By Brandon Nobles/Brandon is a grad of the University of Washington with a degree in English and Humanities. He is a current online teacher and is also an active member of the 7th District and Stevens County Democratic parties
Surprised as we all were, we should have seen it a mile away. Indeed, this election was to be a historical one but not for the reasons claimed.
All believed at first this could be historic in terms of a first woman (Clinton) or Hispanic (Rubio or Cruz) president. However, this election was going to be historic in a narrower sense, it would be an election that for some time was not based on culture wars, partisan identity politics—no matter how much each side tried to push it—but rather something much simpler but even more powerful—populism. Populism, America’s grand historic political tradition that rises when the people find out the system is a carnival game, politicians are side-dealing carnies, and the fix is in. This, and primarily this, is the reason Trump has won and the Democratic Party is currently smoldering and sinking into the bay.
This narrative however is not sitting well with the Democratic leadership and most of their pundits. They cannot accept that they themselves are solely responsible for Trump’s ascension to the throne and their coronated Queen was set out to sit, and this was due to over twenty years of New Democrat policies that focused on urban economies based on international trade, identity politics, a hawkish policy of interventionist adventurism that has destabilized nations far and wide, and a philosophy of small incrementalism that left the rural citizenry ignored, mocked, and economically devastated. Instead of accepting their actions, the leadership and their media acolytes ran deeper into their solipsistic bubble, unleashing an arsenal of blame directed at third party voters for stealing votes from Hillary, accusing Trump’s voters—all 60 million of them apparently—of misogyny and racism, and most recklessly of all, lashing out against Bernie supporters and millennials who in reality shall be the only future antidote to keep the Democratic party alive the next four years.
The bitter truth, despite all of their excuses, is that the New Democrats did not understand or completely ignored the plight of the rural and suburban nation. These populations—desperate to emulate their fathers and forefathers before them—were unable to secure the same career as factory after factory, farm after farm, mine after mine permanently closed. Unemployment and poverty skyrocketed whilst families and communities fell apart. The drugs moved in, and now graffiti dots abandoned dilapidated barns with messages of “Meth, not even once” amidst a toxic epidemic amidst the youth who now resemble walking corpses as meth and heroin provides a temporal relief from the despondency of their lives and futures. The provided solution was social welfare programs, but this only made matters worse as the terminated factory assembler hid in his vehicle in shame while his wife went in the store to purchase groceries with food stamps. Only years before he was able to care for his family’s needs but now everything had become uncertain. This shame—combined with twenty years of lies, neglect, and bad policy from the establishment—eventually grew into anger, and then full blown rage. And this is what Trump tapped into.
Hillary and the New Democrats did not speak to this rage. They preached on diversity and equality to a population that wanted jobs and their quaint industrial and farm towns back, church steeples in the background and all. And just as in the Rust-Belt, one can find the same sort of rage and anger here in Stevens County. Albeit, they may be on different sides of the nation, the same economic afflictions and the consequential aftermath can been seen. And just with the National Party, the Washington State Democratic Party and Puget Sound bourgeoisie have ignored the plight of Stevens County, and all of Northeast Washington to their own peril. And this is why if the Democratic Party wants to change this area or the Rust-Belt, it has to change and regain its identity as the party of the working class, going back to the old ways of the New Deal, and in turn creating a newer and better deal. To do this, the New Democrat establishment has to either leave or bow to the Bernie inflamed progressive movement. The establishment showed its true colors and abandonment of party ideals when it mocked Bernie Sanders’ proposals as too radical for this time, though his ideas would have sat right at home with the Democratic party (and to an extent the Republican party) sixty years ago. More to the point, Sanders captured over 85 percent of the vote at the Stevens County Democratic convention held at the Chewelah Civic Center. Bernie also captured many Rust-Belt states in the primary. In the elections prior, Obama swooped up all of those Rust-Belt states two elections in a row, on a much watered-down progressive message.
For good or bad, Trump will be with us for the next four years. His penchant for both defiance and caprice makes it a mystery on what exactly he will do. Even at the time of writing this, he seems to be shifting in various directions regarding his promises. If he holds to many of his economic and trade proposals, he will find himself gridlocked with both houses of the Republican party, and in terms of the environment and immigration he shall be in an outright tooth and nail battle with congressional progressive Democrats. Or will he take his “Art of the Deal” to the real-politik American tradition of “Art of the Compromise” which will tarnish his reputation considerably, particularly if he does not follow through on NAFTA. Whatever the case, as Mao Zedong once said that if, “everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent.” It is up to Progressives to restore the Democratic party and douse the fires inside the house in order to not only have it survive, but also to push forward proposals and policy which will create an economy and society that works for every American, and where no one is left abandoned and alone in despair.