The ascendency of Donald Trump continues to stupefy political pundits and veterans of electoral politics. They remain baffled because they cannot explain why a candidate who has praised the success of “Operation Wetback” as a model to deport twelve million undocumented immigrants, and a candidate who has proposed temporarily prohibiting Muslims from entering the United States, came to lead the Republican field of candidates.
With his unexpected rise, some Republican operatives behind closed doors are beginning to shift blame to one another for the billionaire’s meteoric rise. In a Politico article published in January, entitled, “Republicans point fingers: Who let Trump get this far?” journalist Alex Isenstadt quotes several RNC figures who attempt to shift blame in their party for the rise of Donald Trump. And even the self-proclaimed magazine of conservative thought and philosophy, National Review, published an issue dedicated to discrediting “The Donald” and his bid for the White House.
Do those within the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement deserve blame for Donald Trump? Yes. However, his rise can also be attributed to a failure by Democrats for abandoning their principles.
Traditionally, the Democratic Party championed the cause of labor, fair trade, universal healthcare, and rejected the influence of billionaire donors. Unfortunately, as cultural critic and liberal intellectual Chris Hedges writes, Clinton, a Democrat, was the first President who aggressively shattered these principles and scattered them to the wind.
It was the Clintons who led the Democratic Party to the corporate watering trough. The Clintons argued that the party had to ditch labor unions, no longer a source of votes or power, as a political ally. Workers would vote Democratic anyway. They had no choice. It was better, the Clinton’s argued, to take corporate money and use government to service the needs of the corporations. By the 1990s, the Democratic Party, under Clinton’s leadership, had virtual fund-raising parity with the Republicans. In political terms, it was a success. In moral terms, it was a failure.
To solidify their bond with powerful wealthy donors, Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law. In 1993, it was sold to the American citizenry as an opportunity to increase prosperity in America, Canada, and Mexico.
When NAFTA took effect one year later, Mexican farmers, having to compete against massive agribusinesses in the United States, went bankrupt. Two million Mexican farmers were forced to flee their farms. The failure of NAFTA in Mexico had a direct impact on the United States too. Although it has sharply declined, jobless Mexicans migrated to America at an unprecedented rate of five hundred thousand a year after NAFTA was signed into law. As of the 20th anniversary of the deal, one million American jobs have been lost because of Clinton’s trade agreement.
Not to be outdone by his predecessor, President Obama has used the same language as Clinton to ensure that the Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty (TPP) will be a resounding success. Yet, according to a recent analysis by Jerome Capaldo and Alex Izurieta of Tufts University, TPP could produce some detrimental economic results for America and its partners.
According to the two economists,
TPP would generate net losses of GDP in the United States and Japan. For the United States … GDP would be 0.54% lower than it would be without TPP, 10 years after the treaty
… Japan’s GDP is projected to decrease 0.12%. Economic gains would be negligible for other participating countries- less than one percent over ten years for developed countries and less than three percent for developing ones. TPP would lead to employment losses in all countries, with a total of 771,000 lost jobs. The United States would be the hardest hit, with a loss of 448,000 jobs.
Obama speaks in the same empathetic language as former President Clinton, and is just as quick to betray traditional liberal principles and the working class.
These are just a few examples of the numerous betrayals the Democratic Party has made against their base and their principles. Now, enter Donald Trump. The former reality television star’s appeal is not just among Republicans, but especially disenfranchised Democrats who feel betrayed by Democratic administrations.
According to a study by Mercury Analytics, twenty percent of Democrats told pollsters they would defect from their party and vote for Trump if he secured the Republican nomination. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn found similar results. Disillusioned Democrats who are cross with the Party are moving across the political aisle to vote for Trump.
It is easy to comprehend why. Trump is running on various policies that are supported by progressives, liberals, the working class, and large sectors of the Democratic Party’s base. In a post for his website, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich describes speaking to various Trump supporters during his recent book tour. When he asked them to describe what they found appealing about Trump, they explained they respect his opposition to job-killing trade deals such as NAFTA and TPP, his promises to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, his support for taxing hedge funds, and his rejection of corporate dollars into his campaign coffers. Policies and positions supported by traditional Democrats.
Democrats have consistently criticized extreme Republican rhetoric and the acceptance of Trump into Republican inner-circles as examples when blaming the leadership of the RNC for his acceptance among the Republican electorate. These criticisms attempt to absolve Democrats of any blame on their part for Trump.
Yes, it is true that the DNC did not have the same special relationship with “The Donald” as the RNC, yet their consistent betrayal of their voting base offered Trump an excellent opportunity to capitalize.
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is probably seen amongst the majority of disappointed progressives and Democrats as a more sane and rational option to Trump. But, if Sanders fails to the capture the nomination from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, voters could witness an exodus of Democrats looking past the real-estate tycoon’s racist rhetoric and policies and voting for him in the polling booth.
If this is the case, the Democrats will have nobody to blame except themselves.
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