Marshall Auerback, Counterpunch - During the Presidential campaign of 1988, the Reverend Jesse Jackson was asked, “How you are going to get the support of the white steelworker?” He replied: “By making him aware he has more in common with the black steel workers by being a worker, than with the boss by being white.” Jackson also did speak of reviving a “rainbow coalition”, but in spite of being associated with black radicalism by much of the country, he was able to obtain almost 50 percent of the Democratic delegates at the Atlanta convention through an explicit appeal which transcended race, instead invoking class. Jackson himself is not the likely future leader of the Democratic Party, but his model is one the Dems would be well to consider if they wish to recapture much of the country that they lost in last week’s election.
To a large degree, Bernie Sanders understood and appreciated this, although as we now know, the Wall Street/Silicon Valley donors which comprise the donor class of the DNC were appalled by this and actively worked to sabotage his campaign. By the time we got to the general election, the party’s message was watered down and muddled, in some races focused almost entirely on gender issues and attacks of Trump’s lack of suitability for the office.
To be sure, Donald Trump did make a strong appeal to racists, homophobes, and misogynists and whilst his GOP colleagues publicly recoiled in horror, there is no question that Trump was merely making explicit what Republicans had been doing for decades – since the days of Nixon in 1968. The dog whistle was merely replaced by a bull horn.
But that alone doesn’t explain Trump’s success. As I wrote in an earlier analysis of the Trump phenomenon, he became the voice for an increasing number of Americans, who counted themselves amongst the biggest losers of globalization and free trade. In most elections, U.S. politicians of both parties pretend to be concerned about their issues, then conveniently ignore them when they reach power and implement policies from the same Washington Consensus that has dominated the past 40 years. That’s why so many Americans have simply stopped voting (and this year was no different, as it looks like a mere 57.9% of the voter eligible population turned out). And perhaps Trump is a faux populist, who is merely deploying bait and switch tactics, but he explicitly addressed his campaign to those who have been marginalized by the neo-liberal policies dominant in both parties.