Election Dismay and Hope

13 Nov

Electing a self-serving neo-fascist will have immeasurable harmful consequences on working people, the environment, ethnic and racial justice, women and many more constituencies. We have a fight, an incredible fight on our hands for the next four years. Okay, that is obvious.

The analysis of the “why” presented in the media completely misses the mark, because it takes for granted a framework that has unraveled. More closely analyzing why voters voted (or didn’t vote) the way they did offers more peril and hope.

Trump’s election was a repudiation of the elite of both the Republican and Democrat parties. Leaders of the Republican party will opportunistically avail themselves of the fact that Trump happens to be in their party and his real (as opposed to his stump speech) politics align with their economic agenda.

Voters cast their ballots against the establishment candidates of both parties, or didn’t vote out of disgust or lack of identification with either party.

Uneducated white male voters (union and non-union) rebelled against economic policies of both parties that forced them to compete with the world’s most exploited workers for their jobs (and usually lose!). Trump and Sanders offered them a vision that validated their loss and gave them a vision (one false and the other true) including anti-free trade policy and industrial re-development.

The mainstream candidates from the Republican and Democrat parties simply offered more of the same, with somewhat different emphases.

Voters who did not opt for the ultra-right refutation of corporate politics, did not have a fervor for the Democrat version of corporate politics. After years of police brutality, record-level deportations, no employee free choice act, bank and corporate bailouts but no working people’s bailout, extra-judicial drone assassinations across the globe and the worst ever free trade deal in the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), we cannot get excited for more of the same.
The election of a candidate not of the mainstream indicates a widespread disaffection from corporate politics. That disaffection can go to the right (Trump) or the left (Sanders).

We have witnessed sparks of a left resurgence with Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately the leaders of the labor have for the most part steadfastly endorsed the Democrat corporate agenda, an agenda working people have rejected.

If there is a silver-lining to this election, it is the fact that the majority of people in the US reject the status quo corporate agenda. They have lost faith that either party represents their interests.
The challenge to the left is to offer a vision and fight for it concretely. To start with, we have to shed ourselves of the corporate Democrat agenda. We cannot settle for the best we can achieve within the current political options. We must be bold and call for and strive for more. People of all kinds, including non-college educated white men, are listening. We will take part in a movement that does not start with the assumption that a race to global bottom for working people is in our best interest, a movement that does not start with the assumption that racial inequality has been largely solved, a movement that demands health care for all, … you get the picture.

Unions most of all must dramatically change course with their political agenda. We must do so not only for the broad political agenda but even our legitimacy to our members. Our future is in peril not only from the “Right to Work” and dismemberment of the NLRB but due the loss of support from our own members.
When asked the members of my union, CWA, by a large majority opted to endorse Bernie Sanders. Kudos to the leadership of CWA for asking members and following their opinion. Unfortunately most of the rest of labor opted for more corporate politics with the lesser evil argument.

The positive note of this election is that the majority of our country no longer endorses a lesser evil. Unfortunately, they opted for the greatest (not greater!) evil.

Let’s build a bold movement that does not merely propose incremental improvements that we can coerce corporate Democrats to endorse. Let’s go for what we believe in: a minimum wage of $15 (increasing with inflation every year), free higher education, immigration reform that legitimizes all workers in our country, health care for all, an end to the criminalization of ethnic groups (they are not minorities where I live!), and real solutions for the environmental catastrophe corporate America has brought upon us.

After thought:
The idea that the FBI director’s inquiry into Clinton’s emails changed the course of the election is as silly as the fact that Trump’s misogyny did not. Clinton’s politics lost the faith of working people long before any email concerns.

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