quite sure. All they knew was that their man Trump promised to fix things. Things deemed “corrupt,” “rigged,” and otherwise stacked against the “forgotten man,” and they do mean the male of the species. Add white to the mix, of course. Their vote was surely a middle finger to the America conveyed to us by the Democratic Party, the mainstream media, and the political and economic establishments.
Before the presumed defeat of Donald Trump much was written about the demise of the Republican Party, which seemed fractured and struggling to define itself and its constituency. However, it’s surely the Democrats who must wonder what they’ve lost.
I’d begin with Thomas Frank’s critique of the party of Clinton, in his book Listen, Liberal to his recent columns in The Guardian, including today’s. He writes:
The even larger problem is that there is a kind of chronic complacency that has been rotting American liberalism for years, a hubris that tells Democrats they need do nothing different, they need deliver nothing really to anyone – except their friends on the Google jet and those nice people at Goldman. The rest of us are treated as though we have nowhere else to go and no role to play except to vote enthusiastically on the grounds that these Democrats are the “last thing standing” between us and the end of the world. It is a liberalism of the rich, it has failed the middle class, and now it has failed on its own terms of electability. Enough with these comfortable Democrats and their cozy Washington system. Enough with Clintonism and its prideful air of professional-class virtue. Enough!
The key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all secured by Trump, are populated by white men who used to belong to unions and make stuff for other Americans. They were solid Democrats. But the new party of Bill Clinton kissed them goodbye, as the Clintonites opened their palms to Wall Street seeking dirty ducats. Clinton and his New Democrats pushed “globalism” and “free trade” and a newly minted meritocracy long associated with the GOP.
Meanwhile, this party of Clinton paid mere lip service to people of color and their struggles. Bill killed “welfare as we know it,” kicking millions of African Americans from welfare rolls. Nor did the party lift a hand for labor. Indeed, unions were taken for granted, as their memberships declined. No wonder erstwhile union members cast ballots for the man who promised to make America “great again.”
Did Trump merely push the right rhetorical buttons to win support? Did he create 50 million suckers? Or, will he make good on what he said? Will he deport millions, end the Affordable Care Act, impose high tariffs on goods built elsewhere, scuttle the climate change agreement, rescind environmental regulations, build the damn wall, and unleash legions of angry white men to harass “others”?
We’ll find out starting January 20.