Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

10 November 2016

The Next Step for Dems

[For an earlier post-election essay on the global trend away from democracy and toward empire, click here.]

The Democratic Party and its so-called “liberal establishment” have just suffered their worst thrashing since Ronald Reagan’s election. In fact, for two reasons, this thrashing is much worse .

First, everyone expected Reagan to trounce Mondale, and he did. In contrast, this thrashing was utterly unexpected. Second, Reagan at least had a first-class temperament to accompany his fourth-rate intellect. Trump is fourth-rate in every respect, and the folks he appears to be assembling for his team (Guiliani, Christie and Sessions) are positively medieval.

So our nation now risks descending into a dark age. We can’t be certain because Trump has said so many contradictory things. No one—least of all he—has the faintest idea what he will actually do. We will all just have to wait and see whether his “developer” and “civilized New Yorker” side will prevail over his innate gut fighter and basher of women, minorities and Muslims.

And that is precisely the point. As exit polls show, Trump did not win because of his racist, xenophobic and misogynist side. He won in spite of them. Voter after middle-class voter expressed chagrin and disdain at Trump’s vulgarity and naked tribalism. But they voted for him anyway, as the only credible agent of change.

As we wait to see what form that change will take, those of us who ended up on the losing side of this utter debacle will have to face some basic facts, to wit:

The primary cause of this debacle is Hillary Clinton and the so-called “Clinton dynasty.” As the last weeks of this campaign have showed us, Hillary’s close confidants—people like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Huma Abedin—are at best utter mediocrities, at worst incompetent. Since Bill’s reign (the last part of which the Lewinski scandal destroyed), the two Clintons have failed, miserably and abysmally, to do anything much of note besides enrich themselves. They should both retire from politics as gracefully as possible, leaving the field of progressive leadership to people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Martin O’Malley and Tim Kaine. The quicker, the better.

Second, the primary reason for this unexpected loss was an utter disconnect between Democratic leadership and the American middle class. What has Hillary stood for all her political life? Advancing the interests of children and women. But are they in dire need of help? Not hardly. We have more child poverty than we ought as the world’s richest nation, but by and large our children do pretty well. Where children really need help is outside our nation, in poor countries that the Clinton Foundation can help.

As for women, their condition in our country is not even close to crisis. If it had been, do you think Hillary would have lost? Educated American women didn’t come through for Hillary because, by and large, they’ve got it pretty good.

So the Clinton candidacy focused much of its effort, and nearly all of its enthusiasm, on non-problems, while ignoring the real angst of our middle class and the problems that have caused it. What are those problems?

They are the ones that Bernie identified. Our economy is rigged. Our politics are rigged. Our 0.1% have enriched themselves obscenely by selling 60,000 American factories and their jobs abroad, along with American technology. Our middle and working classes are still seething at the unjustified bailout of the Wall Street banks that caused the Crash of 2008, which (by the way) is still making their lives and retirements difficult with ultra-low interest rates. The less educated part of our workforce is facing lives of indentured servitude in “service” industries, instead of pridefully making things that everyone used to use in American factories. And our students are facing trillions of debt for their educations, whereas my generation emerged not only from college, but from graduate school, with no debt and money in the bank.

These are the things that Hillary and the Dems should have been worrying about and campaigning on. Bernie tried to tell us, but we didn’t listen. And so we accepted the “leadership” of a woman who spoke softly to Wall Street, who was careless with e-mails and security, and whose main claim to fame was trying to break that final glass ceiling. Now we all know beyond doubt how motivating to average voters those things were.

And then there’s global warming. If the scientists are right, and if positive feedback accelerates it as quickly and unexpectedly as seems possible, it’s going to kill millions or tens of millions of people (mostly abroad) within the next generation. As the greatest single challenge our species will ever have faced collectively (perhaps besides nuclear war) it’s going to utterly revamp the global economy and global politics.

Obama achieved the first workable global agreement, but our President-Elect has promised to tear it up. Not only that, his campaign-website is all about coal and other fossil fuels; it doesn’t even mention solar, wind or nuclear energy.

Without American leadership and technology, global warming is going to cause our species to suffer unprecedented hardship. It’s going to do so soon. Martin O’Malley understood that point and so emphasized it in his primary campaign. Hillary did not; it was just another point on her long list of things to do, including breaking the glass ceiling.

So Hillary lost because she deserved to. She didn’t focus on what voters cared about; she told them what to care about. She had her own agenda and her own sense of priorities and urgency. (Really, she had little sense of urgency about anything; just a long wish list.) And so she lost to a guy who made noises like an Alpha Male without much sense to accompany them.

But make no mistake about it. This election was not just a debacle for the Dems alone. It has disrupted both parties, big time.

It did so because neither party’s establishment accepted reality. Neither party even seemed to notice reality: middle-class angst and the reasons for it. The GOP just went along with its ordinary script, like one of those damned morons on the telephone queues—cutting taxes, reducing regulation, and drowning government in a bathtub will make you better off. But that thirty-year-old trickle-down Rx didn’t solve the middle class’ problems. It didn’t even elect a guy the GOP’s rich donors can trust.

Donald Trump’s victory is tentative and conditional. His supporters are not so stupid as to have missed his inconsistencies and self-contradictions. If they don’t get what they want, they’ll dump him, as soon as the 2018 midterms. They might even impeach him earlier.

What voters are looking for is pols who understand what is happening and have some credible inkling how to fix it. What they’ve got so far is pols who tell them they’ll all be better off when government drowns (the GOP) or when globalization is completed, the Chinese match our Yankee standard of living, and robots do all manufacturing (the Dems). They don’t believe either nostrum, and so they’ve lost trust in the elite. That’s why they were ready to vote for anyone—no matter how inexperienced or self-contradictory—who seems to level with them.

That’s the lesson of Bernie and Donald. The party that first learns it and comes up with real answers will own the next two generations. The GOP now has a head start, but Donald is no genius, no diplomat, and no political negotiator. So the field is still open to Dems, as long as they act fast.



  • At Fri Nov 11, 02:07:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A method how to loose a presidential campaign, comprising 42 words:

    If Hillary and her nearly unlimited funding and her army of elitist advisors could not get coal miner votes and dumb uneducated deplorable American's votes and is defeated by a person the likes of Trump, is she qualified to be president?

  • At Sat Nov 12, 04:09:00 PM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    The following comment has been copied from another post:

    At Wed Nov 09, 01:09:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amazing. The media and "pollsters" never did figure out Trump. He completely connected with every hard working laborer here in NE Ohio in an apparent sincere way. Hard working folks here may not be college educated but are still 100% patriotic Americans and making the very, very basic mistake by and extremely highly educated person calling them a "basket of deplorables" was huge. A similar mistake was made by enthusiastically stating a whole bunch of coal miners were going to be put out of work. Those "elites" running for president should have had the smarts as well as a much better understanding of the deplorables, because their votes count equal to educated individuals, as it should be under our 240-year-old constitutional system justly requires.

    Yes, Trump is basically a bully and very tough businessman that often uses laws and tax codes to his advantage because without doing so he could never have constructed a single building in NYC where great "toughness" is absolutely required to get anything built with the crooked construction labor unions. Donald explains this, how he deals and negotiates with NYC unions and contractors, well in his books.

    Yes, I am scared that someone "unqualified" and often irrational has his fingers on the "nuke buttons"! However, the same man watched NYC try multiple times to try to build Woolman Ice Rink. After six or so years of watching the government repeated screw that project up, Trump asked for a chance to complete that project.
    In Trump style, he consulted with Canadian "ice experts" and the informed him that using metallic piping was crazy and new plastic piping is much better. Additionally, Trump had the unique ability to get the unions to line up countless cement trucks around the clock to allow for a single continuous concrete pour as opposed to NYC not having the ability accomplish this huge continuous pour with the unions, that is critical for a successful creation of a large ice rink. Forbes probably says it better than I can:

    We best understand the world through compelling narratives. Here’s one that helps us process the phenomenon known as Trump for President:

    “Once upon a time there was an ice skating rink in Central Park that could no longer make ice. No one could figure out how to fix the skating rink. Years went by and millions of dollars were spent and still no ice. One day a white knight wearing a bright red tie showed up and said: ‘ Let there be ice!’ Four months later there was ice. When asked by the press why the people had been unable to fix the rink themselves the knight said ‘they’re very nice people and I like them very much but they’re all idiots!’ And everyone lived happily ever after.”

    "Pretty much the true story of the Wollman Skating Rink fiasco. You can even check the New York Times. On May 31, 1986 Donald Trump said in an interview with the Times, “I don’t want my name attached to losers. So far the Wollman Rink has been one of the great losers. I’ll make it a winner.” Shortly after Trump decided to slap his name on Wollman Rink, if you read the fine print. Now, 30 years later, Wollman Rink is a winner and the Trump name is still associated with it. Just check the Wollman Skating Rink website. There it is! The famous, or, according to some, infamous TRUMP red logo."

    "The Wollman Rink incident underrscores the fascinating impact that Donald Trump is making on the political landscape and the American psyche irrespective of the outcome of the presidential campaign. Wollman Skating Rink today is one of the most iconic amenities for New Yorkers and tourists located in Central Park just a stone’s throw north of the Plaza Hotel (which was once owned by Donald Trump)."

    Best Regards, RH

  • At Sat Nov 12, 04:10:00 PM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    The following addendum also has been copied from another post:

    At Wed Nov 09, 01:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, I meant to say that we can all hope that Trump brings his Woolman rink skills to solving problems in the WH.

  • At Sat Nov 12, 04:53:00 PM EST, Blogger Jay Dratler, Jr., Ph.D., J.D. said…

    Dear RH,

    I can't fault your logic or your respect for your fellow Ohioans.

    For a supposedly smart pol, Hillary’s “deplorables” remark was plain stupid. It was much like Romney’s 47% remark, which helped him lose his election. I suppose the first rule of politics is not to insult the people you want to vote for you.

    But even that blunder pales in comparison with the Secretary of State, fourth in line of succession to the presidency, trying to control all her official communications on a private server out of her private home. Your don’t have to know much about computer systems or security, or how government works, to understand how big a blunder that was.

    In an early post (March 2015), I suggested that that blunder alone might bring her down, and (with a little help from Comey) it probably did. And then there was Hillary’s initial support for Dubya’s disastrous invasion of Iraq—which arguably has caused the destruction of Syria and rise of IS—without even reading the National Intelligence Estimate.

    Like many Dems, I recently held my peace on these and other blunders of Hillary's, for two simple reasons. First, I didn’t see any better candidate in either party after she beat Bernie. Second, all of the GOP candidates seemed entirely out of touch with reality. They really seemed to believe, like Trump, that global warming is a hoax and that cutting taxes, undoing regulation, and destroying government will make us all better off. What nonsense! Hillary made some big blunders, but mostly she seemed in contact with reality and respectful of science.

    Now, of course, there is no reason for pretense. From the outset, Hillary was a deeply flawed and undesirable candidate, who got the nomination through sheer momentum alone, based on the notion that women—a majority, not minority, group—would flock to her.

    Well, they didn't. And probably men (including me) who thought they would underestimated them in so thinking. Mea culpa.

    Now we are left with the rubble of a political party that once thought it was poised for a three-branch sweep (maybe minus the House). As this post suggests, our task now is to pick up the pieces, move toward our leaders who could really see what was going on (Bernie and Elizabeth), and regroup. The faster we do that, and the faster we put Hillary and Bill out to their luxurious pasture, the better off we’ll all be.

    The point where I part with you is your faith that Trump is the “competent doer” who can make things work. That is a possibility, and we should all hope it will come to fruition. But most of the evidence suggests that Trump’s definition of “winning” includes a lot of stiffing other people (including employees and customers), defrauding students and deluding investors and the tax man. (The excuse for him not revealing his tax returns is that they're all still under audit.)

    Maybe that all makes him “smart,” as he claimed, but that’s not the way our best companies do business. His making the ice rink work shows a practical side, and maybe that will redeem him. But his reliance on tricks, tax-evasion, delusion and bankruptcy does not, in general, show him to be the “honest and competent engineer” that you hope he will be. Nor do his racism, misogyny, and constant flirtation with the KKK and other white supremacists.

    For all our sakes, I hope he is an honest engineer and developer who will soon get to work, settle down, and put his extremist supporters aside. I hope he rises to the occasion, now that he’s working on a much, much more important stage. But I won’t be at all surprised if he fails catastrophically, for all of us, due to his inability to focus, his overconfidence, and his narcissism. We'll just have to wait and see; right now, we have no other choice.




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