Sunday, March 13, 2016

They're Not All Racists

Sure, Donald Trump is a magnet for bigots. Racists flock to the Man of Orange. There is no shortage of fascists who carry the Trump banner and yearn for the day when "others" knew their place.

Trump has the low-life vote but there are plenty of others who back him as author Thomas Frank writes in The Guardian. It's a warning our Liberal government should heed. Neoliberalism has failed and pursuing trade deal atop trade deal has to stop.

Tom Lewandowski, the president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council in Fort Wayne, puts it even more bluntly when I asked him about working-class Trump fans. “These people aren’t racist, not any more than anybody else is,” he says of Trump supporters he knows. “When Trump talks about trade, we think about the Clinton administration, first with Nafta and then with [Permanent Normal Trade Relations] China, and here in Northeast Indiana, we hemorrhaged jobs.”

“They look at that, and here’s Trump talking about trade, in a ham-handed way, but at least he’s representing emotionally. We’ve had all the political establishment standing behind every trade deal, and we endorsed some of these people, and then we’ve had to fight them to get them to represent us.

Now, let us stop and smell the perversity. Left parties the world over were founded to advance the fortunes of working people. But our left party in America – one of our two monopoly parties – chose long ago to turn its back on these people’s concerns, making itself instead into the tribune of the enlightened professional class, a “creative class” that makes innovative things like derivative securities and smartphone apps. The working people that the party used to care about, Democrats figured, had nowhere else to go, in the famous Clinton-era expression. The party just didn’t need to listen to them any longer.

What Lewandowski and Nussbaum are saying, then, should be obvious to anyone who’s dipped a toe outside the prosperous enclaves on the two coasts. Ill-considered trade deals and generous bank bailouts and guaranteed profits for insurance companies but no recovery for average people, ever – these policies have taken their toll. As Trump says, “we have rebuilt China and yet our country is falling apart. Our infrastructure is falling apart … Our airports are, like, Third World.”

Trump’s words articulate the populist backlash against liberalism that has been building slowly for decades and may very well occupy the White House itself, whereupon the entire world will be required to take seriously its demented ideas.

Yet still we cannot bring ourselves to look the thing in the eyes. We cannot admit that we liberals bear some of the blame for its emergence, for the frustration of the working-class millions, for their blighted cities and their downward spiraling lives. So much easier to scold them for their twisted racist souls, to close our eyes to the obvious reality of which Trumpism is just a crude and ugly expression: that neoliberalism has well and truly failed.


DeadThoreau said...

It's funny how the mainstream media, by design, is underplaying the roots of Trump's support. They keep labeling these people extreme, but what's really extreme is the way that the economic consensus of the last 30 years has pillaged and destroyed an entire socioeconomic class. Ten thousand children in Flint, Michigan have lead poisoning, it's more likely that a young man in America will end up unemployed or in prison then in a good job or starting a family. Working class Americans have a higher chance of dying from gun violence or drug addiction or suicide or obesity linked to poor diet, then having a good paying job. The United States reminds me of Germany right now, in that, all these "Progressives" and "Liberals" are completely ignoring the conditions that give rise to someone like Trump. It's the smug urban left, it's coffee shop liberals who sneer and mock the working poor, all the while ignoring the rage, anger and violence emanating from the beer halls.

In the end Karl Polanyi will be vindicated, he was the one who simply pointed out that when the "Market" becomes disembedded from society, it destroys everything in it's path. What we're witnessing in Trump and Sanders is the beginning of the push back.

From The Great Transformation.

"To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society. For the alleged commodity, "labor power" cannot be shoved about, used indiscriminately, or even left unused, without affecting the human individual who happens to be the bearer of this peculiar commodity. In disposing of a man's labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity of "man" attached to the tag. Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rovers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed...”

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks, D.T. I think there's a lot in what you've written that we won't be able to ignore much longer if indeed it's not already too late.

Hugh said...

This was on the radio this morning, I found it quite interesting:

The Mound of Sound said...

Frank wrote The Guardian article that's referenced in this post.