Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Post-Mortem On A "Primal Scream" From The American Working Class

As the heads of Neoliberal elites in the U.S. and world can be heard popping in the wake of last night's Trump victory, it behooves us to look beneath at what drove it. I will maintain the warning signs were there all along for those who had eyes to see or ears to hear. Five months ago, in fact, I posted on film maker Michael Moore's prediction that Trump would win the election based on working class rage in the "Brexit states". I wrote, referring to his appearance and statements on Bill Maher's Real Time":

Moore zeroed in on the "Brexit" in the US of A, comprising three  industrial states: Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania with their 64 electoral votes. Those 64  electoral votes were the difference between Mitt Romney becoming the 45th President in 2012 and just another loser to Obama. But this time around, as Moore explained, they could easily be grabbed by Trump - especially given all three feature Republican governors who can gin the voting rules in their favor, including via use of electronic voting machines which were a major factor in Bush winning Ohio in 2004.

This turned out to be the case, as all three 'rust belt' states named were lost to Trump, putting him over 270 to the consternation of all sane people on the planet. (As commentator David Axelrod put it on CNN, the voters had issued "a primal scream". Yep, and they also jumped off the political cliff)

Less noted was how the excitement in Democratic quarters absolutely nose-dived when Bernie Sanders (another change populist) was knocked out by HRC, assisted by the DNC's superdelegate system.. It didn't seem to register at the time that many voters wouldn't just jump on the Hillary ship, or evince the same level of excitement they did for Obama back in 2012. Indeed, exit poll results released this a.m. on CBS showed "Change voters" were swept up by Trump to the tune of 83% to 14% for Clinton. It is hard to believe many of those weren't actually former Sanders' primary voters - who jumped ship to the Donald because they didn't believe they could get real change from Hillary. (Her VP pick of Neolib Tim Kaine also factored into that, say as opposed to picking Elizabeth Warren).

As exit poll numbers and analyses came out this morning these suspicions turned out to be the case. For example, younger voters came out by only 55% this time for Clinton compared to 2012 when it was 7 points higher. Black voters came out to 88 % but this was 8 points lower than before. And Hispanic voters came out for Hillary 65% vs. 71% in 2012. The fact five formerly 'blue' states flipped last night was a case of lowered voter turnout in each of those demographics. Meanwhile, the GOP and Trump benefited from millions of new voters - all mainly blue collar (and many of them registered union Dems) - who came out to turn the tables.

This elicits the question of what happened with the damned polls, i.e.  that they got it so wrong?  In a previous post I cited Charles Seife's excellent book,'Proofiness - How You're Being Fooled By The Numbers' , which explored the problem of getting random samples within large populations. In terms of national polls specifically he indicated the error span could approach as much as 6- 7 percent. This alone could explain a lot of the "flipped states" last night. Another aspect was raised by Frank Luntz on CBS this morning, that Trump voters as a rule "don't want to tell pollsters anything, not because they're afraid but because they are hostile to the system and regard polls as part of it:."  That is something I've long suspected, but it really burst through in the wee hours last night as even Pennsylvania and Wisconsin fell red.

Let me also interject here that FBI Director Comey also merits some of the blame, releasing that absurd letter pertaining to Clinton emails 11 days before the election which - as The Washington Post noted:  "undercut Democratic enthusiasm, and his suggestion that the investigation into her would reopen motivated Republicans to fall in line."

I warned before, in a number of posts, that these  members of the white working class were feeling a lot of strain under the Neoliberal economic boot. Trade deals pushed since the mid -1990s had cost them their jobs, ground them under, even as Dem Neolib cheerleaders like Paul Krugman tried to insist more average people really do benefit from free trade policies like NAFTA. See e.g.

Add in the job loss from automation and the failure of corporations to create new jobs - instead sitting on their piles of cash - and you have most of the negative economic inputs. But why latch onto a billionaire like Trump who hasn't paid taxes the past 20 years as their economic lifeboat? Especially given he has no more use for them than Reagan had for "Reagan Democrats" in 1980 and 1984. Good question, but my theory remains:  that they have aggregated to him because he channels their pent up rage and bombast, from his outbursts against immigrants, to dissing the disabled, to rating women and castigating  other ethnic targets. And always wielding the grievance cudgel as he does so.  The Economist really put the Trumpies in perspective in a brilliant piece from last year, noting (Dec. 5, p. 30):

"The anxiety Trump supporters betray by looking for scapegoats says most, of course, about themselves. Typically members of the white lower middle class, they are at once jealous of the small privileges that distinguish them from the toilers below, and bitterly resentful of the faraway government that provides their Social Security, VA care and Medicare.

Remonstrating in hard times, they are the "radical centre" in academic jargon, who turned out before for George Wallace, a populist southern Democrat who ran for President four times in the 1960s and 70s."

The article then identifies the iconic Trump supporter of this "radical center" with a character  from a John Updike novel named Rabbit Angstrom "from whose flabby mouth dripped endless expressions of impotence, anger and glum humor...having retired to Florida to nurse his disappointment".

Interestingly, this fits perfectly the mold of alienated blue collar worker described by Thomas Frank in his 'What's The Matter With Kansas?' , also pointing out how and why the Democrats began looking past the working class and its interests to focus on the shrinking middle class alone.

It is easy to write such (Economist)  essays when one is a member of the entitled Neoliberal scribe class. It is much harder to bear when one must feed a family of five or six on a pair of $11/ hour "gig" jobs  after losing a good paying factory job.  Multiply that millions of times and one can see the angry 'chickens' coming home to roost, as they did last night, turning formerly blue states red.

 We can go through the endless whys and wherefores all we want, the bottom line is a guy totally unqualified to be President is now President Elect. All the "Rabbit Angstroms" who voted for him and now expect him to "make America great again" are in for a rude shock because he won't be able to deliver on any of those insane promises.   Just building the giant wall he wants will cost at least $200b and that is lowballing it. Where will he get the money? (He did ask facetiously at one rally recently 'Will you all help me pay for it?")

He might make greater strides on killing the TPP but even then will need congress to work with, especially the GOP who are all for it. (Siding with Obama). That is another thing that pissed off the working class, Obama's fetish for the very kind of trade deal  (e.g. TPP) that earlier cost them their good jobs. I am convinced they never forgot, and every time Obama went out to stump for Hillary - five to ten thousand more blue collar Dems decided to either stay home or vote for Trump.

A President Trump will have a much tougher time trying to privatize Social Security or cut Medicare, the "entitlements" those like Paul Ryan have been so desperate to whittle away. Indeed, if the Senate Democrats have any testosterone left at all they will use it to summon the nerve to filibuster such nonsense each time it comes up. Just because Mr. Trump managed to get elected doesn't mean he gets carte blanche to do whatever the hell he wants. And that includes trying to repeal Obamacare and rounding up 11 million Mexican immigrants to send home.

In the end, the dyspeptic scream of the alienated American working class last night echoed one from 84 years ago in Germany, which saw Adolf Hitler ascend to power (after President Paul von Hindenburg capitulated when the Nazi party received a majority of seats in the Reichstag). The "good Germans" had spoken and they wanted done with the Weimar (democratic) system which they perceived as inimical to their economic welfare. But with Hitler, all they got in the end was blood, war and devastation.

Make no mistake, the Dems will have to grow a pair of balls  over the next three months and get used to using the same obstruction tactic that the Reeps have employed the past 8 years and had promised to use again.. That means NO Supreme Court picks approved, NONE - unless they meet certain critical litmus tests (e.g. for Roe v. Wade). This is exactly what these turds had planned to do if Hillary had won. (Google John McCain's remarks on it.)

They will also have to get used to using the filibuster to block any and all legislation that doesn't redound to citizens' benefit including Social Security cuts or replacing Medicare with "premium support", e.g. vouchers. If I had had to use them the past four years (only $10k allocated per year)  it would have put me in a $90,000-plus  debt hole and likely propelled a medical bankruptcy.  The WaPo today claimed that the Repukes will try to get social policy issues passed instead using "budget reconciliation" where a 60-vote majority can be sidestepped. But this is effectively a "nuclear option" which the Dems could use on them in a future, more favorable election cycle. It would therefore be dumb for Ryan and the Reepos to try to use it now, say to push for Medicare budget cuts.

One big consolation for Clinton voters: she is ahead in the popular vote (as of this writing) by:

59, 048, 170 to 58, 926, 233 for Trump.

If it holds, and I believe it will - obviously adding as the three remaining states are finally called- Trump will have his work cut out for him to bring in an even bigger slice of the electorate to: a) accept him as their President, and b) not to alienate them with policies or executive orders that they will perceive as hostile. If he dismisses them, he does so at the risk of being a one term wonder.

See also:

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