Friday, November 11, 2016

Clintonism is dead. Does the Democratic Party know it?

I’m an old protester. My first (in a long line) was way back in 1966 or 1967 when as a teenager I took part in a sit-in at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, something that makes me look back with pride. This was in Greenville, North Carolina, and we were taunted and spit on throughout, a badge of honor today.

Still I’m having a hard time ignoring my friends on the Right as they point today to the irony of the protests taking place in cities across the country as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. Didn’t a lot of those same protesters excoriate Trump when he said during the campaign that he might not accept the results of the election if he loses?

Of course, the protests are about much more than the election. They are about the xenophobic, misogynistic, racist comments and attitudes exhibited by Trump and his supporters during and since the campaign, and they are about the fear that now exists about the country’ future.

Still, a hesitation other than irony haunts me about these protests, and it has to do with Hillary Clinton and the idea of a protest that could actually be interpreted as saying, “Long Live the Status Quo!”

Let’s face it. Hillary Clinton was the quintessential embodiment of the political establishment, the status quo, the polar opposite of change. As bad as Trump was and is, and that’s really bad, he represented the only voice (by a major candidate) for change in the general election for millions of non-racist voters who cast their ballots for him.

How could a seasoned veteran like Hillary Clinton, backed by deep-pocketed moneymen and a Democratic Party establishment that helped scuttle Bernie Sanders' primary challenge, lose against a foot-in-the-mouth opponent with zero political experience?

Sure, Trump tried to appeal to the worst of many people with his “Build the Wall” talk and so forth, but he also tapped into a deep working class malaise that the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party has too long been too busy wooing Wall Street to see. When Trump talked about bringing jobs back home from oversees and ending lousy trade deals that Bill and Hillary Clinton both championed workers listened, and many of them defied their union bosses to vote for Trump.

I don’t expect Trump to deliver much on those promises or hopes. When you boil his big talk down, he’s still calling for tax cuts to big corporations and the rich, and his treatment of his own workers and contractors don’t bode well for an enlightened attitude toward worker rights.

Which means working class folks are likely still going to be left out in the cold once the dust settles. Malaise and frustration make fertile ground for demagogues—always have—particularly when the so-called party of the people decades ago began ape-ing the Republican Party in servitude to the rich and powerful.

The neoliberal establishment still doesn’t get it. The New York Times wondered this week whether losing Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine may be “the future of the Democratic Party.” Give me a break. New Yorker magazine conjectured in its latest edition that veteran Wall Street insider Thomas R. Nides was well-positioned for a major role and maybe even Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff had she won. Democratic National Committee interim leader and television commentator Donna Brazile has been unapologetic about her role in slipping the Clinton campaign debate questions.

If the Democratic Party s going to survive this debacle, it has got to reclaim its roots and turn to folks like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for guidance. Clintonism is dead. Dead. Even so, it is going to take a long time for the Democratic Party to reclaim the trust it has lost among working folks. 

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