Post election 2016, a wave of shock swept through media and political elites; they couldn’t grasp how Donald Trump could have been elected. But the tide turned: the people who felt they were being ground underfoot rose up to strike at the corporate oligarchy. And what they said was this: ending the corporate stranglehold on our government is what we want more than anything else.
The truth is that whether or not you believe a President Trump will make good on his promises to “make America great” and his overtures to get the money out of politics—I don’t, by the way—this turn of events isn’t hard to understand for those paying attention, because we’ve been looking at this data for years.
After the 2008 crash, the economic recovery happened at the top. Regular people are still drowning because the economy is rigged. Only the bankers get bailed out. And if you have the audacity to support a candidate who calls for a sea change, corporate America will label you naive, idealistic, violent, or stupid, and in some cases will work against you in a dishonest and biased way, or even lie outright.
The recovery matters to the election because some states in the US—like ours, regarded as “flyover states“—are like third world nations, without the basic infrastructure or services people in other parts of the country expect as a matter of course. Many homes in rural WV, like mine, don’t even have potable running water in the house. However we don’t get the aid third world countries do. Small towns are dying. Detroit struggles; Flint has been poisoned… as have Parkersburg and Charleston here in WV. And the response from some quarters has been: you’re not really struggling that much if you own things like a refrigerator. (Really.)
This is the message we’ve been getting: we’re struggling because we’re just not working hard enough.
But we are. Look at the figures. If you work full-time at $10 an hour–higher than minimum wage, mind you—you’d be making only about $20K. And about 40% of American workers get paid LESS than $20K/year. More than half of American workers get paid less than $30K per year. Who are the real freeloaders… and can you point the way to this mythical upward mobility of which you speak?
It’s a slow death out here. You can get by for a while with income at a low level, but you can’t afford to fix your car, get healthcare for your kids, repair a saggy porch… and even buying new socks is a hard decision, because you might need that six bucks for something else. But when the attitude is that if you have a refrigerator, you can’t be genuinely poor, then the delusion isn’t originating with the people out here at the ends of their ropes. It’s coming from the people who think refrigerators are a luxury the poor aren’t deserving of, and it’s coming from the people who think that everyone has the time to wait for help that will come someday in the far off and nebulous future.
Those who caused the crash got bailed out and recovered—and the folks who poisoned us go on with their privileged lives—while 7 million regular people, folks who had nothing to do with crashing the economy, lost their homes. Nearly half of Americans linger in anxiety and confront financial ruin every time they need to put $400 into their car.
There was a populist rage that should have been evident to everyone, but folks in the media and democratic leadership were busy admiring something that wasn’t there. Pretty clearly, the establishment was envisioning Glass Castles, too. Having a vision of a glorious and hopeful future is all well and good, but if you don’t do something concrete to make it happen, it’s all illusory, just words-words-words. It’s Lucy with the football. It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes.
National Democrats talked a good game, but many of the most financially exhausted voters perceived it as just talk. Here in WV, rank-and-file county delegates to the state convention discovered with happy surprise that both Clinton and Sanders delegates shared values, and were in remarkable agreement about how to help this state. But some state Dem party leaders responded to calls to get the money out of politics with defensiveness and barely repressed annoyance. They waved the bloody shirt, embracing the dishonest rhetoric of Extraction Barons like “Democrat” Manchin—the same tired politics that have been eroding our welfare for generations. And that gaggle of betrayers pushed four important democratic candidates to take positions that opposed our state democratic resolutions and platform.
All four lost.
Worse, with close to zero party support, many progressive candidates lost, too, as outside dark money poured into the state, some seemingly illegally, while good candidates dealt with disdain and passive-aggressive obstructionism. For some good Democrats who eventually got party help, it was too little, too late.
The WV State Democratic party will continue to struggle to win elections if corporate politicians like Manchin and Puccio are allowed to direct the party to embrace positions rejected by actual Democrats. The biggest reason “Democrat” Justice won this year is likely because the WV Republicans didn’t run a Trump thumbing his nose at the establishment. Instead, the GOP unwisely ran the self-interested and unpopular Cole, as corporate a politician as the WV GOP has to offer.
Get the money out: That’s why Trump’s populist voters here and in states like ours were fired up and turned out to be heard, while many Democrats in these states were demoralized by their own party, unable to get excited about voting to for more of the same. In Michigan, for example, Trump got only 13K more votes than Clinton. But nearly 90K people turned out to vote yet were so disgusted/discouraged/demoralized that they left the presidential ballot blank.
Many folks in desperate straits recognized that we’ve heard those promises again and again: be patient. Be patient and quiet as you watch your child suffer without being able to afford medicine. It will get better in a few years when your kid is dead, or when you’ve lost your home. It won’t be better then; that’s not hard to understand. So why should they vote for someone they believe is just promising recovery to other people?
Shush. Your turn will come; meanwhile the Dow-Jones is up!
National Democrats and media pundits were surprised to find Trump as our president because they never saw this outcome as a possibility; they never saw us at all.
Well, have a look now, please.
“Flyover country” is a part of America, too.
Don’t blame the victims of the recession. Remember, rural white people aren’t the only ones who turned out for Trump in surprising numbers. Fewer young people, women, and minorities voted for Clinton than for Obama. There were a number of Obama voters who voted for Trump. They saw Trump as anti-establishment; to them, Clinton was simply another career politician.
A lot has been made of the fact that voters without college educations voted for Trump by a large margin. The same people who threw the election away and refused to listen to what voters needed now want to blame the result on the “stupidity” of these voters.
But you know what? Uneducated does not equate to stupid; it equates for the most part to “unable to pay for college” and “born to fewer opportunities.” Uneducated is a part of the system we’re forced to be a part of—the system it should be their priority to fix.
It’s counter-productive, to say it politely, to look down on people who are suffering the consequences of the rigged system they’re begging you to change.
Trump voters did not vote for him out of stupidity; they voted for him because he was speaking to them about draining the establishment swamp—finally someone was. They were pretty lies, of course. As he’s shown, he had no intention to get corporate influence out of the government. But desperate voters will look for hope where they can, and Clinton’s ads were “almost entirely policy-free.” Fact is, the democratic establishment felt entitled. What can I tell you other than that, while there are inarguably racists among Trump’s supporters, a large proportion are simply beyond the point where they can wait more years to get a good job, help their children, or save their homes.
Bottom line: establishment Democrats are responsible for losing the election. Shaun King writes:
The Democratic Party has mastered lying to itself and its core constituencies. It claims a progressive identity, but is as moderate and lukewarm as it has ever been on so many issues that matter to everyday people. It claims to be tough on Wall Street, financial corruption and white collar crime, but is awash in donations from lobbyists and executives in the industry. Democrats claim to be the party of working people, but so often seem to be deeply out of touch with their problems and needs…
While the groundswell of grassroots support in its base is anti-police brutality, pro-environment, pro-immigrant, anti-war, pro-$15 minimum wage, for the legalization of marijuana, and strongly against the Dakota Access Pipeline — the party [leadership lacks] core convictions on all of these issues and it shows. I’d bet that nearly every single activist and leader in each of those niche communities will tell you that they feel like strangers in the Democratic Party…
The Democratic establishment was looking to spin a tale beneficial to themselves and the media helped them tell a story that didn’t reflect what is actually happening in large portions of the country. When is the last time you saw the media speaking to regular people out here in “flyover country?” (You’ll only see that on TYT.) Most media outlets pay a cast of pundits and insiders who, 24-7, simply echo the talking points that support that narrative they want to create.
I’m sorry to break it to you, but no matter how terrible you think the outcome actually is, the 2016 election of Trump was not a failure of democracy as some are claiming.
It was democracy at work. Understand: a populist uprising at the polls is exactly what happens when the government ceases to be “for the people.” These results now remind everyone that if we don’t have a government FOR the people, we’ll have a government BY the people, at least—whether for good or ill. If we had been given better choices, there would have been better results.
If national Democrats want things to change for the better for the people of this country, they’re going to have to step up and actually help working class and poor people. They’ll have to help us all, not just the select groups of donors that get them campaign contributions.
The same goes for state Democrats—and state Republicans. Let’s all start being honest about what’s happening out here: we’re being taken advantage of financially, and we need to recognize who is really profiting from our losses before we can turn things around.
Stop sacrificing this or that part of this country when you find it politically convenient or lucrative.
We are all part of America.
“All come to look for America.”
Uneducated does not equate to stupid; it equates for the most part to “unable to pay for college” and “born to fewer opportunities.” Uneducated is a part of the system we’re forced to be a part of—the system it should be their priority to fix.
Lots of other great points, but that one says it all to me. And I don’t see much hope or a way out for WV or much of red-state America.
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