"A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much and so many have so little." - Bernie Sanders
"Since 2010, in contests for state House and state Senate seats, Democrats have racked up a net deficit of 913 seats. Republicans now control 68 of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers, a historic high." - BillMoyers.com
What is your reaction when Donald Trump trumpets, "Make America Great Again"? I suspect that many, if not most, Democrats are genuinely bewildered by his campaign slogan. They know America is already great. It never lost its greatness.
But is America truly great? I submit that many working Americans and millennials would tell you that the country is in decline. They may see the world through the eyes of Bernie Sanders who rails against the accumulation of wealth at the top while the vast majority of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. Or they may see the world through the eyes of Trump who warns of sinister forces conspiring to move their factories overseas while letting in hordes of immigrants to take the remaining jobs.
At the local level Americans seem to be blaming Democrats for their travails. As shown in the map above from the Moyers and Friends web site, Americans in less populated areas are inexorably moving to the Republican column. The color red dominates the entire country with the exception of urbanized coastal states in the west and northeast and Illinois (which is strongly influenced by Chicago). California is still blue, largely due to the populated coastal regions of the state. If one journeys to the east past the coastal mountains, the rest of the state is as red as the rest of the country.
In "Coming Apart," conservative author Charles Murray examines the white population in the United States and shows that a new upper class and a new lower class have developed over the past five decades. The upper class is much more highly educated and tends to congregate in select urban areas of the country where they can be with other highly educated people of their own tastes and culture. This class of people is thriving in the new economy. The white lower class is located everywhere else in the country. These are the working people who have been severely affected by business decisions to move manufacturing overseas and by increasing levels of automation that are eliminating routine jobs at home. They are struggling to survive in the new economy.
Murray doesn't state this, but I submit that his analysis is reflected in the red/blue divide in this country, so dramatically shown in the map. The white upper class has self-selected to live in the blue areas while the white lower class predominates in the red locations (sometimes dismissively called "fly-over country" by the elites). This is somewhat simplistic of course because many struggling whites can be found in the blue states, and some upper-class whites live in isolated urban pockets in the red states. But the general trend is clear.
So let's return to the question ... Is America great? Well it certainly is for the white upper class ensconced in their blue enclaves. They frequently talk about "American exceptionalism" and the "American dream." They are the successes in our society, and they are proud of their ascension to the top. Their views are the country's public views ... since they control the mainstream media.
But I hardly think America is great for the white lower class. They are upset about the state of the economy and all the factors that they think contribute to their situation, real or unreal. Statistics show an alarming rise in drug usage in the red states and a drop in life expectancy for white males in middle age. It is almost as though they have given up ...
Now to the rescue comes Donald Trump. His message resonates with the white lower class. They understand him when he says, "We never win anymore." They understand his plain talk, laced as it is with racist and misogynistic rhetoric. And they fully intend to vote to "make America great again" through their anointed savior.
Meanwhile, the Democrats seem to have settled on a Presidential strategy focused on upper-class whites combined with identity politics, currying the favor of those people who have been demonized by the Republicans such as ethnic minority groups, immigrants, and the LGBT community. The Democrats are actively seeking to capture upper-class Republicans who desire stability and reject the insanity of Trump.
But it seems to me that the Democrats are missing a golden opportunity to also capture the white lower class as well. Bernie Sanders has clearly shown that a message of economic populism can bring many more people on board. I contend that the Party has a moral obligation to reach out to the white lower class. They used to be the heart of the Party under the rubric of working-class Americans. Back in the days when unions were pre-eminent, the working class wasn't lower class; they were middle class. Why abandon them now that the unions have collapsed ... particularly to a tyrant such as Donald Trump who is sure to betray them if he gets into office?
I suggest that the Democratic Party broaden its appeal to all Americans regardless of identity and that the Party embrace the millennials who are teetering on the economic brink. In this way, the Democratic Party can once again become the party of all Americans, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation ... or class. We would win our elections running away.
But there is a rub. The Democratic Party would have to stand up to the wealthy elites who provide much of their campaign funding. The interests of these billionaires and near billionaires are antithetical to the vast majority of Americans, particularly those in the lower class. The elites want low marginal taxes on the wealthy, low corporate taxes, "free trade" agreements, deregulation of financial markets, and reduced restrictions on business activities (such as environmental regulations). These are the people Bernie Sanders has been railing against.
I congratulate Hillary Clinton on becoming the first female nominee for President from a major political party. I noted that she included some of Bernie's economic populism in her acceptance speech. I recommend she go all the way ... and embrace all aspects of the Democratic Party's new progressive platform. And once she is in office, I further recommend that she take immediate steps to implement the planks of the platform, focusing on those involving economic inequality. The wealthy donors be damned!
Let's take Donald Trump out of the equation ... and become the party that actually does make America Great Again!