In the wake of an election that could turn the whole planet upside down, many people are trying to educate us liberals and Democrats on what we “missed.” According to those who would enlighten us, we’ve paid too much attention to the hateful part of Trump’s campaign. They tell us the majority of his supporters are not racists, misogynists, bigots, homophobes. They’re salt-of-the-earth, good-hearted, working-class people who just want a chance. And supposedly, we on the left don’t understand them or their economic plight. As if liberals live in mansions and throw breadcrumbs at them.
Odd. I always thought I was on the side of the working class—the “Main Street” folks, as we called ourselves after the economy tanked in 2008. I don’t remember going blind to the harm being done to all of us by big business, Wall Street, and the money-holders. I don’t recall giving up on the fight for economic parity and social equality.
What I do recollect is the business reality that’s been unfolding for the past 35 years. The days of decent wages and long-term job security, of companies caring about employees before shareholders, of globalization not driving markets—those days are gone. Kaput. Fini. And voting for a slogan to bring them back will not make it so.
The ultimate irony, to me, is that the good old days were made that way by unions fighting to improve the lives of the working class. Yes, unions created problems. Yes, some were corrupt. But unions had the collective-bargaining clout to win for workers a livable wage, job security, health care, paid leave, pension plans, paid education, and safer working conditions—the tools for every worker to attain the American Dream.
Then history occurred. Ronald Reagan kicked off the era of union busting by successfully shutting out the air traffic controllers’ union in 1981. Inspired by his and the Republicans pro-business policies, big corporations began lobbying Congress to get rid of or weaken unions and reduce labor costs. And they succeeded.
In the past, unions have traditionally voted for Democrats. But, as the Republicans gained more control of government, it became much harder for Democrats to win and almost impossible to pass progressive legislation. Republicans, in the meantime, convinced American workers that unions, backed by Democrats, caused their economic decline and that if we give free reign to free enterprise, corporations will prosper and so will workers.
Well, we all know how that theory worked out.
The bottom line of my history synopsis is that the economy does better when unions are stronger. But when labor is weak and capital unconstrained, corporations hoard, hiring slows, demand goes down, and inequality deepens.
Unfortunately, middle-class voters in this election suffer from memory loss, poor education, and an inability to link cause to effect. They believe Democrats have abandoned them—that we missed something—when it’s they who have abandoned themselves.
I am no longer hopeful for middle-class workers. By their overwhelming support of Republicans in this election, they’ve permanently shut down the one recourse they had for halting their economic decline. They now need to start planning for their full demise.
A lifelong communicator, I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb talking. But with no siblings to chat and play with, I learned to express myself in writing. My subsequent birth as a politics junkie came while I watched my father, a career Marine, sob uncontrollably over Kennedy's assassination. Intuitively, I knew the world would never be the same, and I should pay attention. So I did.
Now, some 50 years later, I find myself dumbfounded by the trajectory of American politics and the prevalence of ignorance, bigotry, hate, and violence. I started Two Cents of Sense, hoping to help change that trajectory and to promote progressives' conversation, knowledge sharing, and actions.