Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, August 13th, 2016.


One-Dimensional News

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Bad Hair, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton

Right now political news stories are all pretty much about the awfulness of Donald Trump. And I’m bored with that. Yeah, he’s awful. There’s no end of how awful he is.

For the sake of defeating the Great Awfulness I’ve been holding back on criticizing Clinton, but there’s not much else to talk about.

Thomas Frank writes that with a Clinton victory a near certainty, you can forget about Clinton leading a progressive administration:

And so ends the great populist uprising of our time, fizzling out pathetically in the mud and the bigotry stirred up by a third-rate would-be caudillo named Donald J Trump. So closes an era of populist outrage that began back in 2008, when the Davos dream of a world run by benevolent bankers first started to crack. The unrest has taken many forms in these eight years – from idealistic to cynical, from Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party – but they all failed to change much of anything. …

Just a short while ago the American national newspapers were running page-one stories telling readers it was time to take seriously Trump’s followers, if not Trump himself. And on 3 August, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman actually typed the following: “It scares me that people are so fed up with elites, so hate and mistrust [Hillary] Clinton and are so worried about the future – jobs, globalization and terrorism” that they might actually vote for Trump.

Yes, it scared Friedman that the American people didn’t like their masters any longer. As it has no doubt scared many of his rich friends to learn over the past few years that the people formerly known as middle class are angry about losing their standard of living to the same forces that are making those rich people ever more comfortable.

Well, Friedman need be frightened no longer. Today it looks as though his elites are taking matters well in hand. “Jobs” don’t really matter now in this election, nor does the debacle of “globalization”, nor does anything else, really. Thanks to this imbecile Trump, all such issues have been momentarily swept off the table while Americans come together around Clinton, the wife of the man who envisaged the Davos dream in the first place.

Frank thinks that once Clinton gets her landslide victory she will once again throw progressivism under the bus, and I suspect he’s right.

My leftist friends persuaded themselves that this stuff didn’t really matter, that Clinton’s many concessions to Sanders’ supporters were permanent concessions. But with the convention over and the struggle with Sanders behind her, headlines show Clinton triangulating to the right, scooping up the dollars and the endorsement, and the elites shaken loose in the great Republican wreck.

She is reaching out to the foreign policy establishment and the neocons. She is reaching out to Republican office-holders. She is reaching out to Silicon Valley. And, of course, she is reaching out to Wall Street. In her big speech in Michigan on Thursday she cast herself as the candidate who could bring bickering groups together and win policy victories through really comprehensive convenings.

Things will change between now and November, of course. But what seems most plausible from the current standpoint is a landslide for Clinton, and with it the triumph of complacent neoliberal orthodoxy. She will have won her great victory, not as a champion of working people’s concerns, but as the greatest moderate of them all, as the leader of a stately campaign of sanity and national unity. The populist challenge of the past eight years, whether led by Trump or by Sanders, will have been beaten back resoundingly. Centrism will reign triumphant over the Democratic party for years to come. This will be her great accomplishment. The bells will ring all over Washington DC.

I disagree that this will be the end of the great populist uprising, but certainly Clinton’s victory — made possible by The Great Awfulness — has slowed it down a lot.

In the New York Times Thomas Edsall wrote,

If current trends continue, not only will there be a class inversion among the white supporters of the Democratic Party, but the party will become increasingly dependent on a white upper middle class that has isolated itself from the rest of American society.

Instead of serving as the political arm of working and middle class voters seeking to move up the ladder, the Democratic Party faces the prospect of becoming the party of the winners, in collaboration with many of those in the top 20 percent who are determined to protect and secure their economic and social status.

It’s been that for quite a while, seems to me. It’s just been in denial about it.

Neither Edsall nor Frank have much to say about the Sanders insurgency within the Democratic Party. I don’t know whether it will be a factor going forward or not; that remains to be seen. If progressives follow their usual pattern of crawling into holes until the next presidential election, probably not. If they follow through (as many vow to do) by electing progressives to Congress in the next several election cycles, then there’s hope.

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