Friday, August 12, 2016

What's Wrong With Democrats

Like Chris Hedges, Thomas Frank has been analyzing what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party over the last fifty years. Don Lenihan writes that, if you really want to understand what's going on in this year's presidential election, you should read Frank's latest book, Listen, Liberal:

As part of the American left, Frank regards Roosevelt’s New Deal as the high-water mark for the Democratic Party—a concerted effort to use the power of the state to defend working people’s interests in the face of economic calamity.

However, Democrats have ceased to be the party of working people, at least according to Frank. Under Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama, the party has begun catering to a new and very different class of people, which he calls professionals.

And the evidence is in. Professionals have done very well under the Democrats. Working people have not:

Income inequality is the smoking gun. From the middle of the Great Depression up to 1980, Frank reports, the lower 90 percent of the population took home 70 percent of the growth in the country’s income. Look at the same numbers between 1997 and today and the same group pocketed none—zero, he notes emphatically.

Readers should pause to consider what an inconvenient fact this is for Democrats. They like to portray themselves as fighting to protect the middle class. They focus on the bank CEOs and captains of industry—the notorious 1%—who’ve profited so nicely from the New Economy. It turns out, however, that the professional class has also done very well.

While Frank is appalled that this wealth has come at the expense of the middle class, in his mind, the bigger scandal lies elsewhere. There is no evidence this gap is going to close again. The professional class is not, as Clinton promised, a rebirth of the middle class, but the birth of a new elite. Indeed, Frank’s real point is that the interests of the new professional class are profoundly at odds with working people.

It's absolutely true that Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency. But a vote for Hillary should not be interpreted as approval or acceptance of Democratic Party policy since Bill Clinton. Roosevelt used to tell his supporters that if they wanted him to adopt policy, they had to push him in that direction.

Hillary needs to know that support for her comes at a price:

Working people are furious about what’s been happening to them. (Brexit provides further evidence of the unrest.) And Frank makes a convincing case that real debate over the causes has been stifled by group think for a quarter century.

 Bill Clinton’s new New Deal sells politics short. Globalization and the digital economy may be forces that no one ultimately controls, but there are all kinds of things that presidents (and prime ministers) can and should be doing to shield working people from the worst effects. And that should command their full attention.


Anonymous said...

Frank is of course correct in suggesting that the Dem. party had become the party of the 10%, As Bernie Sanders had phrased it (the GOP is the party that represents the 1%).

Here is another thing that is wrong with the Dem. party. John Pilger is an accomplished Aussie filmmaker and journalist based in London, England who, as far as I know, is only one of two journalists who had won a prestigious British journalist award twice. He has long argued that Hillary is more dangerous to the world than Trump:

Here is an excerpt from the above: "In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomised with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.”

No, it is clear that a vote for Hillary does not necessarily mean supporting the policies of the Dem. party. However, it does mean that we will be condoning, or resigning ourselves to more of this (which some have apparently rationalized as a price to pay for stopping the buffoon, Trump):

From the above: "At the end of June, a federal judge ordered the State Department to hand over records detailing Hillary Clinton's schedules during 14 overseas trips. It has been exposed, that then-secretary of state kept meetings with dozens of donors to her family's foundations off her official calendar.

AP filed a lawsuit that also turned up evidence that Clinton's official calendars omitted dozens of donor meetings."

The latest revelations this week of more emails (previously untruthfully claimed by Hillary to only be about yoga and her daughter's wedding) showing that some big donors to the Clinton Foundation had apparently been calling in their favors while Hillary was SOS to Obama serves only to emphasize why so many people are leery that Hillary will keep her promises to work for the good of the 99% and not the donors to her family's foundation.

If the apparent conflicts of interests were so blatant while she was SOS under Obama, does anyone seriously believe they would not become worse when she is Commander in Chief with no one to reign her in?

Owen Gray said...

That depends, Anon. Hillary is not a natural politician. Bill is. He has a much better sense of the public mood than she does. That's why he emphasized Hillary as an agent of change in his speech at the Democratic convention.

If he has her ear, he may move her towards the changes she has to make. I freely admit that she might choose another -- disastrous -- path. The problem is that, with Trump, disaster is assured.

Toby said...

Media clips only rerun the he said / she said nonsense; important issues are ignored. The polls all show that Trump is losing. Are they accurate? Those of us in BC remember that the polls all predicted an Adrian Dix / NDP sweep. Are the polls being deliberately skewed or reported?

I read somewhere that dis-satisfied Bernie supporters are considering voting Green. I didn't know there was a US Green Party but there is . Will it be a vote splitter?

Frank's analysis of the Democrats could easily apply to Canada's Liberal Party under Trudeau II.

Owen Gray said...

I agree that Frank's analysis tracks with the Canadian Liberal Party, Toby. That's why they -- and the Democrats -- are mistaken if they feel the working class is ecstatic with their leadership.

Toby said...

Here in Canada, Owen, the only thing the working class was ecstatic with the last election was getting rid of Harper. If the Liberals don't get real, voters will tire of the smiling selfies.

Owen Gray said...

The Liberals have nixed much of Harper's legacy, Toby. But the tough decisions are still ahead of them.

Steve said...

Frankly speaking its the trouble with Kansas mastitized.

Owen Gray said...

Exactly, Steve. Kansas's problem has become a national problem.

The Mound of Sound said...

The Dems broke faith with working class America in the course of America's transition from a democracy to an oligarchy. This was well documented in the 2014 report out of Princeton by professors Gilens and Page.

The United States has adopted a transactional form of democracy, akin to the system that was in place in the final years of the Roman empire. Gilens and Page have documented that their government now serves affluent interests, ahead of the public interest or even the needs of the nation.

Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz, has demonstrated in his book, "The Price of Inequality," that today's severe inequality is neither market nor merit based. It is legislated by elected officials who choose not to serve those who put them in office but those able to reward them afterward. This is a process known as "political capture." Through a maze of devices including tax grants, exemptions and deferrals to the provision of resources - public natural capital - at marginal if any cost, America's governments, Republican and Democrat, have empowered the "trickle up" economy that has steadily drained wealth out of the pockets of blue and white collar America and into the pockets of those affluent enough to buy the political caste.

I cannot see how this can be reversed and democracy restored to America without some form of social upheaval, Owen. If it doesn't happen America is doomed to evolve into some sort of 21st century feudalism.

Owen Gray said...

If the upheaval comes, Mound, it could be very messy -- and the consequences couldn't be contained within the borders of the United States.