(*This post was edited and excerpted for length from three articles. The first two were written by William Greider at The Nation.)
Bernie Sanders delivered an uplifting message again with his upset victory in the Michigan primary. The press had been hinting crudely that Senator Sanders should really give it up so Hillary Clinton could proceed unblemished to the nomination. Bernie wisely ignored the media dopesters.
Donald Trump has taken the low road to political upheaval while Senator Sanders has taken the high road to peaceful revolution. But both candidates are addressing many of the same fundamental wounds and inequities working Americans have experienced for a generation.
Trump is foul and unfair, a shrewd demagogue. Bernie is the honest visionary urging young people to take themselves seriously as citizens and claim their role in a “political revolution.”
Trump and Sanders are forcing the political system to confront some malignant deformities in American life that both parties have tried to ignore, because in their different ways, both are to blame. People feel betrayed, abandoned by representative democracy in favor of powerful interests.
Year after year, political leaders and presidents of both parties essentially lied to the people about fundamental matters — war and peace, lost prosperity, and the bruising generation of lost jobs and declining wages.
The big media mostly looked the other way. Prestige news outlets witlessly reported the deceitful reassurances that leading economists provided with their statistical flimflam.
Famous corporations — from General Electric and General Motors to Microsoft and Apple — cleverly exploited workers on both ends of the global economy, from Mexico to China. Yet it was a non-story in the media, despite the distress cries of American workers and the scandalous death-trap factories overseas, where workers (usually young women and girls) made shirts and shoes and semiconductor chips.
Both parties in Congress signed off on trade agreements backed up by phony job predictions from so-called Washington think tanks — like the Brookings Institution, the Peterson Institute, the Business Roundtable, and the American Enterprise Institute.
Lies, lies, lies. Yes, Donald Trump tells lots of lies himself, but they seem modest alongside the monstrous deceptions that Democrats and Republicans used to mislead the country into the multinational betrayal. Not just the unfair trade rules that favored foreign producers, but the recurring scam of tax cuts for the wealthy, who were supposed to create new products and lots more jobs.
They disperse low-wage jobs to poorer nations, but they hang on to the best, high-end production that generates advanced jobs and higher wages. But Apple and Intel and many other US multinationals decided that it makes sense to manufacture new products in places like China, where the workers are cheaper.
We were warned that the loss of US manufacturing and broad prosperity would lead to worldwide breakdown — a global economy based on cheap labor. The crisis arrived because the world has too many factories but not enough consumers with the incomes to buy the stuff.
The corporate media continues to mislead the public. The Republican establishment portrays itself as an innocent victim of Trump’s raw slurs and bigotry. Economists associated with the Clinton-Obama wing of the Democratic Party (led by Paul Krugman) are busy explaining why Bernie’s reform vision of national health insurance is impossibly expensive.
The media bias continues. Listen to current commentary or read leading newspapers, and you will see reliance on the same “experts” who led cheers for the New Democrat policies that helped wreck US prosperity. They attack Trump’s ugly qualities, but they also disparage rebellious public opinion as foolish.
Let’s assume that Trump succeeds in securing the Republican nomination and Clinton wins the Democratic race. Sanders retires gracefully so he will not be labeled a spoiler, as Ralph Nader was when Gore lost in 2000. Then, in the fall campaign, Trump changes his style and launches a ferocious and substantive assault on Clinton, with devastating effect.
He does this essentially by taking over the Sanders economic agenda. He denounces HRC as a tool of wealthy plutocrats and speaks for working-class discontents, much as he has done in the primary season. He piles on the ugly personal slurs, but his central thrust becomes more grown-up and closely argued.
Imagine a campaign that merges Bernie’s straight-talk values with traditional Republican values. If so, this could alter the profile of both parties, at least for the 2016 election. It could even define longer-term changes.
Such a repositioning is most likely if Trump runs against HRC. Trump will be the peace candidate in this campaign. Trump will be the anti–free trade candidate. The candidate for protecting Social Security and Medicare. For getting big money out of politics. For controlling drug prices.
It’s not a question of trusting the Donald’s self-promoting talk; the man lies with gusto. But cynics might ask, what else is new in big-time politics?
A Trump administration would deal with real power in ways that gravely betray his rhetoric. The business and financial establishments are more or less silent on Trump hysteria, neither denouncing nor making nice with him. Can imagine truly ugly deal-making that we would not hear about until afterward?
A more severe dilemma would be to confront Hillary. As the Michigan primary demonstrated, she’s not a convincing candidate on the heavyweight economic questions. Even when she makes strong proposals, many voters automatically ask, can we trust her?
She has surrounded herself with small-minded advisers from the Clinton years who are prone to making nasty counterattacks rather than developing genuinely far-reaching policy ideas.
One hallmark of Clinton politics is keeping outsiders out of the room. Left-liberal types were generally excluded during the Clinton years, and nearly so in Obama’s administration. The nation’s circumstances cry out for bold and radical departures from the past. So far, Hillary has mostly stayed with careful, baby-step gestures.
"New Democrats" (aka moderate/centrist/Third Way Democrats) have passed their expiration date.
Donald Trump has taken the low road and turned “populist” anger upside down. He’s the super-rich guy ridiculing “stupid” people who run the government, while he tattles on fellow billionaires and how they buy politicians to get free stuff from Washington.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is on the high road, plowing similar furrows of dissent in a far more serious and substantive way, but with a lot less media play. Bernie doesn’t do cat fights and personalized insults. Instead, he’s describing an agenda for governing—left-liberal reforms to block “corporate greed” and restore economic security for low-wage workers and middle-class families.
Trump and Sanders are, in very different ways, threatening to the old order. Both are shining bright lights, in contrast to shallow, stalemated two-party politics. Donald and Bernie, separately or together, possess serious potential to alter the landscape of two-party politics by redefining constituencies and convictions, transforming the content and character of one or both parties.
Trump is peddling rancid nostalgia — a random medley of regrets and resentments about how things used to be in “the good old days,” when America was great. Bernie Sanders is selling universal hope and inclusiveness by earnestly explaining what government must do to restore economic equity and security. Sanders talks concretely about who’s to blame: the One Percent at the top, who got all the money.
Some of Sanders' proposals are broad intentions, others are precisely focused on how oligarchs looted Washington. In every event, Bernie is pumping up his crowds with optimism and energy ... Trump and Sanders are not running against each other, of course. But they are effectively competing for overlapping pools of discontented voters from both parties.
The GOP cannot swallow Trump’s pitch without flying apart and losing its billionaire donors. Likewise with the Democratic Party; Sanders is forcing a showdown between working-class Old Dems and Wall Street–friendly New Dems. In both parties, establishment forces will pile on with money and negative attacks to squelch the insurgents. Their counterattacks have already begun, but the bipartisan anger and rebellious spirit will not be so easily suppressed.
White working people, who felt silenced and ignored, are cheering loudly for Trump, even if they are not altogether sure he’s for real ... During the past 30 years, this sector of neglected citizens experienced a catastrophic fall from economic prosperity and social status. Their fears are now shared more widely by the fraying middle class.
Because it might be misinterpreted as an endorsement of anti-immigrant attitudes or race-tinged slurs, for that reason and others, both political parties have kept their distance. Both parties are afraid to tell the whole truth about what caused the great collapse in working-class fortunes. Both parties, from Reagan to Clinton to Obama, participated jointly in the legislative measures and trade deals, tax cuts and financial deregulation, that essentially gutted working-class prosperity and social status.
The great question for 2016 is whether either party can begin to bridge the gaps and unite these working-class islands of discontent. Trump talks as though he wants to do this, but Bernie Sanders can be the point man for great change—driving a fundamental realignment of the Democratic Party.
The formidable political challenge facing Sanders and other progressive Dems is how to convince the party’s conflicting constituencies to get over their emotional hostilities and work together. After all, they need each other. Working-class Democrats come in all types and colors and mostly share the same goals for economic reform and social amelioration.
The white workers who were the big job losers in manufacturing’s deindustrialization are immigrant descendants themselves — Polish, Italian, Irish, Greek, Czech, Slovak — and they admire the new immigrants for their hard-working habits and recognize that they are chasing the same American Dream. What makes them angry is the undocumented flow that lets employers undercut wage levels.
A disproportionate number of white working-class Americans consume Social Security, food stamps, disability and unemployment benefits vis-à-vis racial minorities. Yet the same people disingenuously oppose “welfare” that provides cash benefits to the indigent. The Democratic drive to expand Social Security is one political fight that can reunite the working class across the divisions of race and culture. They’re just looking for someone who acknowledges their views and feels the pain of what they’re going though.
That’s what Trump is doing better than any other candidate. Which is just insane, because the man says he has no idea what ‘lost status’ is about. Challenge nostalgia with hope. That’s the agenda of Bernie Sanders. His vigor is wonderfully inclusive, as opposed to Trump’s divisive, inflammatory rhetoric.
A tougher question facing Sanders is whether to bring up the hard facts of how the Democratic Party collaborated in sowing financial breakdown and unraveling the middle-class. Acknowledging their mistakes and wrong-headed doctrine might anger Democratic party strategists and hacks. But the people who were injured already know what happened. It is what angers them.
When Bernie tells the obvious truth, it upsets the Clinton wing, which still controls the party. But honest talk might persuade cynical or despondent voters that Democrats really do intend to change things in fundamental ways.
Both parties are acting as though they assume the so-called recovery is disappointing but on track. Most Americans have heard this talk before. Read the polls—people don’t believe it. If the sodden economic growth—declining wages, deepening inequality—continues, perhaps for some years, then political unrest is sure to get more meaningful. It will become aggressive and exotic, goofy and perhaps destabilizing.
We can only speculate on what might happen next. One party or the other might split apart. Independent formations could appear on the left or right and try to overturn one established party or the other. The center, given its advantages, might hang on to control of government, but it isn’t holding on to the people.
History suggests that crusty old political parties in powerful nations have a hard time acknowledging that they have to change or die. Politicians should read a little history — American history — and get over their illusions.
Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump. Here's why (by Thomas Frank at the Guardian, also edited and excerpted.)
In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called leftwing. Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade. In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy. Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame.
Trump embellished his vision with another favorite leftwing idea: under his leadership, the government would start competitive bidding in the drug industry. And because he is free from the corrupting power of modern campaign finance, famous deal-maker Trump can make deals on our behalf that are “good” instead of “bad”.
Here is the most salient supporting fact: when people talk to white, working-class Trump supporters, instead of simply imagining what they might say, they find that what most concerns these people is the economy and their place in it. Support for Donald Trump ran strong among these people, even among self-identified Democrats, but not because they are all pining for a racist in the White House.
Immigration placed third among the matters such voters care about, far behind their number one concern: good jobs and the economy. People are much more frightened than they are bigoted. People are fed up, people are hurting, they are very distressed about the fact that their kids don’t have a future — and that there still hasn’t been a recovery from the recession, that every family still suffers from it in one way or another. These people aren’t racist, not any more than anybody else is.
When Trump talks about trade, we think about the Clinton administration, first with Nafta and then with trade relations with China. [Obama and Hillary Clinton pushed for the TPP trade deal]. The working people that the party used to care about, Democrats figured, had nowhere else to go, in the famous Clinton-era expression. The Democratic party just didn’t need to listen to them any longer.
(* Short commentary: We can have Bernie Sanders' "political revolution" or we could have a real revolution. The plutocrats and corrupt politicians better wake up, or the village peasants could be storming the ramparts with their torches and pitchforks.)
(Video) Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred over campaign finance in the 8th Democratic debate on March 7th — as did Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the 12th Republican debate on March 10th. Here they are together, as though in one debate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRTHDQCGaoE