Friday, April 22, 2016

A different view of the other view: Trumpism and Clintonism as the future?

Not necessarily, according to this piece in by Conor Lynch.

In a recent New York Times essay (see Scriber's coverage yesterday), Michael Lind makes some observations about the future of American politics that will no doubt leave many readers feeling depressed and uneasy. Specifically, Lind posits that Trumpism represents the future of the Republican party and Clintonism the future of the Democratic party.

What Lind predicts

... Lind’s conclusion that Trumpism is the future of the Republican party may very well be correct, and it is ultimately the GOP establishment’s fault for exploiting and enabling cultural resentments. The fact that America is becoming increasingly liberal on social issues does not bode well for this brand of Republicanism in the future — which is why the establishment is so horrified of Trump.

On the other hand, Lind’s other premise — that the corporate-friendly politics of Clinton will triumph over Sanders’ economic progressivism — bears closer scrutiny.

“Many Democrats hope that the long-term growth of the Obama coalition, caused chiefly by the growth of the Latino share of the electorate, will create an all but inevitable Democratic majority in the executive branch and perhaps eventually in the government as a whole,” writes Lind. “The Clintonian synthesis of pro-business, finance-friendly economics with social and racial liberalism no longer needs to be diluted, as it was in the 1990s, by opportunistic appeals to working-class white voters.

“The centrality of identity politics, rather than progressive economics, to the contemporary Democratic Party is nothing new,” he continues. “The pro-Sanders left objects to the solicitude of the Democratic Party for Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the sources of much of its funding. But it is safe to assume that most progressives, when confronted with conservative candidates, will prefer incremental, finance-friendly Clintonism over the right-wing alternative.”

The other view of the other view: It's the economy ...

There is something strikingly absent from Lind’s analysis, and it is quite detrimental to his argument about the Democrats: The economy. Reading his piece, one who didn’t know any better might just assume that America’s economic situation has hardly changed over the past several decades. Of course, it has changed tremendously. When the major party realignments began in the 1970s, economic inequality was near all-time lows; today, it has returned to historic pre-Depression levels.

In the early ’70s, the top one percent of income earners took in about 8.9 percent of the nations income; by 2013, that number had nearly tripled to 21.2 percent. This skyrocketing inequality is largely a result of stagnating wages for the majority of Americans and ballooning compensation for executives. During the Keynesian era (1930s-1975), wages generally increased proportionately with productivity, but since the early ’70s, compensation has remained flat, even as productivity continued to steadily increase.

Even more staggering than America’s income inequality is its wealth inequality. Today, the top one percent owns more of the nation’s wealth than the bottom 90 percent. (The bottom 40 percent, meanwhile, owns virtually nothing.) People of color are impacted the most by this inequality. As of 2015, for example, the richest 400 people in America (who are mostly white men) are worth more than all 16 million black households combined (and 15 million latino households combined); harrowing but unsurprising statistics. Moreover, the average white family holds about 7 times the wealth of the average black family — a disparity that has actually increased over the past two decades.


The neoliberal status quo that Clintonism represents has made the United States one of the most unequal nations in the world, leaving millions of children in deep poverty and transforming America into the “worlds largest jailer” (because in many parts of America, poverty is virtually a crime). Economic inequality is not going away, especially if economic centrists like Clinton continue capitulating to Republican extremism and special interests. The Democratic party’s diverse base signals a bright future — but to expect this base, made up largely of people of color who are disproportionately effected by economic inequality, to continue to accept corporate-friendly centrism, seems arrogant and politically imprudent.

The pitchforks are still out there and Sanders is not quitting. It would not be an overstatement to say that the 2016 primaries, on both right and left, are contests for the souls of the two main political parties.

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