How to prevent future Trumps

Why did so many working class voters choose a selfish, thin-skinned, petulant, lying, narcissistic, boastful, megalomaniac for president?

It’s important to know, because we need to stop more Trumps in the future.

The answer lies in the interplay between deep-seated racism and stagnant and declining wages. Both must be addressed.

Some white working class men and women were—and still are—receptive to Trump’s bigotry. But what made them receptive? Racism and xenophobia aren’t exactly new to American life. Fears of blacks and immigrants have been with us since the founding of the Republic.

What changed was the economy. Since the 1980s, the wages and economic prospects of the typical American worker have stagnated. Nearly 80 percent now live paycheck to paycheck, and those paychecks have grown less secure.

Meanwhile, all the economy’s gains have gone to the richest ten percent, mostly the top 1 percent. Wealthy individuals and big corporations have, in turn, invested some of those gains into politics.

As a result, big money now calls the shots in Washington—getting subsidies, tax breaks, tax loopholes (even Trump promised to close the “carried interest” loophole yet it remains), and bailouts.

The near meltdown of Wall Street in 2008 caused a recession that cost millions their jobs, homes, and savings. But the Street got bailed out and not a single Wall Street executive went to jail.

In the two years leading up to the 2016 election, I revisited many of the places I had visited when I was labor secretary in the 1990s.

People told me the system was “rigged” against them. A surprising number said they planned to vote either for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump—the two anti-establishment candidates who promised to “shake up” Washington.

But Trump’s racism and xenophobia focused the cumulative economic rage on scapegoats that had nothing to do with its causes. It was hardly the first time in history a demagogue has used this playbook.

If America doesn’t respond to the calamity that’s befallen the working class, we will have Trumps as far as the eye can see.

A few Democrats are getting the message—pushing ambitious ideas like government-guaranteed full employment, single-payer health care, industry-wide collective bargaining, and a universal basic income.

We also need ways to finance these things, such as a carbon tax, a tax on Wall Street trades, and a progressive tax on wealth.

To accomplish all this we have to get big money out of politics.

Even if “Citizens United” isn’t overruled, big money’s influence can be limited with generous public financing of elections, full disclosure of the source of all campaign contributions, and a clampdown on the revolving door between business and government.

Trump isn’t the cause of what’s happened to America. He’s the consequence—the product of years of stagnant wages and big money’s corruption of our democracy combined with a long legacy of racism and bigotry.

If we really want to stop Trump and prevent future Trumps, we will need to address these causes of Trump’s rise.

This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.

Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.

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2 Responses to How to prevent future Trumps

  1. Wave those pompoms harder

    More Dem bullshit for party dupes.

    The candidate you Democrat commissars imposed was too repulsive to beat her own hand-picked repulsive asshole. Once the election was close enough to steal, you were dead. Trump beat you with crosscheck.

    Not gonna lift a finger till you meet the minimal standards of the civilized world. You don’t even know what I’m talking about, Do you? So we’re going to let you lose and lose until your bullshit party is extinct. We don’t need your fake elections to purge you crooked parasites.

  2. I agree with this writer as to the cause of electing Trump, but I don’t know as yet whether or not Trump will help us–or not. I am against referring to the unborn as a fetus and then supporting murder of a child. I am in favor of universal healthcare and higher wages and a system where we the worker control our respective company’s decisions. The Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama globalization and consequential destruction of savings for the worker in usa is sickening and still omnipresent. Under the oxymoron “NAFTA” we were not given free and fair trade with our neighbors to the north and south of us. The continental usa by itself is a truly free trade area, but unless all of our systems are the same among the trading partners–same currency, same access to the same capital, same minimum wage, same healthcare, free mobility of human capital–there is a zero free trade area. No. NAFTA as it has been simply increased the finance sector of usa and diminished the manufacturing, resulting in too big to fail and the financial collapse. Clinton can be wholly thanked. Obama hates Clinton but was caught in the same global-money-for-the-few trap designed for the uber rich which rendered him impotent as a leader. Trump may try to overturn the deeply rooted fraud against workers, but more likely, he’ll join them. Pray for him to stop “Poppy Bush,” and his immortal machine. All bank fraud began with Bush! and was joyfully continued by his low-iq sons and his illegitimate children Bill and Hillary.

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