Election Postmortem


President Trump has arrived. While responsibility for this election outcome can be attributed to a number of factors, the majority of the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC), and the Democrats’ embrace of neoliberal policies. Let me explain.

First, it was Schultz and the DNC who torpedoed the campaign of the one leftist who could have defeated Trump, Bernie Sanders.

Second, HRC’s arrogance, her cozying up to Goldman Sachs, her indifference to the daily lived experiences of the working class—people who can’t pay their bills, people in pain—lost her this election. In embracing neoliberalism, corporatization, and deregulation, it was Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—in continuity with the Reagan-Bush dynasty—that fueled an abandonment of the working class in favor of elite leftist technocrats. They and their ties to the billionaire-class alienated the “deplorables,” offering them nothing but the same ol’ same ol’, pushing them to a right-wing populist demagogue. HRC’s smug condescension towards the working class and her cynical pandering to Black voters (who included those “superpredators” she and Bill demonized) lost this election. None of this analysis is all that original as Glen Greenwald and Chris Hedges (here and here) make clear.

Third, vis-à-vis the American electorate, what do Obama (2008), Bernie, and Trump have in common? Answer (as The Wall Street Journal makes clear): change. Let’s look at Obama v. McCain. As the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney put it, “[l]ow-income rural white voters in Pa. voted for Obama in 2008 and then Trump in 2016, and your explanation is white supremacy? Interesting.” The point that the DNC missed is that, since the Carter administration, the middle-class has been in decline, the number of poor folk has been steadily increasing (half the country has zero net wealth), the true number of unemployed are statistically whitewashed, all while wealth inequality increases with ruthless abandon. In collaboration with Republicans, neoliberal leftists like the Clintons have been responsible for decisions and policies that produced NAFTA, the explosion of the carceral population, and banking deregulation. Disenfranchised Americans didn’t vote primarily for protofascism, but against the status quo. And if HRC represents anything, it’s the status quo. As Michael Moore put it, those portions of the country that have been most ravaged by neoliberal free trade policies saw Trump as a chance to be the “human Molotov cocktail that they’d like to throw into the system to blow it up.” That’s what this election represents, something that was lost on HRC and the DNC. Sadly, Sanders, who represented that change, was denied by the DNC.

Further, a majority of Americans favor (a) single-payer healthcare (58%), (b) stricter gun control laws (55%), (c) debt-free university tuition (62%), and (d) an increase in the minimum wage (53%), all positions traditionally associated with the left (and supported by candidate Sanders). But it was Trump—not Clinton—who spoke to the disaffected white working poor and middle class. The Democrats’ move to the right is not predominantly a response to an increasingly conservative American public. The Democrats’ move to the right is predominantly an artifact of their embracing a neoliberal technocracy whose agenda was to dismantle FDR’s New Deal in favor of globalism, so-called “free trade”, and corporate capitalism, putting the interests of Wall Street over the interests of working people. Trump, in all his misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, protofascist, climate-science-denying glory was the only candidate of the two who spoke to that. And that’s a failure of the elitist left and the DNC.

Finally, to make things worse, Trump is considering an animal-rights-hating oil company exec for Secretary of the Interior. Dark days ahead, indeed.

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