You would think that prominent commentators on the Left who had assured us, for months, Don’t Worry, Clinton’s a Lock, would be pulling their horns in, at least a little, and would be cautious about saying Don’t You Worry, I’ll Tell You What to Believe.
Not a bit. Here’s Kevin Drum, whose column for months prior to the election was doing just that, telling us that Trump couldn’t win, two days after the upset victory of the guy he said couldn’t win. “The United States is not about to spiral into fascism,” he says in his title, and then asserts
Congress has its own ideas about what it wants to do, and they will do it. Trump will learn that repealing executive orders is harder than he thinks, and it’s unlikely he has the attention span to really keep at it. Hell, repealing Obamacare will be harder than Trump thinks. He’s not going to declare martial law or round up Muslims and throw them in internment camps. He will likely face a recession, but not a financial collapse. When it happens, the Fed will take the lead, and Republicans will throw money at it. That’s hypocritical, but also perfectly OK as a policy response.
What is noticeable here is, not so much the factual truth or accuracy of these predictions, but the willingness of someone whose last previous post was “Clinton Opens Up Lead in Florida” so surprisingly confidently to say he knows quite well what’s going to happen. It seems entirely possible that Congress will be quite willing to do quite a number of things Trump asks of it. We will see. But Mr Drum already knows. Hm. Oh yes, and Trump’s too stupid to persevere. Un-hunh.
This is the face of the political insider class that never noticed that for decades there were millions of people whose lives were damaged if not destroyed by neoliberal policies. To quote John Michael Greer, writing in April,
The reason that millions of Americans have had their standard of living hammered for forty years, while the most affluent twenty per cent have become even more affluent, is no mystery. What happened was that corporate interests in this country, aided and abetted by a bipartisan consensus in government and cheered on by the great majority of the salary class, stripped the US economy of living wage jobs by offshoring most of America’s industrial economy, on the one hand, and flooding the domestic job market with millions of legal and illegal immigrants on the other.
That’s why a family living on one average full-time wage in 1966 could afford a home, a car, three square meals a day, and the other necessities and comforts of an ordinary American lifestyle, while a family with one average full time wage in most US cities today is living on the street. None of that happened by accident; no acts of God were responsible; no inexplicable moral collapse swept over the American wage class and made them incapable of embracing all those imaginary opportunities that salary class pundits like to babble about. That change was brought about, rather, by specific, easily identifiable policies.
I do not consider a self-admitted “arch-druid” to be necessarily a progressive; but he is certainly living in the same political universe I am. Whereas the person who tells me that I need not worry, the new President is too stupid actually to put in place the policies that got him elected, is not. To be progressive, in fact as opposed to theory, is to give agency to ordinary people.
A second example of the response to the election which shows how little real progressive sentiment operates within our prominent public intellectuals is the (by now) famous tweet by Paul Krugman. On the very night of the election:
Btw, Jill Stein has managed to play Ralph Nader. Without her Florida might have been saved.
Now, I don’t want to make too much of Krugman’s statement: as opposed to Drum’s post, over which he worked and edited at leisure, Krugman’s post was sent in the heat of a great disappointment. Nonetheless, it’s symptomatic of the knee-jerk response that separates the many public “progressives” from the real thing. The Blame Game.
Let me distance myself from personalities. Naomi Klein responded, accurately enough,
Paul, you did everything you could to sink Bernie. How dare you blame others for this debacle.
Again, her post may well reflect a greater hostility than she felt, just from the constraints of writing (what is it) within 140 characters. Genuine progressive politics is not conducted by means of blaming whoever it was who did this or that. I want neither to accept Krugman’s completely bizarre claim that Stein lost Florida for Clinton nor to confirm Klein’s attempt to shame Krugman for his hostility to what I guess is supposed to now be the Saint for Life, Bernie Sanders.
No, the underlying problem with Drum’s post is that he knows, he just knows, what the future is going to bring,and even when he’s just been shown to be completely wrong, he doesn’t change a bit. As for Paul Krugman, the real difficulty is that he explicitly opposes efforts to go outside the corporate-establishment Democratic Party for any reason whatsoever. If you do that You Are Bad. It is too bad, indeed, no pun intended, that so valuable an authority on economic questions is so entrenched in corporate orthodoxy, politically.
Speaking of Sanders,
“You cannot be a party which cozies up to Wall Street, which raises money from billionaires, and be a party of working families,” [Senator Bernie] Sanders said [Thursday, 10 November 2016]. “The simple truth — and Mr. Trump tapped into this — is that millions of American are working longer hours for lower wages, they’re worried to death about the future for their children and they want an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”
Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump. If the Democratic Party had had Bernie Sanders for its candidate, there would have been no need for a Green Party. The fact that Bernie Sanders was not given a level playing field, that he was conspired against by the leaders of the Democratic Party and deprived of a fair chance to win the nomination, showed the progressives of the United States that the Democratic Party once again was repudiating them and their issues.
[Update 25 November 2016 Lamber Strether of naked capitalism points out that, as far back as 2011, Richard Kline was writing:
Progressives will continue to lose as long as they continue to act with strategic irresolution and tactical incompetence. They no longer have a political party to carry their banner: the Democrats have completely shut them out. Waverers and the Great Huddled Middle won’t respect, and so won’t support, natterers who won’t fight.]
There is a consequence that is in progress, as I write. Since the Democratic Party, and public intellectuals in overwhelming proportion, have rejected authentic progressive politics for the corporate-shill version, it is incumbent upon the progressives of the country not to support the Democratic Party.
Only when the Democratic Party loses, more than once, elections it might have won by embracing progressive policies, will it feel any need to change. This last election was one of the first where that effect was evident.
Let us make sure it is not the last.