(Click here for Part II)
A bigoted demagogue wins the election. Appoints a white nationalist as his right-hand man. Appoints a climate change denier to lead his transition team for the EPA, and corporate cronies, corrupt bureaucrats, and Wall Street bankers to oversee everything else. A hateful, reactionary party – which Noam Chomsky just described as the most dangerous organization in world history – has swept to power at nearly every level of government, both federal and state. It’s the stuff of nightmares, but it’s reality. And it’s time for liberals to wake up, examine the autopsies, engage in some serious self-reflection, and get to work.
While racism and sexism most certainly played factors in the election, it is malpractice – and counterproductive – to ignore the liberal failures that contributed to an election in which the Democratic Party – not just Clinton – was roundly defeated. This is still the same country that elected Barack Obama, after all. Twice. Post-mortems are grim, but necessary. The following were the most cogent that I read.
From Glenn Greenwald: Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit
It goes without saying that Trump is a sociopathic con artist obsessed with personal enrichment: the opposite of a genuine warrior for the downtrodden. That’s too obvious to debate. But, just as Obama did so powerfully in 2008, he could credibly run as an enemy of the D.C. and Wall Street system that has steamrolled over so many people, while Hillary Clinton is its loyal guardian, its consummate beneficiary.
Trump vowed to destroy the system that elites love (for good reason) and the masses hate (for equally good reason), while Clinton vowed to manage it more efficiently. That, as Matt Stoller’s indispensable article in The Atlantic three weeks ago documented, is the conniving choice the Democratic Party made decades ago: to abandon populism and become the party of technocratically proficient, mildly benevolent managers of elite power. Those are the cynical, self-interested seeds they planted, and now the crop has sprouted.
From Krystal Ball, former MSNBC host and Democratic congressional candidate: The Democratic Party Deserved To Die (Demographics are not destiny. Candidates do matter. And it is still the economy, stupid.):
They said they were facing an economic apocalypse, we offered “retraining” and complained about their white privilege. Is it any wonder we lost? One after another, the dispatches came back from the provinces. The coal mines are gone, the steel mills are closed, the drugs are rampant, the towns are decimated and everywhere you look depression, despair, fear. In the face of Trump’s willingness to boldly proclaim without facts or evidence that he would bring the good times back, we offered a tepid gallows logic. Well, those jobs are actually gone for good, we knowingly told them. And we offered a fantastical non-solution. We will retrain you for good jobs! Never mind that these “good jobs” didn’t exist in East Kentucky or Cleveland. And as a final insult, we lectured a struggling people watching their kids die of drug overdoses about their white privilege. Can you blame them for calling bullshit? All Trump could offer was white nationalism as protection against competing with black and brown people. It wasn’t a very compelling case, but it was vastly superior to a candidate who enthusiastically backed NAFTA, seems most at ease in a room of Goldman Sachs bankers and was almost certain to do nothing for these towns other than maybe setting up a local chapter of Rednecks Who Code. We bet that Trump’s manifest awfulness would be enough to let us eke out a win. We were dead wrong.
From Jacobin: Politics Is the Solution
The problem with Clinton wasn’t her peculiarity but her typicality. It was characteristic of this Democratic Party that the power players in Washington decided on the nominee — with overwhelming endorsements — many months before a single ballot was cast.
They made a fateful choice for all of us by stacking the deck, decisively, against the kind of politics that could win: a working-class politics.
Seventy-two percent of Americans who voted last night believed that “the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful.” Sixty-eight percent agreed that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”
Almost alone among Democratic politicians, Bernie Sanders spoke to this simmering sense of alienation and class anger. Sanders had a basic message for the American people: you deserve more and you are right to believe you do. Health care, college education, a living wage. It’s a message that has made him by far the most popular politician in the country.
From Derek Davison, all-around smart guy: Things I Think (first in a series)
I think that it makes much less sense to talk about the 2016 election in terms of how Donald Trump won than it does to talk about it in terms of how Hillary Clinton lost. The numbers are pretty clear: Trump will finish the election with only slightly more votes nationally than Mitt Romney earned in a losing campaign in 2012, while Clinton will finish with a couple of million less than Obama earned. . . .
I think that we need to stop talking about how Democrats have to appeal to the “white working class.” Democrats need to start appealing to the working class, period. Working class minority communities may predominantly vote Democratic for reasons specific to those communities, but the Democratic Party stopped being the part of the working class, broadly speaking, in the run up to the 1992 election, when the party decided the way to break 24 years of almost entirely Republican control of the White House was to embrace a pro-business agenda and win over some big money Republican donors. It ought to say something that Clinton won union voters by a smaller margin than any Democrat since Walter Mondale lost 49 states in 1984. It ought to say that the Democratic Party needs to get back to a pro-labor, pro-economic justice agenda if it doesn’t want to keep losing elections. A lot of establishment Democrats kept insisting before the election that working class voters didn’t matter to the Democratic Party anymore. I wonder what they’re saying about that now.
I think there’s nothing incongruous about supporting pro-worker economic policies, defending the basic rights and dignities of all at-risk minorities, and fighting for a stronger, less violent, more consistent foreign policy. Since the primary, I’ve frequently seen people advance the argument that leftists want to “throw [insert minority group] under the bus” in order to appeal to those “white working class” voters, who are all assumed to be irredeemable bigots. Well I don’t claim to speak for lefties everywhere, but to me that’s bullshit. I don’t want to appeal to bigots. If an agenda of higher wages, stronger social welfare programs, single payer healthcare, fair–not “free”–trade, and economic justice doesn’t appeal to white voters because they’re too racist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, etc., to appreciate it, then screw them. But I’m willing to bet that a political party that makes protection of minority rights paramount but also embraces, wholeheartedly, an economic agenda that benefits the 99% instead of the 1%, can win elections, big league.
I have a couple things I’d like to add. For god’s sake don’t blame third-party voters. They weren’t the ones who ignored Michigan and Wisconsin and spent much of the campaign hosting $33,000-per-plate fundraisers. Also, don’t blame “the media,” because even if CNN showered Trump with free air time and consistently presented Clinton’s emails as somehow equivalent to Trump’s con artistry, there was plenty of sound investigative and adversarial reporting done to Trump. The whole “media is terrible” blame game just further delegitimizes an institution that is always needed to check those in power, but will be especially needed as a dangerous demagogue who will benefit from a “fact-free society” runs the country for at least the next four years. Support investigative journalism and subscribe to quality sources. Think of it as a donation to truth, in addition to your support for other worthy causes.
Click here for Part II.