By Evan Vann | 11/13/16
I’ve learned that with all the pundits and statisticians, the only one reliable source regarding politics is my father. Many can attest to the fact that he predicted a Trump victory before the primaries were over. He is one of the most intelligent people I know, and he knew better than anyone that Sanders could not beat Clinton, and that Clinton could not beat Trump.
With the advantage of hindsight, we can now better understand that the victory of Trump had to do with two things: the embrace of populism from the Republican party and Democrats’ rejection of it. It wasn’t third party voters, or Russia, or other propagated reasons. Simply, the Democratic Party is unfit to lead.
The Republican’s embrace of populism is easy to see. Trump has mobilized many through populist appeal. His voters’ contempt of the establishment has roots in economic and social issues. Regardless of partisan affiliation, his appeal based on economic dissatisfaction actually shares common ground Sanders’ appeal. The rejection of trade deals and yearning to revive American industry apparently struck a chord with working class Americans in the same way Sanders was able to.
The social aspect Trump’s popularity is darker. The xenophobic, sexist nature of his supporters represents the new vile, bigoted, empowered identity of the right. Despite the disagreeable nature of Trump’s supporters stance on social issues, there is no denying that it proved effective enough to propel him to the White House. It is difficult to accept, but these people’s stances on immigration, gay marriage, and racism are simply the new face of the Republican Party.
The Republican Party’s elite still pushed against Trump, but they have learned to harness the incredible energy of dissatisfied voters by nominating somebody who appeals to them. Trump’s supporters have broken into mainstream politics, and they shows no signs of leaving.
Everything the Republican Party did right, the Democratic Party did wrong.
The DNC lives in an echo chamber, refusing to listen to many of their constituents. Their neglect of the worker and rigging against a primary challenger who could have beat Trump paved the way for a career politician to fall to an inexperienced neofacist. The explanation of Trump’s victory is simple: a neoliberal disaster of a political party, when pitted against conservative grassroots efforts rooted in disenfranchisement, will never perform.
Clinton embodied the ills of neoliberalism which is elitist by nature, alienated from laboring Americans. More troubling than the Democratic Party’s failure is its unwillingness to change. The Democratic Party closed the door on the people, no matter how effective it would have been to let them in. The Democratic Party’s inability to transform, as the Republican Party did, comes from fundamental differences between the kinds of populism that challenge the party elite.
Populism on the right is easily distinguishable. On a fiscal level, it means economic independence from foreign countries like China, tax policy that benefits the wealthy, and ecological policy that creates profit but destroys sustainability. The Republican Party is not separate from corporatism, but the party’s new identity is compliant with its existing establishmentarianism. The success of the populist American right isn’t just attributed to grassroots engagement, but the fact that their stance on war, energy, healthcare, and other economic issues sits well with corporate donors. This explains why the party was able to accommodate Trump and his supporters.
The Democratic Party does not enjoy this same parallel in its populist pressure, a fundamental difference. The Republican Party can stomach the radical breaking into the mainstream because it is still within the confines of the party’s corporate nature, especially in fiscal policy. However, the things called for by leftist populists like Sanders and Stein are not compatible with the party. Suggestions like universal healthcare, tougher policy on Wall Street, ending wars, and comprehensive ecological sustainability bites the hand that feeds the party. The Republican Party can afford populism, the Democratic Party can not.
Bernie Sanders was a prophet to the Democratic Party in this sense: he gave it a chance to lead itself out of disparity, tap into his super-rallies, harness his mobilized grassroots supporters, and attach to his international appeal. Sanders’ loss to Clinton demonstrates the party’s stubborn establishment nature. Clinton’s loss to Trump demonstrates its ineffectiveness. Despite Sanders’ capitulation to Clinton, she was unable to be sold as proletarian. In the end, it only seduced a radical leftist movement.
Make no mistakes in who to blame for Trump. We can not blame the people for not supporting the party, we must blame the party for not listening to the people. Votes are earned, not given. The question now is how to prevent further failures like Trump, and the answer has little to do with the crippled Democratic Party.
Liberals should leave the Democratic Party in the past. If the party refuses to let the people in, and believes that the future of American politics lies with people like Chelsea Clinton (who is reportedly groomed for a congressional run), we keep moving without them. The party is a failed experiment in neoliberalism.
There is no doubt in my mind that moderates will try to pin the outcome of the 2017 presidential election on third-party voters who abandoned a party that abandoned them. This refusal to accept blame is part of the problem. A political climate based around a lesser-of-two evils system gave us a candidate unable to win against Trump. This unelectable candidate was backed by a party that ignorantly expected a majority of Americans to vote for unending wars, environmental parasitism, apathy towards income inequality, and so many more systemic ills that face our country. Hillary Clinton did not lose because she was not perfect, she lost because she was not even decent.
I am scared of what the American right has become, particularly for my sisters who will inherit an America where the face of the right is distinguished by sexism and xenophobia, but I am more scared of a Democratic Party. The Republican Party’s supposed “contender” is a party that refuses to learn from its disastrous mistakes, wrote off the potential of a fascist populist, and has fueled a “lesser-of-two-evils” system that has given us unlikable, unelectable candidates.
This is why it is now more imperative than ever to build upon the biggest progressive party in the US, the Green Party. This will not be an opinion shared by many, especially not those who unconditionally support the Democratic Party. But in my view, the most important takeaway from this election is that the Democratic Party is not only morally void, but incapable. Their refusal to listen to the American people coupled with inability to win elections should be the last straw.
Disappointment is not the answer, direct action is. We must pick ourselves up, get motivated, get angry, and get involved. Our fight for the future of America has just begun, so get involved with the Green Party, engage on a grassroots level so we are able to build an ongoing revolutionary social movement.
If Trump proved one thing, it is that with vocal, mobilized supporters, the impossible is possible. The Green Party must be the future of American politics, so form chapters, raise awareness, and encourage registration. It starts with us: a brighter future is a greener future. If we won’t do it, who will? Surely no Democrat.
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