Glenn Greenwald frames what I've been trying to articulate: as neoliberalism and its handmaiden, corruption, have swept the globe, making the rich richer, the poor poorer, and everyone in the middle more precarious; as elites demonized and dismissed the left-behinds who said something was wrong; as the social instability of inequality has been countered with increasingly invasive domestic "war on terror" policing, millions of people are ready to revolt, and will support anyone who promises no more business as usual.
As Steven Brust writes, the fact that Trump supporters vehemently denied that he is a racist (he is a racist) also means that "even they think racism is a bad thing and should be denied." The "racist" Pennsylvania voters who supported Obama in 2008 went Trump in 2016 — sure, they were bombarded with racist Facebook disinformation for the intervening eight years, but "scapegoating dynamics fester [in] a system that excludes and ignores a large portion of the population." (Greenwald)
In Sanders, the Democrats had a chance to front one of the most popular politicians in living American history, and instead, they chose someone who epitomized the establishment, whom Trump could easily demonize as business-as-usual from the business-as-usual party. It was the Democratic Party's election to lose, and they lost it. While we're blaming white supremacy and rare Pepe collectors, let's not forget that the Democratic establishment made a dangerous gamble that voters would turn out to vote anti-Trump even if it meant holding their noses and voting pro-establishment, and they were totally wrong about that.
Complaining about "Bernie Bros" and chalking up Clinton's weak support among millenials (and even Hispanics — almost a third of whom chose a man who called them all "rapists" in preference to Hillary) ignores the lesson of elections and movements around the world, from Corbyn to Syriza, from Occupy to Dutarte: there is no future in backing the same again.
With so many elections pending in the EU, left-wing parties face a choice: front another technocratic, elite-serving Clinton figure; or back a genuine leftist who promises an inclusive, redistributive, fair society. If they choose the former, Trumpism will proliferate. If they choose the latter, we can put it in check.
The fact that Trump used Debbie Wasserman Schultz's leaked emails to demonstrate that the Democratic Party was corrupt doesn't make it a lie. Wasserman Shultz is substantially to the right of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and stood without opposition in her Florida district for 11 years, rising to the highest ranks of power in the party machine. In the UK, the Labour Party opposition to Jeremy Corbyn is being led by a Wasserman Shultz with English characteristics who spent the party's own money to sue to disenfranchise 200,000 party members who didn't support the establishment.
Those of us who send money to the left-leaning parties, who vote for their candidates, who call and canvas door-to-door for them must draw a line: we can't allow the party bosses to hand our future over to more Trumps because they owe their privilege to the 1 percenters who've colonized our movement.
Put simply, Democrats knowingly chose to nominate a deeply unpopular, extremely vulnerable, scandal-plagued candidate, who — for very good reason — was widely perceived to be a protector and beneficiary of all the worst components of status quo elite corruption. It's astonishing that those of us who tried frantically to warn Democrats that nominating Hillary Clinton was a huge and scary gamble — that all empirical evidence showed that she could lose to anyone and Bernie Sanders would be a much stronger candidate, especially in this climate — are now the ones being blamed: by the very same people who insisted on ignoring all that data and nominating her anyway.
But that's just basic blame shifting and self-preservation. Far more significant is what this shows about the mentality of the Democratic Party. Just think about who they nominated: someone who — when she wasn't dining with Saudi monarchs and being feted in Davos by tyrants who gave million-dollar checks — spent the last several years piggishly running around to Wall Street banks and major corporations cashing in with $250,000 fees for 45-minute secret speeches even though she had already become unimaginably rich with book advances while her husband already made tens of millions playing these same games. She did all that without the slightest apparent concern for how that would feed into all the perceptions and resentments of her and the Democratic Party as corrupt, status quo-protecting, aristocratic tools of the rich and powerful: exactly the worst possible behavior for this post-2008-economic-crisis era of globalism and destroyed industries.
It goes without saying that Trump is a sociopathic con artist obsessed with personal enrichment: the opposite of a genuine warrior for the downtrodden. That's too obvious to debate. But, just as Obama did so powerfully in 2008, he could credibly run as an enemy of the D.C. and Wall Street system that has steamrolled over so many people, while Hillary Clinton is its loyal guardian, its consummate beneficiary.
Trump vowed to destroy the system that elites love (for good reason) and the masses hate (for equally good reason), while Clinton vowed to manage it more efficiently. That, as Matt Stoller's indispensable article in The Atlantic three weeks ago documented, is the conniving choice the Democratic Party made decades ago: to abandon populism and become the party of technocratically proficient, mildly benevolent managers of elite power. Those are the cynical, self-interested seeds they planted, and now the crop has sprouted.
Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit
[Glenn Greenwald/The Intercept]
(Image: Day 14 Occupy Wall Street September 30 2011 Shankbone 49, David Shankbone, CC-BY)