In American politics today, there are three main factions and only two parties to represent them. One faction has to lose and, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are nominated, it will be the Bernie Sanders progressives.
Hillary Clinton represents the Washington and Wall Street elite, committed to perpetual war and crony capitalism. Wall Street bankers have made her and her husband rich, neoconservative war hawks praise her and
Charles Koch has said she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees.
Donald Trump speaks to the concerns of working people—especially pro-corporate trade deals and deindustrialization—but he has no real solution.
His economic nationalism, while not a complete answer to U.S. economic problems, is preferable to the corporate trade deals of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.
But by pitting white working men against Hispanics, blacks, immigrants and feminists, he prevents the working class as a whole from ever having enough clout to defend their interests.
Thomas Frank wrote an excellent book about how the Republicans may be the party of the wealthy elite, representing the upper 1 percent of American income earners, but the Democrats are the party of the educated professional elite, representing the rest of the upper 10 percent.
This year’s political realignment may change this, as he himself implicitly acknowledged in a new article in Vanity Fair. Under Hillary Clinton, Democrats are becoming the party of the upper 1 percent as well. Here is the meat of what Frank wrote.
Rich Americans still have it pretty good. I don’t mean everything’s perfect: business regulations can be burdensome; Manhattan zoning can prevent the addition of a town-house floor; estate taxes kick in at over $5 million. But life is acceptable. Barack Obama has not imposed much hardship, and neither will Hillary Clinton.
And what about Donald Trump? Will rich people suffer if he is elected president? Well, yes. Yes, they will. Because we all will. But that’s a pat answer, because Trump and Trumpism are different things. Trump is an erratic candidate who brings chaos to everything. Trumpism, on the other hand, is the doctrine of a different Republican Party, one that would cater not to the donor class, but rather to the white working class. Rich people do not like that idea.
[snip] If Michael Lind is right, Trumpism and Clintonism are America’s future. Lind’s point … is that Trumpism—friendly to entitlements, unfriendly to expanded trade and high immigration—will be the platform of the Republican Party in the years going forward. Clintonism—friendly both to business and to social and racial liberalism—will cobble together numerous interest groups and ditch the white working class. Which might be fair enough, but Lind didn’t mention rich people. Where will they go? [snip]
Trumpism changes the equation. If homebuilders face workplace crackdowns on illegal hiring, their costs go up. If defense contractors see a reduced U.S. military presence in Asia and Europe, their income goes down. If companies that rely on outsourcing or on intellectual property rights see their business model upended by discontinued trade agreements, they face a crisis.
Sure, many rich people hate Obamacare, but how big a deal is it compared to other things they want: more immigration, sustained and expanding trade, continued defense commitments? Clintonism, by comparison, starts to look much more appealing. [snip]
In a world of Trumpism and Clintonism, Democrats would become the party of globalist-minded elites, both economic and cultural, while Republicans would become the party of the working class. Democrats would win backing from those who support expanded trade and immigration, while Republicans would win the support of those who prefer less of both. Erstwhile neocons would go over to Democrats (as they are already promising to do), while doves and isolationists would stick with Republicans. Democrats would remain culturally liberal, while Republicans would remain culturally conservative.
[snip] To their rich constituents, Democrats offer more trade, more immigration, and general globalism. To their non-rich constituents, they offer the promise of social justice, which critics might call identity politics. That’s one reason why Democrats have devoted so much attention to issues such as transgender rights, sexual assault on campus, racial disparities in criminal justice, and immigration reform. The causes may be worthy—and they attract sincere advocates—but politically they’re also useful. They don’t bother rich people.
Source: Vanity Fair
What Frank wrote is correct, but it also is true that defense of abortion rights, gay marriage and racial disparities in criminal justice is not contrary to the interests of working people and the poor, either. (Immigration, I admit, is another matter; there are real conflicts of interest among working people on this question.)
Bernie Sanders is attempting to unite working people across divisions of race, ethnicity and gender. He hopes to represent the interests of all working people, including but not limited to “the white working class.”
Sanders is building on pre-existing progressive movements and organizations that will continue the struggle after his campaign is over.
What are the pre-existing movements and organizations that support Donald Trump’s nationalism? The Tea Party Republicans, and the racist, neo-Nazi and white identity organizations. This is not to say that supporters of Donald Trump are racists or neo-Nazis, just that racists and neo-Nazis are part of his organizational support. Organized groups, even when tiny minorities, are more politically powerful than collections of isolated individuals.
If Trumpism and Clintonism triumph, American politics will become identity politics—that is, politics based on divisions of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, but on unity of economic and political interests. Trump will articulate the grievances of white people against minorities; Clinton, the reverse. Neither will be a threat to the elite who really run the country.
However, Trumpism is a wild card. I can predict what Sanders and Clinton will do if elected based on what they’ve stood for all their political lives. I can’t predict what Donald Trump will do. I don’t think he can be counted on as a champion of working people, white or otherwise.
In business, he has not been a man of his word. It is entirely possible that, if elected, he would do a 180-degree turn and reinvent himself as a new, responsible, pro-corporate Trump. I can’t imagine him doing anything detrimental to his own business interests.
What will happen when the majority of Americans become fed up, and they realize neither party represents their interests? We live in interesting times.
Trumpism and Clintonism Are the Future by Michael Lind for The New York Times.
Why Democrats Are Becoming the Party of the 1 Percent by Thomas Frank for Vanity Fair.
I made a number of minor edits a half hour or so after posting this.