Nine months ago, this Naked Democracy blog provoked some lively chatter when I announced the crackup of the Republican Party. Now I want to add the Democratic Party to the endangered-species list. This doesn’t mean Hillary Clinton will lose in November (though she might). I want to explain why the party once known for its brave liberal reforms is hung up on an identity crisis of its own.
In this season of political chaos, the party led by Hillary Clinton is holding on to the familiar past it knows—the glory days when New Democrats were the brilliant winners.
Confused and alarmed by the current Republican breakup, the Clinton machine has responded with crab-like caution, maybe hoping to have it both ways. Clinton-Obama veterans agreed early on that 2016 would be Hillary’s turn. She would bring her own assets and could run on her husband’s reputation as the popular, pragmatic centrist. Events did not cooperate. In this season of change, HRC’s new agenda sounds a lot like the same old, same old.
In 1992, Mr. Bill’s winning slogan was “putting people first.” This year Hillary’s is “putting families first.” Bill promised to create lots of good jobs with his plans for major public works. Hillary’s job plan is big spending on “infrastructure.”
Bill Clinton didn’t deliver on jobs. After his election, he turned right, embracing the GOP agenda for free-trade agreements that ratified US multinationals’ desire to globalize their production—that is, move factories out of the United States and replace our high-wage American workers with low-wage workers in poorer countries.
Clinton had promised organized labor he would protect American workers with a strong side agreement for NAFTA. That never happened, another broken promise. Washington think tanks pumped out bogus economic studies claiming that NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements would bring the United States great waves of new jobs. The opposite occurred.
In political terms, organized labor lost big. It was permanently displaced by Wall Street finance as the most influential constituency of the Clinton-Obama presidencies. The working class has not forgotten this brutal betrayal (pundits scold the losers, urging them to get over it). In fact, desperate working familes are still getting hammered by the ugly consequences.
Millions of high-wage manufacturing jobs were destroyed by cheap labor competition, just as the major corporations had intended. Did Bill Clinton know what he was doing? He’s a shrewd guy, and it’s impossible to believe he was unaware of the domestic destruction he was authorizing. Did Hillary Clinton know? Her silence on the subject is not reassuring.
Political reporters and op-ed economists in the prestigious newspapers continue to dismiss angry workers as deluded or just plain stupid. The tortured denials of what ordinary people know to be true in their own lives drip with class condescension, talking down to people with economic abstractions when their human losses are about real pain. These establishment commentaries typically have two omissions: The reporters seldom talk with the people actually victimized, and the opinion pieces almost never mention what happened to wages.