The Donald Phenomenon of 2016 is a confluence of several factors, but the truth is that he is indeed getting some important things right. And the Democrats had better sit up and take notice.
Well, it’s complicated. The Donald Phenomenon of 2016 is a Perfect Shit Storm, a confluence of several factors. Here are three:
Here are a few things both parties need to wrap their heads around:
1). The Great Recession of 2009 (and 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013…). No matter what any politician says, the economy still sucks and life for the average American is a struggle, and that’s because there was a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle-class to the upper-class over the last seven years. When the stock market and the real estate markets crashed in 2008, everything went on sale—stocks were at rock=bottom prices and so was real estate. Anyone who has plenty of cash on hand (the uber rich) bought up a ton of both, and exponentially increased their wealth. On the other hand, the poor and the middle-class fell lower on the socio-economic ladder because any equity they had in a house or their retirement took a tremendous hit, as did the labor market. But the truth is there has been ongoing redistribution of wealth from the middle upward that started under Reagan and hasn’t let up over the last 36 years. In this most recent man-made disaster, several hundred guys on Wall Street committed economic terrorism, and completely got away with it. And as it happens with every economic disaster in history, people who don’t understand economics or things like derivatives or toxic assets don’t understand why they feel so squeezed, so they start looking for scapegoats. It was the Jews and Communists in Nazi Germany, the Poles in the Brexit, the Mexicans in America in 2016. As someone who lost most of her grandfather’s family at Auschwitz, it sickens me to see that Wall Street has replayed 1929 on us, once again creating the economic mayhem that makes people feel so desperate for survival they resort to their most base instincts.
2). The defunding of public education in America and the subsequent decline in the quality of public education that started under Reagan. What’s been the result? A giant swath of middle America who are incapable of critical thought, who don’t read the news, who don’t bother to become involved with the day-to-day business of democracy. There is a ton of ignorance out there in America, and ignorance breeds fear. Without the ability to reason things out, you’re left with only your lizard brain, that part of your brain responsible for primitive survival instincts, i.e., fear and aggression. In the U.S., we call these people Republicans and the white Evangelicals who constitute a large part of the GOP. If you don’t believe me, I refer you to a poll from December 2015 that found nearly 60% of Republicans thought that bombing Agrabah might be a good thing, and 30% were absolutely sure it was a good thing. Agrabah is a fictional kingdom in the classic movie Aladdin. An ignorant populace makes for great consumers, but not for great citizens. We consume very well, but we don’t think so well.
3). The Foxification of the American media. Let’s just be clear: Rupert Murdoch and the gargoyles who run Fox News have been capitalizing on the dumbing down of America since the rise of cable, and doing their best to dumb it down further. The king of tabloids shredded mainstream news into the rag heap that it has become as other news outlets struggled to keep up with Fox’s ratings. Let’s face it, economic policy may fuck up your livelihood, but it’s just not as lurid and sexy as a missing white woman. And then there are the endless lies. Fox even went to court to defend its practice of lying. In 2003, Fox lawyers won a case against a journalist whistleblower who got fired for outing Fox’s attempt to distort a story about Monsanto. Fox’s lawyer argued in court that even though there are FCC rules against falsifying the news, it’s not actually against the law to lie.
4). Now here’s where it gets complicated. Trump is absolutely right about one important thing: trade deals have been a bad deal for Americans, and have greatly contributed greatly to the decline of the middle class. Yes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Trade has been a consistent theme in Trump’s campaign and it is a theme that totally resonates with a lot of Americans—for good reason.
And this is where the Democratic party better sit up and take notice. The American people are sick to death of the political establishment, both Democrats and Republicans, fellating Wall Street and corporate America. This is the reason that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have done so well. The truth of the matter is that Hillary barely pulled this nomination out of her ass, having lost 23 states to Bernie. That with all the tremendously huge advantages she had, e.g., name recognition, 15% handicap because of all the Superdelegates who committed to her before polling even started. And if independents were allowed to vote in all the states with closed primaries, she likely wouldn’t be the nominee. The fact that Hillary picked Tim Kaine to be her running mate, a guy who’s cozy with Wall Street and corporate-authored trade deals, makes me think she’s still not getting it. But Secretary Clinton and Senator Kaine and the rest of the Democratic establishment had better get it soon or else we may end up with a broken clock for president.