Demanding Progressive politics in America

A profound anxiety has swept across our country. The American public, not yet having developed the necessary language or confidence to explain it, only feels it.

Gore Vidal, one of our era’s greatest political commentators and essayists, also felt “it” more than eight decades ago.

Vidal had a close relationship with his grandfather who served as an Oklahoma senator during the Great Depression’s harshest years. In 1932, when thousands of jobless World War I veterans and their families marched on Washington D.C. to demand their promised “army bonus” payment, Vidal, only seven at the time, recalls driving to the capitol building with his grandfather and going through a camp the protesters had set up.

“They stoned his car,” Vidal wrote. “Ever since, I have always known that the famous ‘it’ which can’t happen here will happen here.”

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Bonus Army camp, Washington D.C., 1932.

In 1991, when 50,000 unemployed construction workers “protesting lack of work, hope,” descended upon New York City Hall, Vidal again felt the same supernatural presence “ever closer to hand.”

“We are now in a prerevolutionary time,” he mused, warning that we will soon be “faced with the fury of those who have been deprived for too long of decent lives.”

Americans now feel the same sense of dread, which, leading up to the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton viewed herself as a remedy of.

Mark Leibovich, a press-corps member who followed Clinton’s campaign for two months, said the then-candidate did not come to view herself as a breaker of glass ceilings, but rather “as a barrier, a bulwark against the impossible alternative” or; Trump’s America.

Clinton, who is well-known for avoiding the press, gave Leibovich an unusually salivating quote for the American public to chew on during one of their last interviews together in mid October.

“As I’ve told people,” she said. “I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse.”

But Trump beat Clinton to the punch. His campaign was loudly centered around ending the apocalypse, not preventing it.

When Trump gave his closing statement during the third and final presidential debate it was mostly angry static. With no speech writer, he rambled, badly. Trump jumped from topic to topic conveying the calamities of a terrible “American carnage,” a term he would not use until his inaugural address.

But against the white noise, two sentence clearly stood out: “We are going to make America strong again and we are going to make America great again and it has to start now,” he said urgently. “We cannot take four more years of Barack Obama, and that’s what you get when you get her.”

In front of 71.6 million Americans and only twenty days away from the general election, Trump’s final words to the American public ended with him jabbing a finger at Clinton and calling her an Obama expansion pack.

To some four more years of Obama sounded great, or at least an obvious choice in the face of Trump. I remember watching the debate with a friend and excitedly chatting about how, thanks to that line, we had “won the moderate Republicans.”

To others, it was the impossible narrative that dragged them to the polls.

A “third” Obama term also happened to be four more years of a 40-year economic trend:

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These figures are no surprise to the working class people of America, who prepare our food, deliver our purchases, and maintain our cities.

David Murray, a blue-collar industry worker who lives in Flint Michigan, told Reuters he voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but for Trump in 2016.

“I didn’t feel like Clinton really cared about us,” said DaMurray. “We are still hurting here. I feel as if we haven’t recovered from the economic free fall. Clinton seemed like just another four years of what Obama has done for my area, which is four years of nothing.”

Indeed, the regions that swung for Trump in 2016 were the most economically distressed communities in the country. They never truly recovered from the 2008 financial crisis unlike the financiers that caused it.

Five Thirty Eight analysis two days after the election found that, “Sure enough, the swing toward Trump was much stronger in counties with a higher share of routine jobs” as well as “where unemployment was higher, job growth was slower and earnings were lower.”

In addition, the report noted, “economic anxiety is about the future, not just the present. Trump beat Clinton in counties where more jobs are at risk because of technology or globalization,” such as “those in manufacturing, sales, clerical work and related occupations that are easier to automate or send offshore.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence of this prior to the election, this came as a surprise to the pollsters who were certain the Rust Belt would not falter.

And in their defense, it nearly didn’t.

Trump edged out Clinton with razor-thin margins in three states that would ultimately decide the election: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Obama won all three in 2012, while Trump won them with a margin of less than 2 percent, or 107,000 votes.

In the end, Trump didn’t win because poor people came out in droves for him. He won because working class voters didn’t come out in droves for Clinton.

“Compared with 2012, three times as many voters in the Rust Belt who made under $100,000 voted for third parties,” found Slate. “Twice as many voted for alternative or write-in candidates” and “compared with 2012, some 500,000 more voters chose to sit out this presidential election.”

Similarly, The New York Times found that “almost one in four of President Obama’s 2012 white working-class supporters defected from the Democrats in 2016, either supporting Mr. Trump or voting for a third-party candidate.”

Democrats are inconsolable about this. They view these as voters that betrayed them, instead of votes they lost. In reality, the devil could not have chosen a better candidate to beg these voters to stay home.

In the 1990s, Hillary cheered on her husband’s North American Free Trade Agreement, which according to the Economic Policy Institute established  a “principle that U.S. corporations could relocate production elsewhere and sell back into the United States,” and therefor “undercut the bargaining power of American workers,” resulting in “20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth and political power.”

Afterwords, as Secretary of State, she pushed for another free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was criticized by the largest federation of unions in the U.S., because it failed to “incorporate needed improvements to labor commitments that already have proved inadequate in existing trade deals.”

By the 2016 election, the Midwest was tired of Democrats; especially anything associated with Obama, who in 2007, promised 15,000 union activists in Chicago that he would “immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada to try to amend NAFTA” — a promise he fell through on only a few months into his presidency.

So let’s be honest, what chance did Hillary Clinton — who is married to Mr. NAFTA himself — have of convincing these voters of going to the polls for her?

Not much: On Nov. 8, Clinton lost 1.35 million voters compared to Obama while Trump gained less than half, or 590,000, when compared to Mitt Romney.

As for the votes Trump did pick up, there’s an explanation for that too.

Writing for The Washington Post, Edward McClelland argues that Trump was a nail in the coffin for Midwest states already turning red thanks to automation and a declining coal and steel industry.

“Michiganders call the 2000s the ‘Lost Decade.’ During those years, Michigan lost half its automaking jobs and fell to 35th in per capita income among states,” writes McCelland. “It hemorrhaged residents, with many using their college degrees as tickets out … As Michigan has become older, less educated, less unionized, less urbanized and more insular, it has become more reactionary.”

For those who would later stay home or vote for Trump, one pesky senator from Vermont and his supporters were certain he could have earned their loyalty.

Income inequality was Bernie Sander’s rallying cry too, and his popularity in these critical areas was clear. Like Reagan Democrats, his large following of millennials saw a worrying future ahead of themselves.

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They were the next generation in a seemingly invincible and unending economic spiral; doomed to a world with an eroding middle class whose degrees cost more and were worth less.

Unfortunately, none of these issues were given the attention they deserved during the election cycle, mainly because they’re never given any attention to begin with.

By the time the results began beaming in our televisions, it was too late. Trump had captured a wave of fear and anger, and rode it all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.

A few hours after Trump announced his victory, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat gave, in my opinion, the most apt immediate reaction to the election in an short article titled, “The Trump Era Dawns.”

Trump “will be the president, thanks to a crude genius that identified all the weak spots in our parties and our political system and that spoke to a host of voters for whom that system promised at best a sustainable stagnation under the tutelage of a distant and self-satisfied elite,” wrote Douthat, sharing the glimmer of optimism many Americans had in praying that the newly elected president’s “crude genius” could “be turned, somehow, to the common good.”

There is little good so far.

Historians, political scientists and just about anyone who has long studied and pointed out the red flags of our weakened democracy are confused; they can’t decide if Trump’s presidency marks a decent into autocracy, mediocracy, or both.

More and more Americans are realizing Trump is not the one-stop solution to the American carnage. His approval rating are struggling to reach the mid-forties. His confused White House staffers are engaged in an on-going  war between populist white nationalist, traditional Republicans, and Goldman Sachs executives. His signature campaign promise was defeated by his own party. Even some of his loyal supporters are starting to show doubt.

The rapture is well underway, albeit stumbling, and Clinton despite fantasizing herself as “the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse,” has made sparse appearances.

This point must be stressed.

Our life-jacket of sanity, the vanguard in the fight for democracy’s last fight, has vanished. Organized protesters, who have done extraordinary work in slowing Trump’s early agenda, can sometimes be seen sporting “nasty women” gear — but the nasty women herself is missing in action.

This doesn’t surprise me, nor the supporters of Trump and Sanders who viewed their respective candidates as answers to an indifferent, bought Washington.

We will never know for certain but, it can be safely said that Clinton would have disappeared from our lives with or without a victory on Nov. 8.

This is not particularly nefarious or out of line for a politician. To them, the struggle to gather votes occurs in 4 to 6-year gaps. As long as they support policy in the interests of the corporate citizens who fund their campaigns, the contributions of real citizens — which demand more than just impressing stockholders — are silenced.

“Large corporations have resources to influence media and overwhelm the political process,” writes Robert McChesney in the introduction of “Profit Over People” by Noam Chomsky. “The richest one-quarter of one percent of Americans make 80 percent of all individual political contributions and corporations outspend labor by a margin of 10-1. Under neoliberalism this all makes sense, as elections then reflect market principles, with contributions being equated with investments. As a result, it reinforces the irrelevance of electoral politics to most people and assures the maintenance of unquestioned corporate rule.”

But this doesn’t just reinforce the irrelevance of politics to people: It reinforces the irrelevance of people to politicians.

What is the citizen’s role reduced to when they are no longer the piggy bank of those who govern them?

Time and time again, elected officials can repeatedly afford to flee off to Washington and ignore voters, while the voters themselves struggle to pick up the pieces once the dust has settled.

Damage report

Trump’s victory left an enormous, smoldering crater in Democrats. The party rushed to point fingers at everyone but themselves, the media scrambled to explain how the results eluded them and millions of shocked Americans questioned their national identity.

Above all, we looked for answers, and for a short while, CNN ran stories on the “forgotten America” and Democrat leadership thought of revisiting the 50-state strategy.

But as the uncertain factors surrounding the election grew, what was certain diminished in importance.

Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who along with Edward Snowden helped reveal the United State’s global surveillance state, wrote a column on The Intercept arguing that the public’s obsession with Russia was distracting them from the failures of U.S. elites.

“Trump is a byproduct of the extraordinary and systemic failure of the Democratic Party,” he writes. “As long as the Russia story enables pervasive avoidance of self-critique — one of the things humans least like to do — it will continue to resonate no matter its actual substance and value.”

He continues:

“The primary reason for Trump, for Brexit, and for growing right-wing über-nationalism throughout Europe is that prevailing neoliberal policies have destroyed the economic security and future of hundreds of millions of people, rendering them highly susceptible to scapegoating and desperate, in a nothing-to-lose sort of way, for any type of radical change, no matter how risky or harmful that change might be. But all of that gets to be ignored, all of the self-reckoning is avoided, as long we get ourselves to believe that some omnipotent foreign power is behind it all.”

There is no doubt that the American public deserves answers for what could be, if proven true, one of the largest political scandals in U.S. history. These answers, however, do not pardon the failures of a two-term mute presidency, a tone-deaf dynasty of Bushes and Clintons, and any other lawmaker who has pretended to call themselves representatives of a decaying middle and lower class.

The demand for truth about the Russian probe is not mutually exclusive with the demand for change from Washington elites, who have yawned at income inequality in the U.S. for four decades too long.

Socialist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges was less kind with his words, calling the liberal hierarchy “Donald Trump’s greatest allies.

“The liberal elites, who bear significant responsibility for the death of our democracy, now hold themselves up as the saviors of the republic,” he writes. “They have embarked, despite their own corruption and their complicity in neoliberalism and the crimes of empire, on a self-righteous moral crusade to topple Donald Trump.”

There is a deep rabbit-hole to follow with Trump and Brexit, a story much bigger and more global than most realize. It sits unthawed, incapable of being properly digested by the news cycle or the American public.

If it is not properly understood, if serious solutions are not deliberated, and if the suffering it causes is not vindicated and empathized with, Democrats stand to loose much more than the midterm elections or the next presidency.

This is not a brave prediction. In 2008, there were 29 Democratic governorships in the country. As of 2017, there are only 16.

“A genuine populism, one defined and often articulated by Bernie Sanders, could sweep the Democratic Party back into power,” argues Hedges. “Regulating Wall Street, publicly financing campaigns, forgiving student debt, demanding universal health care, bailing out homeowners victimized by the banks, ending the wars in the Middle East, instituting a jobs program to repair our decaying infrastructure, dismantling the prison system, restoring the rule of law on the streets of our cities, making college education free and protecting programs such as Social Security would see election victory after election victory.”

“But this will never happen within the Democratic Party,” concludes Hedges. “It refuses to prohibit corporate money. The party elites know that if corporate money disappears, so do they.”

In 2008, Barrack Obama banned contributions from political action committees and federal lobbyists, but these restrictions were rolled back by the Democratic National Committee in February of 2016, several months before the election.

Defending from criticism that claimed these rollbacks would be an advantage for Hillary Clinton, DNC Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach told The Washington Post in an email, “the DNC’s recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee.”

Paustenbach, despite playing coy with The Washington Post, knew exactly who he wanted to “emerge.” Two months before Hillary Clinton was declared the Democratic nominee, Paustenbach crafted another email, later revealed by WikiLeaks, with the subject “Bernie narrative,” asking another DNC staffer “if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess.”

Paustenbach, without being asked or prompted to, was being adjunct staff — or to use his own words, “resources and infrastructure” to the Clinton campaign. We will never know how many selfless staffers decided to rescue their own voters. Now to be looked at with much irony, he ended his email by writing, “It’s not a DNC conspiracy, it’s because they never had their act together.”

There are dozens of emails like this. They are a small case study of how woefully unaware yet simultaneously sure of themselves Democrats have remained despite their losses. In 2015, the year after Democrats lost three gubernatorial elections, POLITICO warned:

“There are only 18 Democratic governors left across the nation, and the survivors have some theories about why Democrats have been swept out of statehouses all over the country in recent years. But none of them are about the substance of the party’s policies. Instead, many of the remaining Democrats — in interviews with POLITICO at this weekend’s National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington — blamed three overriding factors: bad luck, bad timing and an unpopular president.”

Post-election, the Russian narrative has proven to be a sigh of relief for Democrat leadership, who can now redirect supporter anger away from any inter-party discourse and toward Commissar Trump; instead of blaming bad luck and timing for their failures, now they can blame bad Russians.

As Greenwald points out, scaling up combative anti-Russian rhetoric to excuse Democrat party failures could have serious consequences, potentially falling backwards into a second Cold War.

But in addition, the Democrat’s focus on the Kremlin appears to be destroying any capacity for empathy. Democrats on social media lick their lips at headlines like, “The death of Obamacare would hurt poor, white Trump voters.”

That will show those treasonous voters, they write angrily, growing more upset each day at Trump’s ineptitude, lies, and poorly thought-out executive orders. They should have read the fine print!

When I read things like this, I can’t help but believe Russia succeeded in destabilizing our democracy. We are just as factionalized and ignorant of the issues plaguing our society as before the election.

This and that tipped the balance of the scales, they complain, never bothering to ask why the scales were inches apart with a reality television star in the first place.

Democrats will march to their own grave, clutching their belief that depending on how you cast your ballot on Nov. 8, you aided and abetted in the demise of our country. No other criteria is necessary — especially if it requires them to admit failure.

Despite the confidence in the six CNN heads screaming that Russia “hacked” our election, there are anxious whispers among Democrats and the midterm elections, their best and most immediate chance at blocking Trump’s policies. But I have little hope; the Democrat’s focus on Russia doesn’t seem to be gearing up to save them.

“Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down,” writes Greenwald in another article, referring to the Trump-Russia collusion investigation. “Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.”

Regardless of the truth behind Trump and Russia, many voters seem indifferent.

NPR’s Rachael Martin recently traveled to North Carolina to talk to a group of Republicans who voted for Trump and ask them what they thought of his presidency so far.

SHOEMAKER: I think Trump has appointed some outstanding individuals – secretary of defense, Homeland Security, secretary of state, treasurer.

REID: But they’re all in bed with the Russians.

SHOEMAKER: Yeah, right.

MARTIN (talking to Morning Edition host David Greene): That was Don Reid interjecting with that quip because this group does not buy any allegations that Donald Trump has inappropriate ties to Russia. It’s just not an issue they care about. Quite the contrary, they think the media is blowing it out of proportion, which, by the way, came up a lot – how the media is out to get Donald Trump, they think. I asked the group a separate question, whether they were concerned that, as U.S. intelligence agencies have said, Russia hacked the Democratic Party to benefit Donald Trump. Nick Bryant, the youngest face in this crowd, wasn’t.

NICK BRYANT: Regardless of whether Russia hacked emails or anything, Russia did not make 62 million people go to the polls and vote one way or the other. They just didn’t. I didn’t care about Russia.

Whatever the outcome of the Russian probe may be, it will not be the lynchpin for Democrat victory in 2018 and beyond. This is a massive, dangerous delusion.

If Trump is unsuccessful at solving income inequality and a declining standard of living, and if the democratic leaders who swing into office continue to stifle the voices of working-class communities, we are in for a doozy of decade, a real roaring twenties.

The buck will not stop with Donald Trump. The 45th president may disgracefully leave the office, but the desperation in voters who elected him (or those who didn’t vote at all) will continue to boil.

So far, the majority of public outcry has been devoted to Trump, but nearly none has been given to the conditions that gave rise to him. This torch will never be held by Washington elites, as it is self-defeating. The burden must fall to everyday Americans. The resistance movement must be equally anti-Trump as it is pro-labor. Any other combination is disingenuous and an oxymoron: It will subvert the ultimate goal of stopping and preventing anything that could ever quack like Trump.

Our first lesson is to forget the Russian bogeyman narrative.

Russia did not disconnect worker’s compensation from their productivity. Russia did not ask American CEO’s to raise their salaries or pay themselves in stock options. Russia did not ask Bill Clinton to cut New Deal social welfare programs. Russia did not ask Obama to bail out criminally negligent banks instead of the families they abused. This is our own doing, a greedy economic landscape four decades in the making.

Learning to hate ourselves

One of the most common misconceptions about the 2016 election is that Democrats “forgot” the working class, as if they were a child at a department store. Democrats ceased being a labor party not in by an accident of history, but because they wanted to.

Political analyst and historian Thomas Frank’s book, “Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?,” offers a comprehensive look at how Democrats phased out the working class from their party.

The change can be traced back to a divided 1968 convention, where two factions of Democrats battled. In one corner were the Vietnam War-supporting New Deal Democrats, shaped by the Great Depression. In the other corner, or rather, outside battling Chicago police, were a group of young, feminist, anti-war liberals.

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Anti-war protest, Chicago, Aug. 10, 1968.

After the convention and an embarrassing defeat to Republican Richard Nixon, the DNC began a series of inter-party changes known as the McGovern–Fraser Commission reforms in an attempt to mend the party’s wounds. Nominally, their aim was to open up the party to people of color, women, and youth, but they chose to leave out the demographic that had represented the party since its inception.

“The McGovern Commission reforms seemed to be populist, but their effect was to replace one group of party insiders with another— in this case, to replace leaders of workers’ organizations with affluent professionals,” explains Frank.

The driving philosophy behind these reforms were that New Deal Democrats were done for, the U.S. was now a service and information economy, and the party had to accommodate the emerging, upper-middle-class, college-educated kids who were later dubbed “neoliberals.”

It worked. Between the 1950s to the 1990s, professionals went from being the most staunch Republicans to the new face of the Democratic party.

But these new Democrats were different from traditional, anti-bank Democrats.

“Young liberals did not perceive financial power as a threat, having grown up in a world where banks and big business were largely kept under control,” explains The Atlantic. “It was the government — through Vietnam, Nixon, and executive power — that organized the political spectrum.”

This set forth the foundation for a new age of Democrat rule.

Frank argues that while many liberals are familiar with the rule of money, or an oligarchy, “many of the Democrats’ failings arise from another hierarchy: one of merit, learning, and status.”

This hierarchy goes by many names, including professionalism, meritocracy, technocracy, or “postindustrial ideology.” All of them imply one thing, in an ideal society, what you earn depends on what you know.

Neoliberals stress job-training and education as necessary answers to a postindustrial and rapidly globalizing world, or the so-called “knowledge economy.”

Frank writes:

“To the liberal class this is a fixed idea, as open to evidence-based refutation as creationism is to fundamentalists: if poor people want to stop being poor, poor people must go to college. But of course this isn’t really an answer at all; it’s a moral judgment, handed down by the successful from the vantage of their own success. The professional class is defined by its educational attainment, and every time they tell the country that what it needs is more schooling, they are saying: Inequality is not a failure of the system; it is a failure of you. This way of thinking about inequality offers little to the many millions of Americans— the majority of Americans, in fact— who did not or will not graduate from college. It dismisses as though a moral impossibility the well-known fact that there have been and are places in the modern world where people with high school diplomas can earn a good living.”

“It doesn’t take an advanced degree to figure out that this education talk is less a strategy for mitigating inequality than it is a way of rationalizing it. To attribute economic results to school years finished and SAT scores achieved is to remove matters from the realm of, well, economics and to relocate them to the provinces of personal striving and individual intelligence. From this perspective, wages aren’t what they are because one party (management) has a certain amount of power over the other (workers); wages are like that because the god of the market, being surpassingly fair, rewards those who show talent and gumption. Good people are those who get a gold star from their teacher in elementary school, a fat acceptance letter from a good college, and a good life when they graduate. All  because they are the best. Those who don’t pay attention in high school get to spend their days picking up discarded cans by the side of the road. Both outcomes are our own doing.”

Recognizing this, Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich pushed to end the country’s growing inequality. It was his main, persistent focus. But he failed, as tearfully acknowledges in Jacob Kornbluth’s 2013 documentary “Inequality for All”:

“The wages of most people went up. Poverty actually declined. But we didn’t do enough. We didn’t really alter the underlying trend. I became a true pain in the ass. I mean, looking back on it, I’m embarrassed. In meetings, I would sound off about, you know, inequality, and, ‘Are we looking at the distributional impacts of this policy or that policy?’ I mean, I became predictable. People would roll their eyes. I’m surprised Bill Clinton kept me around.”

Reich decided to leave after serving Clinton’s first term, frustrated at a system that would not change from top to bottom. His experience with Washington neoliberals should be a lesson to us all.

Today, Democrats have not changed their tune; they still roll their eyes at those who fight for income inequality. They will continue to insist that this is a fight between evil and good, never ourselves.

One of the most disturbing examples of this is New York Magazine essayist Frank Rich, who recently wrote an article entitled “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly,” a column spent mostly making fun of journalist and authors trying foster empathy for the non-college-educated, white working class of America.

“While many, if not most, of those in #TheResistance of the Democratic base remain furious at these voters, the party’s political class and the liberal media Establishment are making a concerted effort to convert that rage into empathy,” he writes.

“While you can’t blame our new president for loving ‘the poorly educated’ who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain,” writes Rich. “If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.”

Fair point Rich, but you should also turn up the hate on the low-education majority-minority counties that shifted away from Clinton, resulting in Trump doing better with non-college-educated minorities than Romney did. Things are even further complicated with non-college-educated white women, who went for Trump with an absurd 28 percent margin over Clinton.

But Democrats shouldn’t even try to understand why they performed poorly with either demographic, because according to Rich, why “waste time and energy chasing unreachable voters in the base of Trump’s electorate.”

This is a common theme among Democrats, whose definition of  brainwashed hillbilly changes with the redness of the electoral heat-map every four years. They refuse to admit that they play any part in this bizarre phenomena.

“At least Hillary Clinton and her party aspired to do something, however inchoate,” he complains, failing to outline what “aspired” or “do” or “something” meant for these voters.

By the end of the article, Rich lets Democrat elites off the hook by calling them “condescending,” but makes no mention of the fact that they aided in the destruction of these communities by cutting social programs, slept with Wall Street and covertly worked to destroy a candidate whose main focus was income inequality — which he argues is also wasting his time:

“When Bernie Sanders visits West Virginia to tell his faithful that they are being raped and pillaged by Trump-administration policies that will make the Trump University scam look like amateur hour, he is being covered by MSNBC, not Fox News, whose passing interest in Sanders during primary season was attributable to his attacks on Clinton,” he writes.

Fine. Fox News might not cover Sanders, and some of the coldhearted viewers of MSNBC might not be impressed, but: What about the people in the room with him?

These are residents of McDowell County, West Virginia, who voted 73.35 percent in favor of Trump, clapping at a Democratic socialist denouncing the Republican healthcare bill. In what world are these voters unreachable? Oh, thats right. A computer screen.

Harvard-educated elites like Rich, who laughably pretend they aren’t part of what he calls the “party’s political class and the liberal media,” will thunder down judgments from their ivory skyscrapers, making broad claims about voters they only met through television screens and other, angrily-typed columns.

They will drag us to hell, and the country’s most vulnerable with them.

Who will pay for Washington’s crimes?

Black scholar and Member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Cornel West, laid plain who would eventually pay the ultimate price for the election of Trump.

“This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating,” as West puts it, is “the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people,” and has unleashed “a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy.”

“And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future,” he warned, two weeks after the election.

West’s predictions have come true much quicker than anyone could have anticipated.

Right-wing Christian nationalism has gained unprecedented access to the White House. It pumps out placebo policies, aimed at validating its once-fringe electorate. And while Trump may sign paper, after paper, streamlining fake solutions to fake problems in order to enrich the corporate vanguard, the terror these laws create is very real.

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Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Feb 23, 2017. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

A Southern Poverty of Law Center survey found that eighty percent of educators “described heightened anxiety and fear among students, particularly immigrants, Muslims and African Americans.” In addition, “numerous teachers reported the use of slurs, derogatory language and extremist symbols in their classrooms.”

This is the frightening and uncertain reality we have left our children, and theirs.

The professional class, and its worship of the unregulated market as an answer to life’s most intimate issues, shares incredible responsibility for this cruel nightmare; or as Thomas Frank paraphrases, “the smart get richer and the dumb get … Republicans, I guess.”

Telecommunication, law firms and tech companies will always fund Democrats, while defense, oil and gas will always fund Republicans, and Wall Street will fund wherever the wind blows. Each are beholden to their stockholders, and maybe, if it pays well, the American people.

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Sector Totals, 2015-2016. By OpenSecrets.org

With one party offering oppression of the poor in the name of liberal values, and the other in the name of conservatism, those caught beneath the get-rich pendulum swinging between both parties have caught on: America is a democracy for the rich and the well-educated.

“It is clear that neither [party] is an instrument by which the people must assert themselves and make known their will,” wrote Gore Vidal, who often criticized America’s “one-party democracy” under the control of a “Property Party, with two right wings.”

Democrat elites will and are calling for unification, but Progressives should interpret this as a desperate plea rather than an extended and sincere hand.

Democrat elites will and are co-opting “anti-establishment” rhetoric (no doubt, next year’s 2008 “Change™”), like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who recently incorrectly insisted that “Wall Street comes out en masse with its money against House Democrats every election” — another sign of desperation Progressives should readily welcome to better expose the party’s absurd hypocrisy.

Disillusioned Democrats and Progressives have few options, which makes choosing what to do all that much easier. Either push to change the party as was done nearly 50 years ago at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, or refuse to let their votes be held hostage in the face of false promises and insincerity. Without a doubt, many will this see this move as selfish — a political decision who can only be afforded by those that are not on Trump’s hated minorities list. But to argue this is a gross misunderstanding of how we got here.

Income inequality breeds demagogues: To not demand change from the Democratic party is a political decision that can only be afforded by those who are not under the thumb of the country’s abusive and growing wage gap.

“It takes no unusual power of prophecy to remark that they will not be apathetic forever,” wrote Vidal, who knew America was ripe for demagogues long before the Trump brand existed. “Rather than be unready for anarchy, I submit that we must sit down and in an orderly way rethink our entire government as well as our place in the world. The Founders’ last gift to us is the machinery to set things right.”

2 thoughts on “Demanding Progressive politics in America

  1. This truly sums up the tragedy — in the making throughout the past four decades of irresponsible political leadership–that has inevitably struck the United Sates, replacing a native citizenry with shareholders of international corporations whose primary interest is the accumulation of personal wealth, with absolutely no regard for the health of the collective on which the health of any nation depends. Our collective reluctance to accept the glaring fact that the systems on which the present establishments rely can only lead us to a total collapse of civilized society is the real enemy.l

    Liked by 2 people

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