Summary: So far the Left has talked of forming a resistance to Trump, a first step to pushing back the power of the 1% and rolling back the GOP’s gains in State and Federal governments. But they have shown little interest in building the broad coalition needed to do so. Here is a brief recap of how the Left got here, and how it can reform to win.
“United we stand, divided we fall.”
— From Aesop’s fable, “The Four Oxen and the Lion“.
The response was fascinating to my post The Left becomes a cult rather than gather support to oppose Trump. Most validated my observations about the Left. Contempt for workers, factionalism, in-group jargon (my favorite: I’m a “performative centrist“) — and a remarkable drop from the high intellectual standards formerly commonplace on the Left.
What went wrong?
The 1% has grown powerful since their renaissance began in 1964. Worse, as many people warned, American workers have drifted from the Left to Right as the Left shifted its focus from economic growth and income redistribution to them to the priorities of social justice warriors (starting the bathroom wars during the campaign was almost suicidal). Thomas Frank wrote several books about this, most recently Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? Also see Michael Hirsh’s “Why Trump and Sanders Were Inevitable: It was only a matter of time before we had a populist backlash to 30 years of flawed globalization policies that both parties embraced” in Politico Magazine, February 2016.
Most on the Left prefer not see the overlap in views of Trump and Sanders. Also see this insightful report by Working America: “‘Front Porch Focus Group’ Explores Appeal of Trump’s Right-Wing Message to working-class voters.”
All of this appears to have had little effect on the Left. The response to Trump’s election has been to double-down on failed tactics — obsession with the rumors about a Trump-Putin conspiracy plus lots and lots of name-calling.
There is only one path forward with reasonable odds of success. We must look to our past for inspiration. Only an alliance of progressives and populists can defeat the 1%, as it did in the New Deal. Jefferson Cowie explains this in his new book “The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics”. From the publisher …
“The New Deal: where does it fit in the big picture of American history? What does it mean for us today? …Jefferson Cowie tackles the big questions in The Great Exception. Beginning in the Great Depression and through to the 1970s, he argues, the United States built a uniquely equitable period that contrasts with the deeper historical patterns of American political practice, economic structure, and cultural outlook.
“During those exceptional decades, which Cowie situates in the long arc of American history, the government used its considerable resources on behalf of working Americans in ways that it had not before and has not since. …Cowie shows how any renewed American … battle for collective economic rights needs to build on an understanding of how the New Deal was won…”
We did it once, and can do so again. But will it require a large shift in thinking on the Left, especially adopting new priorities and replacing factionalism with a drive to build a broad coalition.
For More Information
- Populism arises amidst American workers abandoned by both Left & Right.
- Trump and the 1% lead America back to its past, to its roots.
- See the warnings about Trump’s infrastructure plan. It’s betraying populism.
- The headlines show America being dismantled. It’s time to act, not just watch.
- Trump is the next logical step as America becomes a plutocracy.
- What to expect from the Trump years, and why.
- The Left becomes a cult rather than gather support to oppose Trump.
- See what Trump has wrought so far, telling us what to expect next.
- The GOP might impeach Trump, changing our politics forever – for the better.