Tuesday, November 15, 2016

THE ELECTION: SOME REFLECTIONS


Harry Targ

Election Expectations

I like most political observers believed the polls. It is interesting to note that some pundits, such as filmmaker Michael Moore, were warning of a Trump victory. These people were more likely to be in touch with working people, particularly in economically devastated areas. The media played a big role in "creating" the Trump candidacy then making him out to be a monster for mainstream viewers, thus ignoring the patronizing way the Trump message was seen by some of his base.

Why did Trump win?

A careful analysis explaining the Trump victory requires a multi-factor analysis. Over the last 24 hours I have seen compelling explanations from Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Glenn Greenwald.*  Statements by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are informative as well.

Substantively we need to reflect on the role and impact of 40 years of neoliberal globalization and its key components--financialization, privatization, deindustrialization, downsizing the civilian sector of the economy and boosting the military industrial complex, and union-busting. Neoliberal globalization expanded dramatically in the Reagan period in the 1980s and was given a centrist stamp of approval in the Clinton presidency. The impacts on working people have been devastating.

Deeply embedded in the logic of capitalism is the exploitation of all workers and the particular dehumanization and objectification of workers of color. Over time racism has developed an autonomous character and has been used to divide the working class. The Trump campaign used the historic and institutionalized racism and white supremacy to mobilize some of his base. As to this election, race and class matter.

In addition, we cannot forget the institutionalization of patriarchy, a system developed long before the rise of capitalism but used along with race to divide the working class, and pit people at the base against each other. Modern forms of sexism have used the media to objectify and dehumanize women, a tool that also played out significantly in this election campaign.

Finally, the media--print, electronic, networks and cable--created the candidacy of Donald Trump giving him free air time, communicating his most bombastic statements, all to increase viewership and profit. Five media conglomerates control about half of all of what we citizens consume. The Trump campaign was a boon to their profits. After he was nominated the media shifted to the Trump as monster narrative, equally profitable. While the latter appealed to the liberal political junkies it was ignored or resented by the Trump base. We news junkies were fooled into expecting a Clinton victory. The same shortsightedness governed polling operations and our consumption of polling data.  

Prospects for the Future

The struggles for economic democracy, social justice, an end to racism and sexism will continue. The Sanders campaign was an inspirational predictor of the popular struggles that will move forward into the future. Of particular relevance is that the millenials of the Sanders campaign, Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15 and environmental movements are in the majority. Of course the dangers of radical setbacks in the short run are great—including further deterioration of the environment, encouragement of violent fascist groups, more police violence, attacks on women's rights, and efforts to destroy basic health care. The good news is that progressive groups and a twenty-first century left are expanding. The bad news is the struggles will require more defense than offense in the short-run. I think we can win, if the environment holds up.

Fears and Hopes

I fear the unleashing of more police violence and vigilantism against people of color and immigrants, significant reversal of the modest gains in saving the environment, and possible destruction of people’s programs (for me as well) such as Medicare, Social Security, public education.

My hope is that the anti-Trump "crowds" hitting the streets, the progressive movements in the Democratic Party, old and new leftists, and the inspiring new issue specific campaigns such as in North Dakota, will flower and grow. It is our only hope.