What Future For Democrats?

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In the middle of an interesting discussion about Trump supporters, who they are, what makes them tick, what appeals to them. Me mate, Neil Shock, made the following point: “Right. But that cuts across class, race, and gender lines. How do you address this problem with policy?”

I answered with two comments, which I thought were worth re-posting. They’re a bit shorthand. But they’re a starting point:

“Obama cut across class, race and gender lines. So did Kennedy.

You may not like my prescription. But here goes.

It used to be easy. Republicans were for the rich. Democrats were for working folks.

But many of the people both our articles identify as Trump supporters are not rich. Many are working people.

What has changed? Actually. Not that much. It’s the cycle of response that has changed. The pendulum swinging. In my view.

Voters are not cardboard cut-out, immovable agents. One day, we like our boss. The next day, when he gives us a bad pay raise, he can go to hell. Same person. Different response.

The world is a dangerous place. Full of ‘strongmen’ leaders, who seem (I emphasize ‘seem’) to be getting the better of us.

Are they? Who knows? But the response is determined less by anyone’s genuine interest in what happens in East Timor, and a lot more about what is happening downstairs or down the road.

Since the Second World War, the move all round the globe has been to find safety, stability in numbers: the Soviet Union, Communist bloc, Warsaw Pact, NATO, EU, NAFTA, TTP, TTIP, WTO, UN, whatever.

In the last couple of decades, that ‘union’ has resulted in a global co-ordinated response to a series of recessions. Each response (and this is my economic viewpoint, I admit it) has served industry, government and banking, not the people.

Interest rates slashed. Stock Exchanges pumped. Industry ‘costs’ (for which read: employees) cut. Profits raised. Dividends improved. Stock Exchanges rising. Assets overpriced. Lending increasing. Boom. Then the bust. And we start all over again.

Your average farmer doesn’t necessarily understand this. An insurance broker. A steel worker. What they do understand is rural areas left devastated. Industry obliterated. By investment moving, in the new open global economy, to wherever the labor is cheaper.

And the left-behinds, of all race, gender, age and class (and I’ve written elsewhere how the new global economy no longer requires the UK and US middle-class; it ain’t just the working class), the left-behinds are angry.

And, in their anger, they hit out. They want an asshole. A vulgar, boorish, vainglorious ‘strongman’ to use elbows and make a difference.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. They’ve been listening to people make sense for thirty years. They just want elbows.

I have said more than once, Trump is nowhere near his own worst enemy as much as Hillary is. Every single time she goes on TV and is ‘clever,’ she loses support.

Folks do not see sensible solutions. Not unless they are already firm Clinton supporters. They see ‘Slick’ Hillary, pulling the wool again.

And they see vulgar, boorish, revolting, vainglorious Trump sticking it to her. And they think he’ll stick it to the rest of the world, and make ’em feel good again.

It is as simple and as awful as that. And it totally cuts across gender, race, class and character.

This is beyond the shorthand version. But it serves its purpose as a primer to what I think is happening and is now going to happen.

Whatever else occurs after this Presidential Election, I believe the days of easy global co-operation and union are over.

And in this country, I think there is going to be more emphasis on the economic plight of people. And less on issues of the cultural rights of different groups.

But again, that’s just my take.”

The second comment. Because I totally forgot to answer Neil’s question:

“Oh. I analyzed. But didn’t offer policy.

Hmm. Actually. I guess I did. Sort of.

First, and it kind of applies now. Stop assuming the old ideas work. Stop assuming we have all the answers without asking. And that includes asking the people we may not like.

To be absolutely parochial, and looking at it solely from the point of view of being a Democrat. We really must get to grips with the fact that, in the past few decades, Democrats have been losing the argument to Republicans.

Both nationally, and in state after state, we have allowed Republicans to appeal with simplistic arguments, because we are so taken with agendas that appeal to us, but not to our electorate.

Deep down in our hearts, we all know (those of us who stray from collegeland and the safety of diehard progressive burghs), we all know we’ve met otherwise good Democrats who have expressed discomfort with the party’s increasing interest in the rights of individual cultural groups.

When we, certainly I, talk ‘left-behind,’ I’m not just talking about America’s working folk being left behind by the rest of the world. I’m talking about otherwise good working Democrats being left-behind by Democrat leaders.

If we want to stop the simplistic appeal of Republicans to the people I identify above, then as Democrats we need to place economic interests at the top of our agenda. And we need to find a way to talk economy to working folk in terms that appeal to them.

However noble the cause may be, people whose economic circumstances have dwindled in the past few decades are not interested in hearing about how the Democrats care about their children, or their neighbors’ cultural rights. They want to hear how Democrats care about their financial plight, right now.

And that latter response may look a tad more Bernie and a shade less Hillary. A tad more trade tariff. A shade less TPP. A tad more direct industry support. A shade less investment in Planned Parenthood and early schooling.

And, on foreign matters, it will be more populist. Superpower or no. Even caring Democrats, in my opinion, are going to want a more libertarian foreign policy. Take care of home first. No more nation-building. No more wars. Less arms sales. Smaller defense budget.

Essentially, pull up the drawbridge. Make sure our home defenses are strong. Help out where we can around the world. But not with open-ended financial and military commitments. And not where we pool our sovereignty in with anyone else’s. We won’t step on anyone else’s toes any more. But they won’t step on ours either. And we won’t be asking the UN for permission to tell ’em not to.

It’s still very shorthand. But if a Democrat were to talk like that, I think you’d be surprised at the support he or she would get.”

[Facebook comments here.]

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