Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Coping With Post-Traumatic Election-Induced Stress Disorder

I am very slowly working my way through the five steps of grieving (see Five Stages of Trump), mostly still toggling between denial and anger.  It is impossible to move forward when every day brings a new trigger -- another trifecta of Trump madness:  something dishonest, something corrupt and something unhinged.  Meanwhile, the Republican establishment that before the election tried to gingerly distance itself from this vulgar talking yam is now seemingly unperturbed by his blatant lies and myriad conflicts of interest.  And then there are the daily announcements of high-level appointments. Talk about a basket of deplorables -- racists, homophobes, conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers and misogynists, with a disturbing number of generals and few with any conceivably relevant experience.

And so I continue to obsess about what went wrong and who to blame.  Topping the list remains FBI Director James Comey, who should be under investigation by a Special Counsel to determine whether he violated the Hatch Act.  There are the Russian hackers perhaps abetted by the Trump campaign -- another subject worthy of a Special Counsel investigation.  The feckless mainstream media that equated Clinton's use of a private email server with Trump's exponentially more dishonest and offensive behavior deserves special condemnation.  Then there is the lethal combination of a conservative Supreme Court that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and the under-resourced Department of Justice that failed to rigorously investigate voter suppression in key regions.  There are the assholes who found Clinton not politically pure enough and so decided to throw away their vote on a third party candidate or not vote at all.  Last, but certainly not least, is the arrogance of the Clinton campaign that committed malpractice by failing to pour resources into the states that they needed to win while wasting time and money on states that didn't matter. 

However, I do not share the common wisdom that heaps blame on Clinton's failure to meaningfully address the concerns of the working class and criticizes the Democratic Party's reliance on identity politics.  The former is only true if "working class" is defined to exclude women and people of color.  And "identity politics" -- which I suppose means a focus on racial justice, gender equality, humane immigration policies and LGBT rights -- is inextricably intertwined with any fundamental notion of social justice and must remain the key pillar of progressive politics.

Derek Thompson astutely writes in The Atlantic that Clinton actually spoke forcefully about the needs of workers and the dignity of work, and she provided concrete proposals, including "the most comprehensively progressive economic platform of any presidential candidate in history—one specifically tailored to an economy powered by an educated workforce."  As Thompson points out, the problem was not that the white working class failed to hear her message, but that it did -- and that it rejected her vision for a pluralistic society.  What this election showed was, once again, any "reasonable working class platform" that includes, as it must, policies designed to benefit the non-white working class -- will lead to the disaffection of the white majority. 
The long-term future of the U.S. involves rising diversity, rising inequality, and rising redistribution. The combination of these forces makes for an unstable and unpredictable system. Income stagnation and inequality encourage policies to redistribute wealth from a rich few to the anxious multitudes. But when that multitude includes minorities who are seen as benefiting disproportionately from those redistribution policies, the white majority can turn resentful.
But the lesson isn't that progressives should turn away from the goal of a pluralistic social democracy in order to co-opt white nativist sentiment.  After all, let's not forget that Clinton did garner more than 2 1/2 million votes than her opponent.  Or the reality that the country is slowly but inexorably getting younger, less white and more progressive.  And as Thompson concludes: 
Rising diversity isn’t going away. Income inequality isn’t going away. Support for redistribution isn’t going away. For liberals, pluralist social democracy is the project of the future, and any alternative falls somewhere between xenophobic and amoral.
Sure, this strategy is going to alienate many in the white working class.  That just means we need to energize and organize now and do a better job of getting out the fucking vote next time.


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