What good are Democrats?

During the 2004 election, Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, told an unemployed worker that he had no real answer to the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas, but that he unlike President George W. Bush would not make things worse. This was an honest statement, and a true statement, but it also was an inadequate statement.

Does President Barack Obama have any better answer than Senator Kerry did? If not, what good are the Democrats?

Joe Bageant, in Deer Hunting With Jesus, and Thomas Frank, in What’s the Matter With Kansas? wrote about the disconnect between college-educated white liberals and the struggles of working people.  They pointed out that it is not so much that so many working people vote on the so-called cultural issues – abortion, gay rights, school prayer – rather than economic interests, as that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties on economic issues.

I have to admit that I don’t have a complete answer to these problems myself, but then I’m an old retired guy in Rochester, N.Y., not someone who claims to be qualified for the highest office in the land.

I think that a good start for a Democratic administration would be to (1) take advice from labor and consumer organizations more than investment bankers, (2) put people to work repairing our deteriorating bridges, levees, water and sewer systems and other infrastructure, (3) regulate and break up predatory financial institutions that divert savings and wealth away from the real economy, (4) use the power of government contracting to foster “green” and high-tech industry, as was done in an earlier era with semiconductors, the airlines and other industries and (5) yes, as Kerry said,  stop making things worse, such as with tax breaks for industries that close U.S. plants and relocate overseas.

Click on this for an insightful summary of Joe Bageant’s book by a blogger known as the Liberal Arts Dude

Click on this and this for an excellent two-part summary of Thomas Frank’s book by the same blogger.

The Liberal Arts Dude gets the point of Joe Bageant’s and Thomas Frank’s books, which many newspaper and magazine reviewers failed to do. Bageant and Frank did not write about how foolish working-class voters are to vote for conservatives and Republicans, but about the failure of college-educated white liberals to connect with or advocate for working-class voters.

Click on this for the same blogger’s review of the movie version of What’s the Matter With Kansas? The movie is different from the book, and not a substitute for reading the book.

Click on this for Joe Bageant’s web site.  Don’t let the incoherence of some of his on-line rants discourage you from reading his book.

Click on this for some podcasts of Thomas Frank. Nowadays he writes for the Wall Street Journal and his writings are not available on-line except to WJS subscribers.  His book is much better than his on-line links.


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