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Heed Trump Election Wake

Will Democrats Heed Trump Election Wake-Up Call?—Part 2—Gene Rothman

Part 2: The White Working Class and the Milennials

[See Part 1 here]

The White Working Class: How do white blue-collar workers view the Liberals and the professional class? One machine operator explains that he has no desire to join the professional class, but rather wants to secure more income so he can remain in his chosen domain, with a central goal of being able to avoid taking orders from professionals.

“The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money. The main thing is to be independent and give your own orders and not have to take them from anybody else…” ((Joan C. Williams, ”What So Many People Don’t Get About the Working Class”).

Another example of how whites view Liberals—this time from the South—was cited by Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her work Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

“Then you see some people cut in line…They are affirmative action women who would go for formerly all-men’s jobs, or affirmative action blacks who have been sponsored and now have access to formerly all-white jobs. It’s immigrants. It’s refugees…. Then they see people cutting ahead of them in line. Immigrants, blacks, women, refugees, public sector workers. And even an oil-drenched brown pelican getting priority… And then there is Barack Obama, to the side, the line supervisor who seems to be waving these people (and the pelican) ahead.”—Quote cited in “What a liberal sociologist learned from spending five years in Trump's America”, Updated by Brad Plumer@bradplumerbrad@vox.com Oct 25, 2016.

Finally, with regard to Hochschild’s reference to anger and mourning, Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, makes the important point that--absent a counter narrative from the Progressive Left about structural economic barriers to ordinary Americans, as well as policies favoring the 1%, those who do not make it financially or educationally feel they have no one to blame but themselves.Overcoming Trump-ism: A New Strategy for Progressives”, Tikkun, Winter, 2017, pp 4-9) .

Milennials: Millenials are a diverse group ethnically and politically and are often hard to categorize. I will cite a few factors that stand out for me, although I make no claim to any special knowledge of this subject.

Milennials are most often self-described as independents, and they highly favor transparency and authenticity. They are also very tolerant of diversity, and it is here they differ from the Right most strikingly.

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With regard to the DNC and potential efforts to recruit them, there is uncertainty about how this might be done. Millennials are often mistrustful of many societal institutions, including major political parties. (It should be noted here, as well, that a large part of the electorate also identifies as independents and that a majority of the electorate did not like either candidate, Hillary or Trump.) There is evidence, however, that millennials supported Bernie Sanders.

To the extent that this is the case, this puts them on a potential collision course with the DNC establishment as well.

Personal Commentary: In my view, even if it is true that Trump and the Republicans are clearly the most hostile forces to the interests of ordinary Americans, it seems highly improbable that either party will be willing to effectively advocate for the interests of ordinary Americans . To do so would require severing their ties to the banking and other corporate interests that provide the mother’s milk for their campaigns. If GOP policies favoring the 1% are an illness on the body politic, the ideology of Liberalism is surely a failed antidote as well. As social commentator David Frum aptly noted: “Republicans fear their base; Democrats despise their base.

There is fear among establishment Democrats that if the party moves too far to the left, or becomes a left-wing ‘tea party,’ the long-term consequences could be very harmful to the established Democratic party.

When establishment Democrats despise their activist base, this is not a good recipe for reaching out to the next generation of milennials. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that the widespread protests against the Trump administration have moved the grass roots protesters and mainstream Democrats closer together. These protests may, in fact, be why the elected members of Democratic House and Senate members have stiffened their spines and to become more of an opposition party. That said, establishment Democrats do not want to embrace resistance. There is fear among establishment Democrats that if the party moves too far to the left, or becomes a left-wing ‘tea party,’ the long-term consequences could be very harmful to the established Democratic party.

Present signs, however, still appear to make it unlikely that that the DNC will welcome real change in any form. Instead, I predict they will look for others to blame. They will also try to avoid any real autopsy of the factors that led to their defeat,In contrast to what the GOP did in 2012. The GOP autopsy report identified factors as causes of their party’s defeat:

…”its ideological rigidity, its preference for the rich over workers, its alienation of minorities, its reactionary social policies and its institutionalized repression of dissent and innovation”… The Republican Autopsy Report

Despite this autopsy, the GOP eventually doubled down on the policies criticized rather than implementing reforms.

It seems likely that the DNC will resist change as well, especially if they do not even conduct an autopsy.

One way to assess this prediction is to see what, if anything, the delegates will do with regard to the issue of super-delegates. Abolishing super-delegates would open the door to a more democratic system, but runs the risk (from the DNC perspective) of providing an opening to the Progressive Left and to the grass roots. The smart bet is that the DNC will not do so.

Gene Rothman

Gene Rothman, D.S.W., L.C.S.W., is a retired social worker who worked with homeless veterans on Skid Row. He is now active with interfaith groups and with the California National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Social Action/Social Justice Council, among other activist organizations.