Friday, March 18, 2016

Trump Cons the Working Class

by Tom Maertens
March 18, 2016
Mankato Free Press

The Republican freak show is winding down, and Donald Trump — “the world’s most dangerous man” Der Spiegel called him — looks to be the nominee. Robert Kagan, writing in the Washington Post, called him “the most successful demagogue-charlatan in the history of U.S. politics.”

Trump has succeeded by exploiting the anger the GOP establishment has long promoted, including by obstructing the government in order to undermine its legitimacy, and through open bigotry — from Nixon’s Southern Strategy, to Reagan’s Welfare Queen, to Willie Horton, to the “racially tinged derangement syndrome” with respect to President Obama (Kagan), and now, “birtherism,” “Mexican rapists” and playing footsie with the KKK.

There are some legitimate reasons for the working class to be angry: blue-collar jobs are being automated out of existence or shipped to countries with cheaper labor costs, and yes, taken by illegal immigrants who are willing to work for less.

From 1979 to 2015, the number of manufacturing jobs dropped by 36 percent, from 19.3 million to 12.3 million, while the population increased by 43 percent. Workers watched as Bush bailed out the big banks that blew up the economy while they got stiffed. Then they watched the Supreme Court, in Citizens United, legitimate still more ways for the oligarchs to buy elections.

As Charles Murray wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t increased since the late 1960s… To top it off, the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them. Who wouldn’t be angry?”

Ben Fountain in the Guardian piled on: “The American people are a bunch of suckers.” “Rare is the candidate for high office who announces he intends to screw the common folk.” But that’s what they do, in what he termed “the long con of American politics.”

In one election after another, the Republicans peddle social issues and religion to distract the voters, and once in office, they immediately implement their real program: more tax cuts for the wealthy, the people who keep them in power.
These regressive fiscal policies have produced the greatest inequality in our history. A few dozen billionaires now have as much wealth as the rest of the population.

Republicans constantly warn that budget deficits will destroy our country, but the current candidates’ proposed tax cuts would make matters much worse. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center says Marco Rubio’s tax plan would produce deficits of $8.2 trillion dollars over ten years, Ted Cruz’s $10.2 trillion, and Trump’s plan would increase the deficit by $11.2 trillion.

The reality is the GOP has not produced a balanced budget — even on paper — for decades. Obama, in contrast, has cut the deficit he inherited from $1.3 trillion to $474 billion.

Ben Fountain addressed their other usual distraction: the Christian pitch. “No matter if the candidate has had three or four wives or fired thousands of workers or dropped biblical plagues of bombs on rice farmers and sheep herders, merely saying the magic words … Christian values, Strong for Jesus …. renders large chunks of the electorate as dazed and vulnerable as pre-contact tribesmen from the deepest Amazon hearing a transistor radio for the first time.”

Those people are more likely to vote for a serial pedophile who proclaimed himself “strong for Jesus” than for a free thinker.

A current version of this pitch is that the U.S. government, despite 43 consecutive Christian presidents, is waging a war on Christians. Even Donald Trump, a twice-divorced candidate who has flaunted his adultery, claims the IRS is persecuting him because he is a strong Christian.

A Public Policy Polling survey found that 57 percent of Republican voters want to establish Christianity as the official national religion, despite the First Amendment’s clear prohibition against an established religion.

Republicans have even succeeded in stoking anger at universal health care, which now covers 18 million additional people. The usual claim is that Obamacare is a “job-killer,” despite 72 straight months of job growth since it passed, including 14.3 million private sector jobs.

It should be clear by now that this election is not about facts or about Trump’s platform; it’s about promoting and exploiting public anger, racism and misogyny to satisfy his narcissism.

As Thomas Edsall wrote in The New York Times, “The tragedy of the 2016 campaign is that Trump has mobilized a constituency with legitimate grievances on a fool’s errand.”

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11. He lives in Mankato.


Blogger John Alessio said...

Unfortunately, it hasn't just been the Republicans -- although they truly are the champions of betrayal and greed. Bill Clinton did exactly what this article indicates. He ran as a friend of the working class and unions and them screwed them with NAFTA. He ran as a friend of African Americans (the first African American President haha) and then passed a crime bill that directly caused the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands people of color, especially African American men, who should never have been imprisoned. He ran as a friend of the disadvantaged -- son of a single mom -- and made "welfare as we know it" a nightmare instead of a safety net to help people who truly need help.

7:41 PM  

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