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It is a common refrain among moderate and progressive Democrats when the subject is white working class voters: “The poor misguided fools. They keep voting against their interests.”
In truth the Democrats are the misguided fools; the working class knows exactly what it is doing. It is voting for anyone—whether Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders—who promises to blow up the current system, a system which favors billionaires and corporations. And when the choice is between a bomb thrower and someone representing the party of Goldman Sachs and free trade, that choice is a no-brainer.
If Democrats were to actually listen to working class voters—especially those Rust Belt and Coal Belt voters whose good paying union jobs were made obsolete by Clintonian policies like NAFTA—they would find that these voters believe they are voting for the party of the working class. Or the party that at least pretends to be pro-working class.
As Bernie Sanders told NPR way back in 2014: “I would say if you go out on the street and you talk to people and say, ‘Which is the party of the American working class?’ People would look at you like you were a little bit crazy, they wouldn’t know what you were talking about, and they certainly wouldn’t identify the Democrats.”
Nor are working class voters as gullible as Democrats think they are. They are not being hoodwinked by FOX News and talk radio and Donald Trump. Time and again, as documented in the film The Corporate Coup d’Etat, working class voters have said, We know Trump doesn’t mean what he says. But at least he says it.
That’s all they ask.
Rust Belt/Coal Belt voters have eagerly told anyone who cared to listen why they continue to support Trump and his minions. They made them feel valued, like they had a voice, like they were listened to.
It was all there, plain as day, in Trump’s 2016 GOP convention speech:
“Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned. I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice. I AM YOUR VOICE!”
Like a lot of people, when I heard Trump deliver those lines, my gut reaction was: Oh crap. Hillary is doomed.
But instead of one-upping Trump’s populism, Hillary Clinton called the working class a “basket of deplorables.” Then she followed that valentine up with the gaffe of the century: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
The networks should have put a large blinking sign over Hillary’s head. “Game over.”
Democrats, however, remain clueless, continuing to blame Russia (It’s Russia’s fault! It’s Russia’s fault!) for Trump’s 2016 victory. “I think a full investigation would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf,” said Jimmy Carter in 2019.
You can almost hear Blame-Russia Democrats say, But Trump was a fraud. He didn’t actually do anything for the working class. He gave the rich a huge tax cut.
That’s not entirely true. Trump tore up trade deals and slapped tariffs on China. Some of these tariffs hurt other sectors of the economy, but at least he did something.
Fine. Who cares? Who needs the working class? They are incorrigible racists anyway. Liberals actually say this. First it was New York Magazine writer Frank Rich then Slate’s Jamelle Bouie. This thinking goes back decades. Dismissing the working class was pretty much the entire point of the Democratic Leadership Council whose members still dominate the Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee.
Even today some well off, woke liberals are more concerned with banning the term working class than in actually being the party of the working class. As usual Noam Chomsky gets to heart of the matter: “For people who are trying to put food on the table, gay rights doesn’t mean much, environmental issues, unfortunately, doesn’t mean much.”
Today’s Democratic Party is completely irrelevant. Who needs a Party of the Left that shuns the working class and only represents elite professionals, woke academics, Wall Street, billionaires, and poor minorities?
America needs a labor party. A party of the working class. But right now it has nothing that even vaguely resembles either one.