29 April 2017

Preach It, Brother!

In the Guardian, Thomas Frank makes a very good point, that "The Democrats' Davos ideology won't win back the midwest."

The current neoliberal consensus is that globalization benefits the deserving, and that if you lose, it's because you're stupid, and never studied in school:
The tragedy of the 2016 election is connected closely, at least for me, to the larger tragedy of the industrial midwest. It was in the ruined industrial city of Cleveland that the Republican Party came together in convention last July, and it was the deindustrialized, addiction-harrowed precincts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that switched sides in November and delivered Donald Trump to the Oval Office.


And what I am here to say is that the midwest is not an exotic place. It isn’t a benighted region of unknowable people and mysterious urges. It isn’t backward or hopelessly superstitious or hostile to learning. It is solid, familiar, ordinary America, and Democrats can have no excuse for not seeing the wave of heartland rage that swamped them last November.

Another thing that is inexcusable from Democrats: surprise at the economic disasters that have befallen the midwestern cities and states that they used to represent.

The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn. Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had “nowhere else to go,” they were making what happened last November a little more likely.

Every time our liberal leaders deregulated banks and then turned around and told working-class people that their misfortunes were all attributable to their poor education, that the only answer for them was a lot of student loans and the right sort of college degree ... every time they did this they made the disaster a little more inevitable.


Of course it isn’t working out that way. So far, liberal organs seem far less interested in courting such voters than they do in scolding them, insulting them for their coarse taste and the hate for humanity they supposedly cherish in their ignorant hearts.

Ignorance is not the issue, however. Many midwesterners I met share an outlook that is profoundly bleak. They believe that the life has gone out of this region; indeed, they fear that a civilization based on making things is no longer sustainable.


I have no doubt that people in this part of America would respond enthusiastically to a populist message that addressed their unhappy situation – just look, for example, at the soaring popularity of Bernie Sanders.

As things have unfolded thus far, however, our system seems designed to keep such an alternative off the table. The choice we are offered instead is between Trumpian fake populism and a high-minded politics of personal virtue. Between a nomenklatura of New Economy winners and a party of traditional business types, willing to say anything to get elected and (once that is done) to use the state to reward people like themselves. The public’s frustration with this state of affairs, at least as I heard it on my midwestern trip, is well-nigh overwhelming.


But when “the resistance” comes into power in Washington, it will face this question: this time around, will Democrats serve the 80% of us that this modern economy has left behind? Will they stand up to the money power? Or will we be invited once again to feast on inspiring speeches while the tasteful gentlemen from JP Morgan foreclose on the world?
The argument of the privileged (center) left is that this is inevitable, and people who are harmed by this are to blame for this harm.

It is a pernicious attitude, one that stems from their inability to recognize their own unearned privilege.

This destructive sanctimony needs to be purged from the Democratic Party.  Let the Republicans have them.


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