How the Democrats got over the Rainbow

July 25, 2016

After acknowledging that Hillary Clinton would win the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders called on supporters of his defeated primary campaign to continue working to transform the Democratic Party. But that strategy has been tried before. Lee Sustar, a veteran contributor to Socialist Worker, looks back at Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “Rainbow challenge” in the 1980s–and explains how the Democratic Party absorbed that effort and killed the left’s hope for a mass membership Rainbow Coalition.

Jesse Jackson speaks during the 1984 Democratic presidential primary campaign

Jesse Jackson speaks during the 1984 Democratic presidential primary campaign

CAN BERNIE Sanders succeed where Jessie Jackson failed three decades ago in attempting to transform the Democratic Party?

Following his speech last month in which he conceded that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination, a reported 7,000 supporters answered Sanders’ call to declare that they would run for public office–including challenging Democratic incumbents in primary campaigns–and carry on the values that his campaign put forward.

Sanders claims that the party’s platform to be adopted at this week’s nominating convention will be the most left wing ever, and his drawn-out negotiations with the Clinton campaign before endorsing her raised expectations that the self-described socialist candidate will continue fighting for his billionaire-bashing, pro-worker talking points.

But if Jackson’s campaigns of three decades ago are any guide, Sanders and his supporters will discover that the Democratic Party is highly adept at accommodating progressive rhetoric and candidates–while avoiding any significant changes in the party’s pro-corporate machinery and policies.

And that’s after two runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in which Jackson, in some ways at least, represented a greater threat to the party status quo than Sanders does today.

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TO MANY on the left, Jackson appeared an unlikely standard-bearer in 1984. As founder of the Chicago-based Operation Breadbasket, Jackson had been oriented on Black capitalism back to the days of the civil rights movement–often to the frustration of his mentor, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

When Jackson criticized King’s plan for a Poor People’s March on Washington, King replied, “If you are so interested in doing your own thing that you can’t do what the organization is structured to do, go ahead. If you want to carve out your own niche in society, go ahead, but for God’s sake, don’t bother me!”

Jackson did strike out on his own with People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), which continued its orientation on building African American businesses. But by 1983–as liberals inside and outside the Democratic Party were pulled to the right by the increasingly conservative climate–Jackson, who traveled constantly, emerged as a leading voice against the right-wing polices of Republican President Ronald Reagan. He said in a speech:

Blacks have their backs against the wall and are increasingly distressed by the erosion of past gains and the rapidly deteriorating conditions within Black and poor communities. As Black leaders have attempted to remedy these problems through the Democratic Party–to which Black voters have been the most loyal and disciplined group–too often they have been ignored or treated with disrespect…

An increase in voter registration and political representation would have a profound impact upon the status quo of the Democratic Party…Never again should Blacks live and operate below their political privilege and rights.

Enthusiastic crowds saw Jackson as a figure who could lead the unfinished struggles of the civil rights and Black Power movements. After months of chants of “Run, Jesse, run!” Jackson threw his hat in the ring.

Jackson had a late start, little organization and less money–and he faced stiff opposition from almost the entire rising Black political establishment. Detroit Mayor Coleman Young said, “The major task of Black America today is to get rid of Ronald Reagan. We cannot afford to support a Black candidate who cannot win.” U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel of New York served as vice chair of the national campaign of former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Many Black elected officials lined up with mainstream Democrats to denounce Jackson’s ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Nevertheless Jackson swept the Black vote across the U.S. in the 1984 campaign. He won 3.5 million votes in the primaries and caucuses–21 percent of the total–and came in first in four states.

On the left, only a handful of revolutionary socialist groups–including the International Socialist Organization–resisted the pressure to join Jackson’s campaign.

As Sheila Collins, a key activist in the campaign, wrote, “The Jackson campaign was the first in which a variety of civil rights activists, Marxists, social democrats (in and out of the Democratic Party), Black nationalists and even some disaffected Republicans worked together to create an ideological convergence.” Barry Commoner, the 1980 presidential candidate of the Citizens Party, a small social democratic environmentalist group, threw his support to Jackson.

The 1984 campaign gave rise to the Rainbow Coalition, which aimed to shift the Democratic Party to the left.

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WHEN JACKSON decided once again to seek the Democratic nomination in 1988, African American elected officials concluded that they had no choice but to get on board this time. It was clear that Jackson would get the votes of the Black establishment’s base, so they resigned themselves to trying to use the Jackson campaign to boost their own clout in the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party establishment got ready for another Jackson challenge.

In the aftermath of the 1984 campaign, a faction of conservative elected officials and party functionaries had launched the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) with the goal of distancing the party from African Americans and unions. Even the word “liberal” was banished as the DLC tried to curry favor with Wall Street and corporate CEOs.

Southerners, including an obscure Arkansas politician named Bill Clinton, played an important role in the DLC as the party tried to keep white Democrats in the region from defecting to the Republican Party. To that end, the DLC engineered the “Super Tuesday” primary election–a single day earlier in the primary season, with a large number of contests concentrated in the South, to boost the chances of conservative white presidential candidates.

What the geniuses at the DLC forgot was that the Southern Democratic primary electorate was increasingly African American as whites shifted to the Republicans. Thus, on March 8, 1988, a massive Black turnout lifted Jackson to victory a second-place finish in 16 out of 21 primaries–which made Jackson the frontrunner in the delegate count.

Jackson followed with a victory in the Michigan party caucuses, with 55 percent of the vote. He ended the race with 7 million votes, or around 30 percent of the total.

Jackson’s success broke through racial barriers in many parts of the U.S.–like Michigan for example. His campaign championed not only the historic struggle of African Americans, but called for “economic justice” for working-class people whose unions were under attack and whose living standards were declining even as the economy boomed.

Jackson’s success shocked party bosses and the media. A Time magazine cover summed up the feelings of a surprised U.S. ruling class with the headline: “JESSE!?”

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DESPITE THE panic in the mainstream media, though, Jackson’s 1988 campaign was far more moderate than his 1984 run. The Black nationalists and leftists who had played an important role in 1984 were sidelined by machine politicians such as Charles Rangel.

Jackson also tailored his speeches to mainstream politics–for example, he criticized Ronald Reagan’s intervention in the 1980s Gulf War between Iraq and Iran for risking “our boys” in an ill-defined mission. He denounced the administration’s efforts to unseat Panamanian President Manuel Noriega for being too mild and sounded an anti-drug theme that provided a liberal cover for police crackdowns in poor urban neighborhoods. Jackson also hedged on his longstanding support for Palestinian rights by saying he would not talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization until it renounced “terrorism.”

Nevertheless, many on the left argued that Jackson’s calls for “economic justice” during the 1988 campaign injected “class consciousness” into presidential politics. Indeed, thousands of Black and white workers turned out for Jackson rallies and voted for him, delivering him a victory in Michigan’s crucial primary. Jackson’s talk about the “coalition of the rejected” had some real substance in this case.

The fact that significant numbers of white workers were willing to break with racism to vote for Jackson was welcomed by everyone committed to interracial class unity. AndJackson’s speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention sounded pro-worker themes that the DLC–committed to the idea that the Democrats must follow the Reaganite Republican Party as it turned to the right–had wanted to avoid:

We find common ground at the plant gate that closes on workers without notice. We find common ground at the farm auction, where a good farmer loses his or her land to bad loans or diminishing markets. Common ground at the schoolyard where teachers cannot get adequate pay, and students cannot get a scholarship, and can’t make a loan. Common ground at the hospital admitting room, where somebody tonight is dying because they cannot afford to go upstairs to a bed that’s empty waiting for someone with insurance to get sick. We are a better nation than that. We must do better.

But at the same time, Jackson had been steadily downplaying his anti-racist rhetoric, before and during the 1988 campaign. At the previous year’s convention of his Rainbow Coalition organization, he even went so far as to say that the question of racism had been “solved.”

Jackson’s selection of Ron Brown as his chief negotiator at the 1988 Democratic National Convention showed where he had taken the Rainbow. Brown was a California Democrat with no history of involvement in grassroots struggles, but a long record of working inside the party machine. He had once made his living as a lobbyist for Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier during Duvalier’s murderous dictatorship in Haiti.

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DESPITE JACKSON’S moderation, most left-wing groups, including many Maoist revolutionary organizations, concluded that work within the Democratic Party was essential. Max Elbaum, a veteran leader of the Maoist movement, made the case for this approach:

…[T]he political program of the Jackson/Rainbow movement, while not revolutionary, went well beyond the parameters of mainstream politics. Yet by bringing this program into the Democratic primary contests, the Jackson campaign found a mechanism to present its message to tens of millions and mobilize a nationwide apparatus. This meant a direct confrontation with white supremacy–in the form of a white electoral backlash–as well as conflict with accomodationist Black leaders who were crucial to maintaining the hegemony of bourgeois politics in the African American community.

Especially for activists who continued the New Communist Movement legacy of seeing the fights as indispensable for uniting workers of all colors, the Jackson/Rainbow motion thus offered a tremendous opportunity–even the more so when it seemed that Jackson was willing to build a Rainbow Coalition that would undertake non-electoral as well as electoral activism and remain independent of official Democratic structures, and even distinct from his own campaign structures…

[T]he Rainbow offered the prospect of a durable, mass-based and independent vehicle–one which revolutionaries could loyally help build, while retaining the freedom to advocate their own point of view.

But Jackson did the opposite with the Rainbow Coalition–he prevented it from becoming a permanent mass membership organization. He later orchestrated its merger into Operation PUSH to create Rainbow/PUSH, which serves as Jackson’s personal political vehicle rather than a membership group.

Meanwhile, key Jackson operatives moved into the Democratic Party hierarchy. Donna Brazile, who had been a national Rainbow coordinator of the first Jackson campaign, went on to become Al Gore’s campaign manager in the 2000 elections–today, she is a cable TV news commentator. Ron Brown went on to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce under the candidate he supported in the next presidential election: the DLC’s Bill Clinton.

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THE DISSOLUTION of the Rainbow into the Democratic Party can’t be seen as simply a reflection of Jackson’s personal proclivities or the ambitions of his key allies. Rather, it flows from the nature of the party itself.

After a century of basing much of its power on the segregationist Dixiecrats in the South, the Democratic Party was compelled to open its doors to Southern African American voters and encourage the rapid growth in the number of African American elected officials. The aspirations of Black voters, in turn, pressured Black officials into backing Jackson by 1988.

Meanwhile, for much of the left, having concluded that supporting the Democratic Party in elections was the best way to relate to African American workers, there was no point any longer in maintaining separate revolutionary organization. Most dissolved.

In any event, the impact of the Rainbow Coalition on the Democratic Party was fleeting at best. In his 1992 run for president, Bill Clinton made a point of humiliating Jackson by denouncing the rap artist Sister Souljah at a Rainbow/PUSH event.

Clinton also sought to distance his campaign from any perceived Democratic Party identification with civil rights by leaving the campaign trail during the primaries to preside over the execution of a mentally disabled Black man, Ricky Ray Rector. In Georgia, he visited a penitentiary and staged a photo op with a work gang of hundreds of Black men.

Rather than challenge Clinton from the left, the majority of the Black political establishment adapted to the Democrats’ right turn. The Congressional Black Caucus, for example, is a major recipient of corporate campaign contributions.

By the time Barack Obama became the Democratic Party presidential nominee in 2008, the party was able to offer liberal imagery, with references to the civil rights and labor movements, but maintain business-friendly policies in practice.

The Sanders campaign, of course, has called attention to that contradiction between the Democrats’ words and actions with the aim of challenging the “billionaire class.” And now that Sanders has endorsed her, the Clinton campaign may well throw Sanders a few rhetorical bones.

But behind the scenes, the pressure, bribery and co-optation is going full tilt. That’s why today, as in 1988, the work of building an activist and influential left must take place outside the Democratic Party.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/07/25/how-democrats-got-over-the-rainbow

Does Hillary Clinton Understand the Biggest Divide in American Politics?

Posted on Jul 25, 2016

By Robert Reich

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is missing a crucial point of this election.(Susan Walsh / AP)

This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s website.

Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.

A Democratic operative I’ve known since the Bill Clinton administration told me “now that she’s won the nomination, Hillary is moving to the middle. She’s going after moderate swing voters.”

Presumably that’s why she tapped Tim Kaine to be her vice president. Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.

In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 – signing legislation on welfare reform, crime, trade, and financial deregulation that enabled him to win reelection in 1996 and declare “the era of big government” over.

In those days a general election was like a competition between two hot-dog vendors on a boardwalk extending from right to left. Each had to move to the middle to maximize sales. (If one strayed too far left or right, the other would move beside him and take all sales on rest of the boardwalk.)

But this view is outdated. Nowadays, it’s the boardwalk versus the private jets on their way to the Hamptons.

The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy.

This is a big reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It’s also why Bernie Sanders took 22 states in the Democratic primaries, including a majority of Democratic primary voters under age 45.

There are no longer “moderates.”  There’s no longer a “center.” There’s authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism (which had been Bernie’s “political revolution,” and is now up for grabs).

And then there’s the Republican establishment (now scattered to the winds), and the Democratic establishment.

If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock – as, I’m afraid, is the nation. Because Donald Trump does recognize it. His authoritarian (“I’ am your voice”) populism is premised on it.

“In five, ten years from now,” Trump says, “you’re going to have a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Speaking at a factory in Pennsylvania in June, he decried politicians and financiers who had betrayed Americans by “taking away from the people their means of making a living and supporting their families.”

Worries about free trade used to be confined to the political left. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, people who say free-trade deals are bad for America are more likely to lean Republican.

The problem isn’t trade itself. It’s a political-economic system that won’t cushion working people against trade’s downsides or share trade’s upsides. In other words, a system that’s rigged.

Most basically, the anti-establishment wants big money out of politics. This was the premise of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. It’s also been central to Donald (“I’m so rich I can’t be bought off”) Trump’s appeal, although he’s now trolling for big money.

A recent YouGov/Economist poll found that 80 percent of GOP primary voters who preferred Donald Trump as the nominee listed money in politics as an important issue, and a Bloomberg Politics poll shows a similar percentage of Republicans opposed to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.

Getting big money out of politics is of growing importance to voters in both major parties. A June New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 84 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Republicans want to fundamentally change or completely rebuild our campaign finance system.

Last January, a DeMoines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers found 91 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about money in politics.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to move toward the “middle.” In fact, such a move could hurt her if it’s perceived to be compromising the stances she took in the primaries in order to be more acceptable to Democratic movers and shakers.

She needs to move instead toward the anti-establishment – forcefully committing herself to getting big money out of politics, and making the system work for the many rather than a privileged few.

She must make clear Donald Trump’s authoritarian populism is a dangerous gambit, and the best way to end crony capitalism and make America work for the many is to strengthen American democracy.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/does_hillary_clinton_understand_biggest_divide_american_politics_20160725

Donald Trump’s Strategy for Victory Is Clear, but Are Democrats Able to See It?

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Hillary Clinton and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein during the plenary session titled “Equality for Girls and Women: 2034 Instead of 2134?” at the Clinton Global Initiative 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

There is an adage, based on Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”: “Know your enemy.” After watching Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, I wonder just how well Democrats really know Trump and his strategy.

It is easy to paint the businessman-turned-politician as a “racist” and “misogynist.” He is all those things and more. In fact, those descriptors are part of his political strategy. Pointing them out without seeing the larger picture of how he is planning on winning the November election is a recipe for failure.

I knew that if I watched Trump give his speech, I would be so enraged by his loathsome manner and disgusting rhetoric that it might blind me to his bigger plan. When I read the transcript later, I still felt rage, but the topics appeared to be a confusing mess, with Trump jumping from domestic to foreign policy with no apparent coherence. But then a pattern emerged.

Broadly speaking, Trump is using a simple combination of two political devices, pivoting deftly from one to the other. The first is the tried-and-true form of dog-whistle politics to rally racial resentment. The second taps into anger and legitimate public disgust over the failures of capitalism. In other words, he is solidifying the resentment-filled voter base that backed him from the start, and is overtly wooing the base that Bernie Sanders inspired but abandoned when the Democratic Party undermined his nomination. Trump’s acceptance speech was a repetitive exercise in this two-prong approach, and with the combination of these two seemingly disparate voter bases, he sees victory in November.

Never mind that Trump himself is a key player in the financial system that has devastated ordinary Americans—he gets away with that contradiction by earning the oxymoronic and Orwellian moniker of “blue-collar billionaire” from the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr.

Over and over in his speech, Trump invoked the fear of the “other” (which Hillary Clinton embodies simply by being a woman) and then pivoted to the economy. For example, he brought up the case of Sarah Root, a 21-year-old woman who died when her car was slammed by an undocumented immigrant who apparently had been driving drunk.

“I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family,” Trump said. “But to this administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders. What about our economy?”

The non sequitur about the economy was followed by statistics meant to appeal to people of color: “Nearly four in 10 African-American children are living in poverty, while 58 percent of African-American youth are not employed. Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when the president took his oath of office.”

By the way, The Washington Post and other fact-checking organizations have issued a comprehensive list of lies and exaggerations in Trump’s speech, which include the aforementioned statistics. But of course, facts are there to be manipulated into the dire portrait of the nation that Trump is painting.

Here is another example of Trump invoking the fear of the “other,” this time personified by Islamic State and white Americans’ fear of losing imperial prestige: “[Islamic State] has spread across the region, and the world. Libya is in ruins, and our ambassador [the late J. Christopher Stevens] and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers.” He later invoked Clinton’s kowtowing to moneyed interests: “Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place.”

Still later in his speech, he jumped back to domestic policy by touting the killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., with no mention whatsoever of police violence and killings of black Americans. This, of course, was Trump using dog-whistle politics to win over pro-police and racist white voters. But then he quickly pivoted to the economy, saying, “This administration has failed America’s inner cities. It’s failed them on education. It’s failed them on jobs.”

He (wrongly) accused Clinton of having an immigration policy of “mass amnesty, mass immigration and mass lawlessness” that “will overwhelm your schools and hospitals, further reduce your jobs and wages.” Such a macabre vision plays directly to nativist fears of immigrants, which Trump once more followed with a switch to the economy by promising “a different vision for our workers. It begins with a new fair trade policy that protects our jobs and stands up to countries that cheat.”

When he got around to summarizing his approach to the presidency, he used the same pivot again: “My plan will begin with safety at home—which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order. On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.”

Trump, who likely would have been roundly defeated by Bernie Sanders in a general election (as many polls suggested), is determined to pick up Sanders fans by whipping up the general public frustration with the failures of capitalism. At one point, Trump just comes out and says it: “I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders—he never had a chance. But his supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue: trade.”

If Democrats want to beat Trump in November, they need to recognize this strategy fast and adopt the progressive-sounding economic proposals that Trump is offering as he tries to reconcile conservative white voters with economic liberalists. In other words, Clinton needs to embody Sanders, and fast. That way, she can combine Democratic stalwarts (those who planned to vote for her all along) with the independents Sanders rallied and win by a comfortable margin in November. Of course, the Democratic Party could have ensured a win early on by refusing to undermine Sanders’ candidacy. Recent internal documentsleaked by Wikileaks have shown the contempt the party had for the candidate best suited to usher in a decisive win.

But it’s too late to worry about that now. All Clinton can do is understand Trump’s strategy and work to beat it. That would mean renouncing the very Wall Street ties she has relied on throughout her career, ties that have in large part earned her well-deserved, collective contempt from the public. Instead, she is relying on voters choosing her because she is not Trump. If Trump is espousing a politics of fear through his racism and misogyny, Clinton is no different. The fear she is relying on is a fear of Trump himself. And that may not be enough.

 

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio, soon to be on Free Speech TV (click here for the campaign to televise Uprising). She is also the Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women’s rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of “Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence.”

 

The new working class

Trump can talk to disaffected white men, but they don’t make up the “working class” anymore

Democrats need to get comfortable with using the term “working class” or risk losing those voters to Trump

The new working class: Trump can talk to disaffected white men, but they don't make up the "working class" anymore
Donald Trump (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

This piece originally appeared on BillMoyers.com.

Thursday night, Trump spent considerable air time speaking (more like yelling) about how America’s steel and coal workers have been ignored and sold-out for decades by both political parties. He promised to bring back those long-disappearing jobs and to put their needs front and center in his administration. As the daughter of a steel worker, I admit it was nice to finally hear someone talk about how the old industrial working class was robbed of their dignity and livelihood, with little regard for the devastation left behind.

But that working class — the blue-collar, hard-hat, mostly male archetype of the great post-war prosperity — is long gone. In its place is a new working class whose jobs are in the now massive sectors of our serving and caring economy. And so far, neither Trump nor Clinton have talked about this new working class, which is much more female and racially diverse than the one of my dad’s generation. With Trump’s racially charged and nativistic rhetoric, he’s offering red meat to a group of Americans who have every right to be angry — but not at the villains Trump has served up.

The decades-long destruction of American manufacturing profoundly changed the working class — neighborhoods, jobs and families. What had once been nearly universal, guaranteed well-paying jobs for young men fresh from high school graduation were yanked overseas with little regard for the devastation left behind.

To add insult to injury, the loss of manufacturing jobs was often heralded as a sign of progress. As the economic contribution of these former working-class heroes to our nation dwindled and the technology revolution sizzled, in many people’s minds, millions of men became zeroes. They seemed to be a dusty anachronism in a sparkling new economy.

Black men, who had fought for decades for their right to these well-paying jobs, watched them evaporate just as they were finally admitted to competitive apprenticeships and added to seniority lists. When capital fled for Mexico or China, the shuttered factories in America’s biggest cities left a giant vacuum in their wake, decimating a primary source of jobs for black men that would never be replaced.

The economic vacuum would be filled with a burgeoning underground economy in the drug trade, which was met with a militarized war on drugs rather than an economic development plan. That war continues today — the scaffolding upon which our prison industrial complex is built and the firmament upholding the police brutality and oppression in black communities that result in far too many unarmed black men being shot and killed by police.

As for the once privileged, white working-class man, the dignity and sense of self-worth that came with a union contract and the trappings of middle-class life are sorely missed and their absence bitterly resented. In the absence of real commitments from either political party to promote high-quality job creation for workers without college degrees, conservative talk-radio’s echo chamber and the rhetoric of far-right conservative politicians have concocted a story about who is winning (and taking from government) in this post-industrial economy: African-Americans and immigrants.

These are the contours shaping our nation’s political debate.

Trump has hitched his presidential wagon to the pain of the white working class, though far more rhetorically than substantively. With his anti-immigrant pledge to “build a wall” and his unicorn promises to rip up trade agreements and bring manufacturing jobs back to our shores, Trump promises to make the white working class “winners” again.

But the sad reality is that his campaign represents nothing more than yet another cynical political ploy to tap the racial anxiety and economic despair felt by white working-class men. It is a salve to soothe with no real medicine for healing the underlying wound.

Trump, and the Republican Party more broadly, offers no solutions or even promises to address the grave economic insecurity of the broader working class today, whose jobs are more likely to be in fast food, retail, home health care and janitorial services than on an assembly line. Unlike their predecessors, today’s working class toils in a labor market where disrespect — in the form of low wages, erratic schedules, zero or few sick days and arbitrary discipline — is ubiquitous. Gone are the unions and workplace protections that created a blue-collar middle class — the best descriptor for my own family background. Today’s working class punch the clock in a country with the largest percentage of low-paid workers among advanced nations, with the paychecks of African-Americans and immigrants plunging even further, particularly among women.

Thanks to the brave action and demands of movements like Fight for $15, United We Dream and Black Lives Matter, the Democratic Party is finally offering a robust official platform to improve the lives of today’s working class, not the one of my father’s generation. After decades in which working-class plight went largely overlooked by the Democrats in favor of a more centrist, pro-business stance, the party’s progressive economic shift should claim broad support among the new working class. As noted in my book, “Sleeping Giant,” unlike a generation ago, today’s working class is multiracial and much more female — more than one-third of today’s working class are people of color. Nearly half (47 percent) of today’s young working class, those aged 25-34, are not white people. And two-thirds of non-college educated women are in the paid labor force, up from about half in 1980.

The Democratic Party, both through its platform and its candidate, supports higher wages, paid sick days, affordable child care, college without debt and reifying the right to a union. With a platform more progressive than any in recent history, especially on economic and racial justice issues, there should be no doubt that the Democratic Party is the champion of the working class, at least on the merits. But most people don’t read party platforms or study policy positions. Instead, they listen and watch, waiting for cues that a candidate “gets” them and is actually talking to them.

For despite the platform language and Hillary Clinton’s stated positions, the Democratic Party hasn’t been talking to the working class. The words “working class” seem all but erased from the Democratic lexicon — in its speeches, ads and on its social media. The party’s language still clings to vague notions of “working people” or “hard-working Americans” or the false notion of a ubiquitous “middle class.” It may well be that the party has bought the political spin that “working class” is code for “white and male” — but actually, it’s people of color who are much more likely to consider themselves working class. And as the party of racial and social justice, Democrats are missing a big opportunity to sell its economic platform to this new working class.

The General Social Survey, a long-running public opinion survey, found in 2014 that 46 percent of respondents identified themselves as working class compared to 42 percent who identify as middle class. Black and Latino individuals were much more likely than whites to identify as working class. Six out of 10 Latinos and 56 percent of blacks consider themselves working class, compared to just 42 percent of whites. In fact, in every year since the early 1970s, the percentage of Americans who identify as working class has ranged between 44 and 50 percent. Interestingly, younger people are also more likely to consider themselves working class, with 55 percent of 18-29 year olds identifying as working class compared to 36 percent who identify as middle class.

Yet Trump has won the rhetorical war for the working class — despite his pitch being narrowly tailored to disaffected white men. There is no doubt in my mind that the Democratic Party is the party of the working class — white, black and brown — at least substantively. But by failing to explicitly use the term “working class,” the party risks not being heard by the very voters who have the most at stake in this election.

Pentagon wants Clinton, racists want Trump — either way Wall St. wins

trump_clinton (1)In May 2015, weeks before Donald Trump declared his candidacy, he took a friendly phone call from his long-time golf buddy Bill Clinton. On the call, Clinton, according to the Washington Post, “encouraged Trump’s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party and offered his own views of the political landscape.” (Both sides admit to the call). Hillary Clinton had declared her own candidacy days earlier.

The Washington Post article continued, “People with knowledge of the call in both camps said it was one of many that Clinton and Trump have had over the years, whether about golf or donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Indeed, federal records show the Trump family donated to Hillary Clinton in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He gave at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In Trump’s star-studded 2005 wedding, it was none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton who got the seat in the front row—ahead of Billy Joel, Katie Couric, Tony Bennett and all the rest of the celebrities.

They’re all friends. This is the truth that neither the Clinton or Trump teams will admit now that they are trading insults on a daily basis on the campaign trail. Trump brags about his assets that surpass $1 billion, while Clinton plays down her wealth to appear “relatable.” But they are of the same social class and they travel in the same elite circles. Bill and Hillary Clinton themselves have a net worth of $111 million—from a “career in public service.” The Trumps and Clintons call each other for advice. They party, socialize and golf together. They even use the exact same tax havens—Trump and Clinton have registered their private corporations at the same Delaware address, alongside  285,000 other corporate entities.

The candidates are not identical, of course. Trump’s brazen racism and sexism has given confidence to like-minded people nationwide to follow his example. His campaign has had the effect of throwing open the window to the smell of the country’s rotting bigotry—a stink that will not be easily removed even if he loses. If he were to turn his unconstitutional campaign promises into actual policies, they would amount to a virtual declaration of war against immigrant and Muslim communities.

On the other side, Clinton offers Black and Latino communities sweet phrases while ejecting and talking down to Black Lives Matter activists who dare bring up her real record as a politician. She was a champion of the militarization of the police, of mass incarceration policies, the gutting of welfare, and record-setting deportations.

Trump bears responsibility for dozens of racist assaults and hate crimes while mainstreaming a culture of bigotry that will undoubtedly lead to more. Clinton bears responsibility for a decades-long political assault on Black and Latino communities.

Many rightfully wonder if Trump’s reckless language and unchecked machismo would lead to new wars, including nuclear ones. But Clinton’s declared foreign policies are perhaps more dangerous. Her saber-rattling against Russia and for NATO expansion plans and aggressive interventionism in Syria, Ukraine and Libya follow the neoconservative playbook and constitute the most plausible real-life scenarios for World War III.

Before, during and after the Iraq war, Clinton marched in lockstep with the Bush administration. No wonder the whole Republican foreign policy establishment is backing her over Trump!

Domestically, Hillary Clinton has built a career around doing the bidding of Wall Street and even served “proudly” as a director for the low-wage corporate giant Walmart. A champion of the bank bailout, she and Bill Clinton received $153 million in speaking fees since 2000 for 51 speeches to banks. To this day, she has refused to release the transcripts from those speeches. She recently accepted the endorsement of Henry Paulson, onetime CEO of Goldman Sachs and secretary of the treasury during the Bush and Obama administrations. Before engineering the bank bailout, Paulson made hundreds of millions off of the toxic home loans that left millions of people in the U.S. without livelihoods or homes.

Trump embodies a whole class of sleazy landlords and developers, who buy favors and regulatory changes from politicians to make super-profits at the expense of poor and working-class tenants. So the choice is between Trump, a billionaire who buys out politicians, and Clinton, a politician in the employ of billionaires.

That’s the current state of American “democracy” in a nutshell: a pure sham, a rigged process dripping with corporate money to ensure the selection of an ultra-rich racist imperialist. Trump and Clinton each have higher unfavorable ratings than any presidential candidate in U.S. history. A recent tweet captured the sentiment of millions: “there must be a cheaper way to find the worst people in society.”

How to defeat Trump and the far-right

Since 1978, the cost of tuition has gone up 1,100 percent. Health care has gone up 600 percent. Food has gone up 240 percent and shelter has gone up 380 percent. Meanwhile, typical wages have just risen 10 percent and minimum wage workers have seen their wages plummet 5 percent. The wealth of average CEOs has gone up 937 percent.

The Democratic and Republican establishments have together engineered the country’s vast inequality with anti-worker trade deals, de-unionization, the deregulation of Wall Street and the elimination of social services. They have fed hatred of immigrants, attacked the Black community, and pitted workers against each other in election after election. This status quo, which Clinton represents, is what gave birth to the Trump phenomenon in the first place, and her presidency would also provide fertile ground for continued far-right organizing. Quite simply, supporting Clinton is not the way to beat back Trump.

To really defeat the far-right and Trump, it will take a movement against Wall Street—demanding health care, jobs, housing and education as guaranteed rights and standing up militantly against racism and xenophobia.

Into the elections—and beyond

Third-party candidates are growing in popularity. The Libertarian and Green party candidates polling higher than ever and the Party for Socialism and Liberation is seeing more national interest in socialist politics than in previous campaigns. But the corporate media is giving these candidates pitifully little media coverage and is expected to exclude them from the presidential debates. So the country is being told to pick between Donald Trump and the guest of honor at his most recent wedding.

Millions, we hope, will disobey these orders and reject the false choice between the widespread misery of the status quo and far-right chauvinism. In either case, regardless if Trump or Clinton wins, there is no question that the future will be one of even more intense struggle. It will be struggle for the working class in general, for all oppressed communities, as well as for the movements for peace and environmental justice.

https://www.liberationnews.org/pentagon-wants-clinton-racists-want-trump/

Why Donald Trump Could Be the Next President of the United States

Posted on Jul 22, 2016

By Alan Minsky

  Donald Trump called the GOP convention in Cleveland “a tremendous success.” (Dennis Van Tine / STAR MAX / IPx)

This is madness. Fully predictable madness. One archetype of the American experience is now realized. We’ve always had our carnival hucksters and itinerant preachers and snake oil thieves. P.T. Barnum put on a good show. All sought wealth and power.

But never before has one risen so high as Donald J. Trump, with so vast an audience of willing dupes and sleepwalking accomplices—the balance of the liberal establishment included.

The 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland was ground zero to witness this disaster. But before introducing you to its parade of zombies and daemons—lest I be accused of malignant nihilism—here are three things we can’t lose sight of about Trump’s winning the Republican nomination:

1. This is all happening because of rampant disgust with the members of the American political establishment. While their clients (aka donors) grow richer, the middle class is sinking. Simply put, the contemporary “neoliberal” American economy does not allow for the majority of the population to lead comfortable lives. In fact, the opposite is true: More people are falling out of the middle class and into seemingly inescapable debt traps. Trump acknowledges this reality more than the establishment Republicans and promises a different economic path, albeit without providing details. America will remain in a political crisis until this reality changes.

2. No one should have any illusions: The election of Donald Trump would generate a real sense of empowerment for the most reactionary white supremacist forces in our society. Stating this fact does not amount to an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, who has much to answer for herself as a neoliberal at the center of power for decades; but Trump’s ascendancy has revealed how vibrant these terrifying forces remain in American society. No decent people should have any illusions about the real danger a Trump presidency would represent.

3. Donald Trump would be an unmitigated disaster for “Brand America.” This is not a concern of mine politically, but it is certainly important to an American political and economic establishment that operates in, and to a great extent oversees, a globalized world. Trump is the personification of the “ugly American,” and that’s not helpful for the maintenance of the United States’ military empire, or for U.S.-based global corporations. If for no other reason, the political establishment would be expected to rally to Trump’s opponent over these concerns. But in 2016, support from the political establishment can be a kiss of death.

On this point, let’s return to this week’s vertiginous convention. We’ve all been told that Mr. Trump is the candidate of the anti-establishment, and yet if you came to Cleveland expecting to find the Quicken Loans Center overrun with the Duck Dynasty/NASCAR set, you’d be disappointed. In contrast, the delegates on the floor look almost like the same crowd who nominated Mitt Romney in 2012: a preponderance of blue blazers, Laura Ashley summer dresses and a notable lack of Army fatigues. In fact, the most conspicuous alt-culture present was the 10-gallon-hat-wearing, pro-Ted Cruz Texas tribe.

I asked Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman, about this anomaly. Was King Donald’s coronation occurring at a court not of his choosing? Could it be that the makeup of the delegates was a result of Trump’s lack of organization at the state level, and thus those committed to voting for him were the standard longtime Republican Party set?

Steele explained: “Yes, partly. But most of the delegates voting for Trump were hand-selected by the campaign. Still, it’s true that the pool of Trump delegates are diluted because of his lack of organization at the state level. So what you have are a mix of people on the floor, all bound to vote for Trump—some very enthusiastically, some less so.”

On the one hand, the mass media representation of Trump supporters as overwhelmingly semiliterate, white poor and working-class lynch-mob racists is either: a) exaggerated, or b) this group has changed its attire to include Sperry Top-Siders. While one can never overstate the mindlessness of this well-bathed, suburban caste, it is striking to see them endorse a candidate who so frequently expresses contempt for an establishment they so clearly have been born into.

That they would so willingly embrace a candidate whose victory would so badly tarnish the American brand around the world (undoubtedly a bedrock of their own prosperity) is proof of two things about our GOP brethren: 1) America’s prosperous suburban country-club set loves a winner, and 2) as John Nichols, political correspondent for The Nation, pointed out as we stared out together onto the convention floor, “This is an authoritarian party. Its rank and file is expected to fall into line.”

Indeed, Trump’s bluster and erratic (yet always authoritarian) manner perfectly fits linguist George Lakoff’s conception of the Republican brand as hyperpatriarchal, a worldview grounded in “strict father morality.” Not only does Trump parade his well-rehearsed and terrifyingly attractive family at every opportunity, we cannot forget that Trump’s business empire is not publicly traded. It’s a top-down, family-owned fiefdom with The Donald as king. And like any pre-fallen Macbeth or Tennessee Williams’ patriarchal phantasm, the lord of these garish manors is erratic, contradictory and teetering toward a destructive madness—even as the ghosts of his earlier exploits remain well hidden (though expect some to slip into view with the publication of David Cay Johnston’s excellent “The Making of Donald Trump” on Aug. 2).

So as the crowds who attended Trump’s rallies watch their hero call out the betrayal of the white working class from their Velveeta-stained couches, the suburban set populating the convention floor in Cleveland falls in lockstep behind its newer, more patriarchal patriarch because it’s the only thing they know how to do.

Joining them in their sleepwalk are the mainstream media. Upon arrival at the convention, nothing was more striking than the contempt in store for the Fourth Estate. Housed in a parking lot across from the Q Center, media row was janky and claustrophobic. The hospitality resembled that afforded to movie extras. The floor of their parking lot home was uneven, and the makeshift booths of particleboard and Styrofoam all strangely askew. Author Thomas Frank quipped, “This is as phantasmagoric as any German expressionist set.”

While it’s true that the mainstream media burps up undigested objections to the Trump phenomenon, their utter lack of depth provides The Donald sanctuary in their preferred infotainment narrative: Trump as The Star on another reality show. And herein may lie one source of Trump’s success. On balance, reality shows reveal a tawdry world of desperate Americans willing always to walk over each other, stabbing any semblance of solidarity in the back. In this, Trump’s world is much closer to the lives led by the masses of contemporary Americans, whose middle-class aspirations are in free fall, than is the celebrated upward mobility of Hillary’s professional class.

Bernie Sanders, in contrast, not only exposed America’s class imbalances, he also presented policy proposals to rectify them. Unfortunately but predictably (as it’s too early in this era of newly engaged class struggle for the economic powers-that-be to sign onto Sanders’ radical reforms), it was only the nonsense-spewing narcissist tycoon who was able to eviscerate his party’s establishment. After all, Trump has yet to outline his policy proposals in any detail (including in 75 minutes of Mussolini-esque preening on Thursday night). I’m sure the folks at the American Legislative Exchange Council are confident Donald will rely on them when and if the time comes. And they certainly understand that they will continue to control Congress if Trump wins and, thus, be able to stanch any program of economic populism Trump might entertain.

So as we move on to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, let’s be clear: The great tragedy of the moment is not rooted in the Republican Party’s self-cannibalization. It’s with a Democratic Party that “successfully” suffocated responsible answers to the crises consuming our world. Indeed, as Hillary Clinton’s selection of the milquetoast Tim Kaine as her vice president shows, the Dems have put forward a candidate who embodies an establishment widely recognized as having betrayed the majority of the American public.

All of which leaves us with the very real possibility of President Donald Trump being inaugurated on Jan. 20.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/why_donald_trump_could_be_the_next_president_of_the_united_states_20160722

The Republicans’ Platform Eviscerates Workers’ Rights

LABOR
A government for the people?

Photo Credit: Erik Drost/ Flickr

The Republican Party’s official 2016 platform, released this week, proudly states “the greatest asset of the American economy is the hard working American.”

The writers must have a twisted sense of humor.

In a not particularly unexpected move, the party platform eviscerates the “hard working American,” denying workers of their right to unionize while targeting their most vulnerable communities.

Grand old union busters

Perhaps the strongest anti-union feature of the Republican Party’s platform is the call for national right-to-work (RTW) legislation. RTW laws, the bane of unions nationwide, prevent unions from collecting fees from non-members, who nevertheless benefit from unions’ grievance and bargaining services.

The platform claims that these laws will “protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce,” but in fact, they do just the opposite. According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, workers in RTW states make $5,791 (12 percent) less per year than workers without RTW, and are far less likely to be insured.

More importantly, RTW weakens unions by forcing them to serve those who don’t pay for their services. When Michigan approved a right-to-work law in 2012, its union membership dropped by 48,000, despite the addition of 44,000 new jobs.

The platform also targets both unionized Transportation Security Administration employees and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)’s presence in Native American communities, with Republicans pledging to “correct (the) mistake” of permitting TSA employees to organize, and claiming to defend tribal governments from the Democrats’ “egregious” pro-union influence.

A government for the people

“We pledge to make the government work for the people,” reads the platform, “not the other way around.” Yet for the country’s most financially vulnerable—the 3.9 percent working for minimum wage—the Republicans offer neither support nor protection.

The platform dismisses the widespread call for a nationwide minimum wage, asserting that the matter “should be handled on a state and local level,” and pledges to repeal Davis-Bacon, a 1931 act mandating that federal construction projects pay union-level (read: living) wages.

It has even less mercy for the undocumented. The platform echoes Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric with its total rejection of amnesty for undocumented workers. It also supports his proposal for building a wall between the U.S.-Mexico border, with the intent of “keep(ing) dangerous aliens off our streets.”

In the preamble to the platform, Republicans claim their plan “lays out—in clear language—the path to making America great and united again.” Yet if the Republicans’ path to greatness is to be built on the backs of American workers, it is a greatness of which we should all be wary.

Victoria Albert is a Summer 2016 editorial intern at In These Times. She studies Public Health and the Environment at Washington University in St. Louis, with a focus on reproductive health and food sovereignty. She tweets at @victoria_alb3.

http://www.alternet.org/labor/republicans-just-passed-platform-would-eviscerate-workers-rights?akid=14459.265072.PXTsDm&rd=1&src=newsletter1060579&t=30

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