Mar 8, 2016

March 8, 2016: When 6 Becomes 9, Fundamental Re-alignment, Material Accessories to the Dismantlement of the New Deal

“The Clinton’s have been material accessories to the dismantlement of the New Deal”

                        ----From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

Economist and former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration posted this observation on Facebook this morning:

“America could be on the verge of a fundamental political realignment. Starting with the New Deal, the Democrats were the party of blue-collar workers while the Republicans represented the white-collar establishment. But the tables may be reversed in coming years.

To understand this possibility, consider that right now there are four political tribes in America -- each with its own nominee for President:

1. The Democratic establishment (suburban professionals, Democratic political insiders, liberal-leaning business executives, political centrists). Their candidate is Hillary Clinton.

2. The Republican anti-establishment Right (evangelicals and abortion foes, Tea Partiers, climate-change deniers, federal-government haters, and Fox News addicts). They want Ted Cruz.

3. The Republican anti-establishment isolationists and bigots (economic losers, foes of free trade, angry about immigrants, fearful of Muslims). They want Donald Trump.

4. The Democratic anti-establishment (worried most about widening inequality, concentrated wealth and power at the top, corporate control of our democracy, Wall Street’s excesses). They want Bernie Sanders.

The most prominent group without a political leader at the moment is the Republican establishment (corporate and Wall Street heads, coastal elites, mid-level executives, small-business owners, right-of-center retirees).

If Trump or Cruz becomes the Republican candidate, and Hillary gets the Democratic nomination, the Republican establishment will line up behind Hillary Clinton -- who will thereby become the candidate of the white collar American establishment (in uneasy coalition with African-Americans).

And Trump or Cruz will be the candidate of the white working class. The New Deal reversal will be complete.

What do you think?” (1)

This is precisely the analysis being put forward in this column, for the political center has given way and a new governing coalition will emerge from this election cycle.  How permanent it will be will depend upon who wins the election and what the next president does in office to cement the emergent coalition in power.  We had thought that this had happened after the 2008 cycle only to see that because the structural issues concerning the economy had not been addressed and the plight of the Middle Class had not been alleviated that the coalition that has elected Obama for two terms is unravelling.  The reasons for this have been previously delineated in these columns and will be subjects of continuing commentary but for our purposes here it is enough to say that, in the words of Bob Dylan, ‘the wheel’s still in spin’. 

Professor Reich is right in that what now looms if the Republicans nominate Trump or Cruz and the Democrats nominate Hillary is that we will have an effective swap of political positions as the ‘liberals’ abandon all pretense of ‘progressivism’ and abdicate their historic role as the voice of the ‘people’. The ‘populist’ revolt will by default fall into the hands of the political wrong—the right wing crypto fascists.  And therein lies the tragedy. 

There are reasons why the good professor, a friend of Hillary’s since she was 19 years old, has now openly endorsed the candidacy of Bernie Sanders for President.  He understands what is as stake here: not only a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party but a struggle, not unlike that which our ancestors faced, to lead the populist revolt in a progressive direction and in so doing save the underpinning of the middle class and the foundations of the republic itself. 

For the Clintons it will, however, represent a singular victory for Hillary especially.  Ever since her days as a ‘Goldwater girl’ in which she labored assiduously on behalf of the architect of dismantling the New Deal, Hillary and her husband Bill have labored mightily to transform the Democratic Party into ‘Bush-Lite’, if not the party of Wall Street.

Let there be no mistake about it. The Clintons have been material accessories to the dismantling of the New Deal, from the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the replacement of AFDC (passed by FDR in 1933) savaging in turn the social safety net, the failure to enforce anti-trust laws, the encouragement of mergers and acquisitions—especially in finance and energy, the wholesale incarceration and sponsorship of privatization, the awful trade agreements that have hollowed out our industrial base and destroyed our unions…ad nauseum.   Her nomination in the teeth of a full-fledged populist revolt that now spans the entire political spectrum would be a testament to the complete transformation of the Democratic Party from the party of FDR, JFK, and LBJ to the party of William McKinley, Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover. 

Welcome to the 21st Century where 6 is 9.


(1)   Robert Reich Facebook post of March 8, 2016.


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