Of silver tongues and silver linings: Trump’s Presidency, the Demise of the Major Parties, and the Need for a New Progressive Movement
by Dave Lindorff - This Can't Be Happening
November 9, 2016
Let’s look on the bright side.
Donald J. Trump is the next president of the United States. His stunning victory over Hillary Clinton came after he had first crushed the Republican Party establishment, steamrollering all the candidates it put forward and defeating party leaders’ concerted efforts to deny him the nomination as he rolled up victory after victory in that party’s primaries.
But Trump did more than that. He also, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, smashed the Democratic Party establishment too.
Get used to it: President-Elect Donald Trump
Trump’s win in traditionally Democratic strongholds like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and his near win in Minnesota, not to mention his victories and near wins in states like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia, all a result of the Democratic Party’s failure to energize it’s critical base in black and Latino communities, have exposed the total bankruptcy of a party whose leadership long ago abandoned the poor, the working class, African Americans, Latinos and organized labor, working on a now thoroughly discredited assumption that it would automatically win those votes anyhow because those “little people” would have no place to turn but to the Democrats.
The Democratic Party establishment this election cycle threw any shred of principle to the wind in orchestrating the nomination of Hillary Clinton, surely the most disliked candidate to run on a major party ticket in history. The party did this knowing that it was promoting a candidate who had a tin ear for the issues of ordinary people, who was demonstrably corrupt and dismissive of laws and ethical standards, and who was actually under investigation by the FBI the whole time she was running in the primaries.
We know, thanks to principled Democratic Party leaders who quit like Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and to emails leaked by Wikileaks, that the DNC worked assiduously throughout the primary season to undermine Bernie Sanders’ insurgent primary campaign. The DNC and the Clinton campaign -- actually facets of the same malignant organization -- did this by scheduling early debates at times, like during the Superbowl, when few people would be paying attention, by working with corrupt mainstream journalists to plant hit pieces on Sanders, resorting to cheap red-baiting, lying about his history of civil rights activism, and questioning his mental abilities, and even resorting to voter suppression -- usually a tactic favored more by Republican Party operatives.
When this DNC bias and manipulation of the primary campaign was exposed, forcing the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Clinton immediately made that disgraced Florida congresswoman the titular head of her own campaign, demonstrating her utter contempt for ethics and for the Democratic base.
Nor was Clinton’s stolen party nomination the only corrupt act of the DNC. It also successfully defeated primary efforts by a number of aggressive popular, progressive Senate candidates who could have helped the party retake the Senate by running well-funded corporatist party hacks like Evan Bayh in Indiana and Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, against those progressive candidates. In each case, these hacks went on to lose their races, leaving the Senate in Republican hands.
Hopefully, this highly visible corruption at the top of the Democratic Party will lead to a real effort to chuck this sclerotic and wholly corrupted organization and replace it with a genuine party of working people, the poor and minorities on the left. That long-overdue project needs to begin immediately.
But back to other silver linings of the Trump presidential win.
Most importantly, it seems likely that we will no longer have to worry about the US going to war with Russia. While Hillary Clinton, with her stated desire to establish a “no-fly zone” in Syria that even leading generals said would mean “war with Russia,” Donald Trump throughout the campaign made it clear that he did not want the US confronting Russia. He said, to the consternation of most establishment Republicans, that he thought the two countries “should be working together.” That view, if he is serious, bodes well for Syrians, and for Ukrainians as well. Trump has also condemned NATO, which since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been converted into a military adjunct to aggressive US efforts around the globe to sow chaos, mayhem and regime change -- something Trump has opposed. With luck Trump, who recognizes that Americans do not want endless war, may act to neuter NATO, hopefully by withdrawing US funding for the organization and allowing it to fade away -- something that should have happened in 1990 when the Berlin Wall came down.
Ramping down US imperial over-reach, which has caused the deaths of millions of innocents over the last decade and a half alone, angered nations and people around the world against the US, and cost Americans over $4.5 trillion since 2001, would be reason enough to cheer Trump’s victory. But revoking the so-called Affordable Care Act and leaving Americans to their own devices in an unregulated private insurance market would be another plus. The ACA, which is already becoming, to quote Trump, a “disaster,” with rates soaring 25% this year for many low income people, and with plans offering ever higher deductibles and worse coverage, was an insurance-industry boon that threatened to make a shift to a nationalized health plan impossible to achieve. By undoing it, as he and a Republican Congress have vowed to do, we can expect demands for a Canadian-style system to soar in no time, perhaps handing a key campaign issue to any new progressive party.
On the economic front, Trump has made it clear that he will oppose the pending Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and that he wants to undo or renegotiate earlier job-killing trade agreements, most notably the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). If he is serious about this anti-globalism policy, and acts on it, it will be a huge victory for working class Americans of all races, and a huge blow to the Democratic Party, which since the Clinton presidency has embraced the idea favored by corporate America that shipping production overseas to cheap labor countries was sound economic policy. Trump also spoke during the campaign of the need to raise the minimum wage, and in years past even supported a tax on wealth. If he does either or both of those things he will be a working class hero. But then, there’s no telling whether he was just campaigning, and will forget these ideas once in power.
Of course, there is no denying that Americans have elected a racist, misogynist, xenophobic narcissist, and that his successful campaign has made at least overt racism and anti-immigrant bigotry, if not overt sexism, socially acceptable. It will be critical for progressives and for the impacted groups themselves to organize a mass movement to resist these trends, as well as policies, like the overturning of women’s right to control their own bodies, and the right of people of color to quality schools and to be safe from aggressive, militarized policing. These are important concerns but they also expose the rot of the political system, which was allowed these trends to develop and fester for years.
On balance though, I would argue that Trump’s victory and his drubbing of a Democratic Party that has been fleeing from its New Deal and Great Society past for decades, is what is needed if we are to have any hope of restoring any kind of popular sovereignty in a US that was sleep-walking into a kind of corporatist oligarchy. Trump, along with the Sanders movement during the Democratic primaries, effectively tossed a Molotov cocktail into that whole system.
Bernie Sanders has said that the real “political revolution” he was calling for during his primary campaign would begin after the election. Of course, he was envisioning it being to put pressure on a President Hillary Clinton to live up to her campaign promises and the Democratic Party’s platform, not to oppose a Trump Presidency’s policies. Because he made the horrendous mistake of betraying his 12 million ardent supporters by surrendering his campaign before the Democratic Convention and by then converting himself into an active supporter of the very woman who had corruptly undermined his campaign and lied about him personally, ignoring his earlier spot-on indictment of her as a corrupt tool of the big banks and big corporations, though, he has lost much of his political appeal at this point. Nonetheless, his call for a political revolution remains correct.
We who had hoped Sanders could win the Democratic nomination, can look back and decry his gutless and politically disastrous decision not to accept Green Party leader Jill Stein’s offer to him to accept her party’s presidential nomination and run against Trump and Clinton in the general election, which he might well have won in such a three or four-person race. But that’s all history now. At this point, it’s on all of us on the left, and in the rest of the Democratic base -- the working class, union rank-and-file, people of color, immigrants, feminists, environmental activists and peace activists, to pick up the pieces and to build a movement of resistance and a new political party of the left to keep socialism on the political agenda in America and to fight for real progressive change and real democracy.