Donald Trump’s chaotic menace has been met with a fierce resistance movement that has rallied to the defense of the Dreamers, Muslims, women, and the environment. This movement has lifted Democrats in special elections and could enable them to take back the House of Representatives along with many statehouses and governors’ mansions. Trump remains remarkably unpopular, despite a growing economy, low unemployment, and the much-ballyhooed tax cuts.
Yet resistance alone is not enough. Responding to the Trump outrage of the day ignores the clear reality: Trump is in the White House because voters revolted against the establishment of both parties. And neither party has genuine answers for the struggles of most Americans.
Democrats can’t build an enduring majority for real change without clarity on an agenda far different and bolder than the neoliberalism of the past years. But now, 70 leaders of the resistance—supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie, Sanders—have released a Pledge to Fight for America’s Future that outlines an economic agenda and vows to build the movement needed to make it a reality. (For list of signers, go here; to join the pledge go here. Full disclosure: This was spearheaded by Roger Hickey and released by the Campaign for America’s Future, which I co-founded.)
The agenda is not a grab-bag of glittering new ideas. Rather, it reflects an emerging consensus among the activist base of the Democratic party that began to take form in the DNC platform born from negotiations between Clinton and Sanders in 2016. Parts of the pledge are also in the “Better Deal” agenda that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are rolling out, but can be found too in the stirring platform put out by the Movement for Black Lives and 60 other organizations in 2016.
The pledge represents a clear break with the neoliberal economics of the Clinton years, and its celebration of markets, balanced budgets, small government, deregulation, and corporate trade. The pledge instead recognizes an economy rigged to benefit the few, with Big Money not only corrupting our politics but corroding our sense of the possible. That has produced savage inequality, stagnant wages, and increasing insecurity. This feeds a deep American despair, which is reflected in the stunning life-expectancy declines of recent years. Trump is already deepening these problems as he abandoned his populist promises.
The pledge calls for a clear commitment to a far different course. Major elements include rebuilding America while guaranteeing the right to a job. Public investment—modernizing a dangerously decrepit infrastructure—is the centerpiece of the jobs and growth agenda, not trickle-down tax cuts that only add to inequality. That investment should be focused in part on the transition to a sustainable green energy economy. Meeting the clear and present security threat posed by catastrophic climate change can be the greatest source of jobs and innovation since the move to the suburbs after World War II. As China understands, the country that leads in the development of the new technologies will dominate what will inevitably be the growing markets of this century.