Why Trump Happened (And What We Can Do About It)
By Mark Rudd (November 26, 2016)
People tell me they don’t want theory. That’s ok, but we do need to know where we’re going, both in opposing Trump’s rule and in transforming the Demo Party, for example. There’s a huge debate raging in the digital world around what the problem with Hillary’s campaign was–and by implication the Demo Party in general. Here’s my stab at it.
Since the Carter administration both the Republican and Demo Parties embraced neo-liberalism. Reagan put the nail in the coffin of the New Deal, with its government intervention via legal protections for unions, social programs involving taxation and transfer payments, and regulation of corporations. What replaced it was the precipitous rise of capital over labor, in both concentration and power, which is what we’re experiencing now. (I’m still enough of a Marxist to believe that it’s always a fight between the two adversaries capital vs. labor).
Globalization, with the free flow of capital across borders facilitated by computer technology and low oil prices, caused manufacturing to flee the country. Look in any Walmart in any town over 10,000 people and you’ll see the results, you don’t need to go to Detroit. There were a lot of losers, though, especially unemployed. Whole towns and inner cities were devastated, as was the industrial working class in general. The service economy took up a lot of the slack, but it wasn’t available to inner city blacks or to rural whites. Also service sector paid a hell of a lot less since it by and large isn’t unionized.
The Demo Party meanwhile lost its former union labor orientation with the decline of the unions (from 30% of the workforce in 1970 to 6.7% now, including government employment). It became the party of two mass constituencies–educated professionals, known as “elites” or the “meritocracy,” and “diversity,” ie, non-whites, women, lgbtq. That’s the 63,000,000 who voted for Hillary over Trump. But neither the Republican Party–until Trump–nor the Demo Party, including Hillary ever talked about the plight of the unemployed. They couldn’t, because they were both the party of capital over labor. The Dems were the good guys, taking up sometimes moral issues like racism and women’s reproductive rights and the civil rights of gays, but they studiously ignored unemployment or class issues.
Trump’s genius was to recognize the aggrieved angry outsiders, the losers, the white men and women left out of the new economy dominated by capital and culture dominated by the professional classes. They voted, while the millions of natural allies–young blacks and young women, for example, didn’t like either so they stayed home or were victimized by disenfranchisement of one sort or another.
But Trump is playing to a very tough bunch. They love violence. Fortunately, fascism is a system that is set up to give its base–the losers–the violence it craves. Already the authorities in North Dakota now feel they have the go-ahead to do anything vicious and brutal to the peaceful water-protectors at Standing Rock. In general, the police won this election–for example, DoJ oversight of the Albuquerque police department will now end (all the Republican Berry administration needed to do was to stall the last year). The result will be lots more cops with military gear and military mindsets murdering people. There will be much more roundups of immigrants, which is why 15,000,000 people are now living in abject fear.
Trump will not be able to bring manufacturing back to the Great Lakes states; he will not be able to bring coal mining back to W. Virginia. In fact, unemployment in the service industry will grow steadily faster in the service industries over the next ten years as robots replace humans. So there will be more need for even more internal enemies and violence.
This is the World Wrestling Federation in reality, though not really TV, scripted and phony.
Over the next four yeas the new Trump administration and allied Republican governments in the States will do so much damage, with total control of Congress and the Supreme Court and the police, that it’ll take 20-40 years to undo it. Especially because of redistricting, to happen in every state in 2021.
So we need a 20-40 year strategy. First, we’ll be building social and economic mass movements that unite a variety of people around all sorts of race and gender and class and economic issues. Defending the victims of government and mob attacks will be part of this. Second, we’ll be remaking the Democratic Party into a huge tent party of the people, a party of the working class, that counterbalances the power of capital. (There are many interesting issues I’m ignoring here, such as what constitutes “the working class?” for example).
This party will be for saving the planet, for eliminating militarism and substituting international law for war, thereby freeing up trillions for social needs and for conversion to renewable energy economy. This new party will be moral, in that it respects diversity and respects all working people, including unemployed white guys. It will stand opposed to governmental violence.
Reforming the Demo Party can only happen by building from the bottom, the local level, city, town, and county, and working up via the state level, to the federal level. In New Mexico we have some elements in place, such as, for example, the progressive Democratic local governments in Santa Fe and Las Cruces, and a significant progressive caucus in both houses of the Legislature. But so much more needs to be done. Albuquerque, for example, and Bernalillo County have center-right governments but could very easily be switched over.
That is, if we are able to find the Holy Grail: moving “unlikely voters” over to actually vote. Reaching these disaffected young people, overworked single moms, non-white people who believe nothing can make a difference, that’s our work for the next 20-40 years. And it can only be done through strategic (ie, focused for power) organizing.
Bernie’s candidacy was a good start since it exposed the fact that there’s a base for democratic socialist reforms, millions of potential Democratic voters.
But the enormous work, mobilizing all of us, building our movements and our political party from the bottom is just now beginning.
What are our alternatives?