By grappling with class, however crudely, the President-elect has smashed a smug consensusby Thomas Frank / November 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
And so the United States has embraced the demagogue, a man who ran for the presidency as a kind of lone entrepreneur, without benefit of funding or even a political party, really. Every poll had him losing, some of them had him losing massively. And he won, thanks to the votes of millions of working-class whites which he did not really have any business winning.
How did it happen? Well, consider the traditional party of the American working class. For years the Democrats have been beguiled by the idea that all political victories lay in a kind of squishy centrism that involved making compromises with the Republicans. Working-class people, they assumed, had “nowhere else to go” as the party’s leaders triangulated to the centre. And so, led by Hillary Clinton’s husband, they got the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) passed and the banks deregulated—measures that were like poison to working class people and their organisations.
The great promise of centrism was that it delivered political victories. The Democratic Party’s various constituents would be abandoned, yes, but the Party itself would go from triumph to triumph. Here and there, certain people in the US pointed out that Republicans were making their own peculiar pitch to the working class, but Democrats closed their ears to that argument. In 2008, the Democrats succeeded by promising hope and action on behalf of middle-class Americans…