A party that doesn’t serve workers serves no one.
The day after an election is, by default, going to be a bummer for some people. But for a Democratic Party office in the bluest county in one of the nation’s bluest states, November 9th was something very different.
The local party organizers had booked the Grange Hall in my small town for a post-election celebration, confident in Hillary Clinton’s prophesied coronation. As the results came in and the Rust Belt flipped away, they quickly called and drastically reduced the number of pizzas they were ordering.
Condescension from elites was the animating force of this election.
The event went on, anyway, as defeated Democrats gathered to comfort each other and talk through the next four years. Kids chased each other in the back room as the county chair delivered his remarks.
There was good news. Voter turnout was 82.5%?—?insanely high, comparatively. Everything on the Party’s recommended docket passed the county except for a controversial carbon tax bill (I voted against it because I didn’t believe it did enough). And Washington state, of course, stayed primarily Democratic.
But the elephant in the room?—?and that metaphor has never felt more literal?—?was the election of Donald Trump as president.
After the party organizers spoke, they opened the floor for speakers. There was lots of talk about Hillary Clinton’s qualifications, her advantages and how the media’s focus on emails and not “the issues” led to her defeat. Donald Trump’s claim that the election was rigged was flipped on its head. It was rigged, these Democrats said, but against the good guys.
And in some ways, yes, that’s true. The gutting of the Voting Rights Act suppressed ballots in many traditionally blue areas. But the real story of this election, one that’s played out in the data, is that Clinton simply didn’t galvanize rural middle- and lower-class voters who had previously supported Barack Obama.
“Money making money has been more important to the Party than money making jobs.”
When you’re ensconced in a northwestern liberal utopia with its own film festival and art museum, it’s easy to look down on those voters. But condescension from elites was the animating force of this election. Nobody gives a shit about Lena Dunham in a pantsuit or Hillary doing the whip and the nae nae when they can’t get a job anywhere but Wal-Mart, part-time.
I wasn’t planning on saying anything when I got there. But as these excuse-filled speeches went on, I realized I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night if I didn’t speak up.
So I walked to the podium and took the microphone.
“The Democratic Party lost an election against the least qualified candidate in human history. And they did it because for the past 30 years they have systematically sacrificed the needs of the worker on the altar of capital. Money making money has been more important to the Party than money making jobs. There is no progress and no progressive movement without the worker, and this party will die if it refuses to put the worker first.”
Some people clapped. Others looked visibly uncomfortable. One guy told me I should run for office myself, which a quick look at my Twitter feed reveals to be a fantastically bad idea.
And then a retired neuroscientist spoke for 25 endless minutes about rationality and the bicameral mind as people slowly shuffled out onto the street, defeated.
These are good people. They’re well-intentioned people who want the best for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised. But they’re also so isolated from the needs of the worker that they have no way of winning them back.
Donald Trump made a promise to the working class in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in Ohio and even in Washington?—?a promise that he would restore their meaningful jobs. Jobs in manufacturing, jobs in farming, jobs in resource extraction. Jobs that made things, not just pushed money around or flipped burgers.
Anyone with even a remedial knowledge of economics knows that’s an empty promise. There’s no magical wand of job creation that will make a field of factories bloom.
But it was at least a promise. The Democrats didn’t even bother to make one, and it killed them. And if meetings like this are anything to go on, it’s going to keep killing them, and us.