The November election is fast approaching. Democrats are a political party in crisis. We should have a deep blue wave. Many Americans are are not happy with the Trump administration, and the policies they have followed. There are many reasons why liberals and progressives do not like the policies. Then there are the minorities that Trump has gone after.
However, his base, hard right as it is, is very happy with him. The November election is a test for Trump and the Republican Party. If his base shows up in small numbers and Republicans lose the House and the Senate, or at least one, it will put a break on Trump. It will also follow a historic pattern. The rullng party tends to do badly in midterms.
We are at a historic cross roads. Elections have consequences, and by all measures Democrats should do well, but there is a good chance they will not. There are several reasons why.
It’s is clear to voters and non-voters alike, that Democrats are running against President Donald J Trump. They intend to make the 2018 midterms a test on the policies and this presidency that some Democrats hate. However, this is a salient question? What are Democrats running for? What is the national agenda that they are offering that will be presumably better than the America First agenda coming from Washington?
There is another problem. Many Democrats and Progressives do not understand Trump’s appeal in particular, or the rise of populism in general.
The Donald J Trump presidency is a consequence of forty years of policies enacted globally. These policies were presumably meant to create a global society where only those who worked hard would rise in society. It was, we were told, a merit based society. The fact that those implementing these policies benefited from the social contract of the 1950s that they have proceeded to destroy is besides the point. Nor the fact that this is not just Democrats or Republcians. It is a bipartisan project in the United States, and overall, left leaning parties globally have fully participated in the dismantling of the 20th century welfare state they built.
Lts be clear on this. Bill Clinton and Barak Obama would not be able to attend a state college these days. Nor would George W Bush. Their parents would not be able to afford a doctor, and the education of their children in public schools would be hardly good, with a few exceptions. This assumes their families were middle and working class, living the same precarious existence that the rest of us live. Nor would their children attended private school, and this goes for most politicians from both parties. All these men, and they were mostly men, benefited from these social advantages. College in the 1960s was very affordable, and young men and women could work during the summer and pay for it during the school year. When Obama attended college a generation later, loans would not break the bank, even if it took a few decades to pay them off.
Assuming George Bush was not a former president and independently wealthy, his son could face losing all, just to keep his dad going. This is the reality for many in the country. This is why people are angry. They mostly blame big government and by extensions dems for it. never mind that both parties have dismantled the weak social contract that once existed. All in the name of the market.
The best educated generation in American history cannot afford to get a house, or a car, because of that college loan. Nor do they have jobs that can pay for the good life they were promised with that good college degree. In short, they live a precarious existence, working jobs well bellow their education, that do not pay well. The status they were promised was an illusion, and they work at Starbucks to pay for that expensive college degree. These are jobs that do not have the benefits of a salaried professional force. Many in the millennial generation. resent their elders, who had all those things and could afford a house.
Of course the old industrial working class has seen their good jobs disappear to foreign shores. The promise of them coming back was one they voted on. That and the fact that they are no longer a majority and they fear the future. Robots have taken more jobs than globalization, but they fear the foreign job site more than the robot on the line.
These are some of the reasons for Donald J Trump and other nationalist populist that are rising across the world. It seems though that politicians who oppose these politicians who are promising the moon and the stars do not understand this. This is a challenge. Since there is a reason why many politicians are unable to ask these questions.In some ways they have internalized these politics and know they are not popular. So they cannot run on privatizing schools, or making college even less affordable. Nor can they run on austerity policies.
The Third Way
This rose out of the global politics of the 1990s. It is at the heart of policies that put the market above of all, that led to the current situation. This is why college is so expensive, why you cannot afford a doctor, and why you live in precarious conditions. It is the reason why the social contract changed in radical ways. It was Clinton’s generation in the United States that put us in this situation. This is the conversation that most center right Democratic political activists refuse to have. Why? Responsibility is not something that humans want to own. And this is not limited to the United States.
The third way helped set the way to modern-day, global market friendly policies that have made all into a product. This includes religion. However, Democrats in the United States, corporate democrats, refuse to accept their responsibility for any of this. In fact, they refuse to give way and change policies. Instead they attack their left, while joining moderate Republicans in attacking any proposed changes that will remove the market from its place.
There are many ways they run away. They range from telling us, we cannot afford the safety net, as meager as it is. To we really should let the private sector run the show. At best, they want public-private partnerships and to privatize as many public sector services as possible. It does not matter if these services are essential public services, or not. Examples of this abound. They include a powerful private prison system, which needs product to thrive. That product are human beings. It can be education, where children are referred as product. Soon it will be roads, bridges and your local police department.
This is making everything into a product. It takes away from life, and from free time. It corrodes society. After all, another area that has suffered are the same public spaces required for democracy to thrive. By this I mean affordable housing and public parks and libraries. The other way
This is the road usually less travelled. It means admitting where we are politically. We need to admit that policies that we have followed have hurt millions of people, and changed the social contract. It is a critical step and some politicians have taken it already. The Center Right business friendly Neoliberal dems call these people radicals, or when they want to be friendly, progressive.
Many of these men and women, usually younger, believe in a new set of politics. They believe in policies that have an air of populism, however are necessary in a changing world economy. There are reasons for these changes if we are to keep peace in society. These policies that are the necessary alternative to the sweet talk of making America great again, with no specific policy prescription from white supremacist and nationalists like Trump.
Single Payer: Specifically to the United States, we are the only advanced economy that lacks a program of universal access to healthcare. Americans go bankrupt from medical conditions that do not drive people around the world into medical bankruptcies. It is considered a basic part of the social safety net in countries ranging from Canada, to Colombia. Health care is a human right, and should not driven by the market and market forces.
It includes things like a maximum price for medicines. For example, a Lantus Pen in Mexico has a maximum price of around $20 dollars, and most pharmacies do not charge that much either. In the United States we are talking of $270 dollars. We are paying a heavy price for this. And it is time to enact policies that will people, not corporations. This is why people do not trust pharmaceutical companies.
It is time for the United States to join other countries] and enact policies that allow for accessible health care. It also makes sense from an economic perspective. It means a happier, more productive, healthier population. How do you pay for this? It is not free. Tax is not a slur. Societies have used public money for public goods for a long time. Moreover, those who have access to private insurance are paying already, thousands of dollars a year. Chances are they would pay less in taxes for the same exact service. We have seen this globally every time a national health service is implemented.
But it is part of the Democratic platform! Yes, and the last time we had a chance to see it implemented in California, it was a center-right Dem, Kevin de Leon, who scuttled it. His reasoning, well, how are we going to pay for it? It may be in the platform. As long as leaders refuse to act on it, this is dead letter.
Universal Basic Income: It can come by many names, and some places have implemented a version of this. For example, Alaska, which gives every citizen a cut of oil profits every year. The Alaska share is a form of basic income, and it is not a fortune, but some income to allow people to live a better life. We will need universal UBI as an increasing number of jobs are automated.
We live in a society that requires consumption at the heart of the economic system. But if people do not have money for food and rent, they will not have money for other things. It is that simple. We will need economic security, to avoid social unrest, meaning a form of UBI will be needed.
We have early tests on this. However, many are stopped as soon as they start to show that it works. Neoliberal states prefer 21st century poor laws that punish the poor in moralistic ways. The paternalism that allows the well to do to dictate to the poor how to spend money is preferred to a cash grant. This is a problem of ideology, not economy.
Free College: This is another plank that is gaining purchase. We need to invest in the future, and a well educated population is part of this. However there is an important modification that needs to enter the conversation. Society is not just run by engineers. We also need trades people, to run a lot of the maintenance. Education just a public good. Students are not products, and we should stop speaking this way about them.
We need to move away from the idea that we need credentials for everything. This is a dangerous way of thinking, and one that has cut ways to make a living in significant ways for many people who did make a living before the credentials explosion. This is especially the case when these credentials at times undercut professional organizations. In other words, the state has replaced professional ethics bodies and cut down the number of workers. The cost of licenses can prevent people from joining a profession and making a living.
Shorter work week: Iknow this will be controversial in the United States. However, we need to shorten the work week as we have less and less fields where humans are involved. It started with the heavy automatization of agriculture, and the mass migration to cities. This trend continues and is accelerating across multiple fields.
This could lead to a new age when humans can also pursue different hobbies or interests. It could significantly increase the quality of life.
A new labor system: This new labor system must include not just good pensions, but living wages. It also has to recognize the nature of work, which is no longer one where a person entering the workforce will remain with the same company or work site for a career. Changing careers or jobs is common. We need to protect pensions and make them portable. But we also need careers that are portable. We need to end the precarity trap, that has condemned millions to the sharing economy with temporary jobs, but no defined careers.
A single defined contribution system, as imperfect as it was, needs to be modernized and made portable. The 401 K system is a failure, and will lead to poverty in old age for millions. However, the impulse in modern days to get rid of social security, or reduce benefits is also a problem. We need to resist the siren call of austerity.
It is time to stop these austerity policies. If you wonder why populist is rising around the world, this is one reason. Economic insecurity breeds the conditions that allow populists to promise a return to a golden age.
Why are you running for office?
So where is the basic question that you should ask of any person running for office. Why are you running? What are you proposing? Trump, or what Republicans are doing, is not a proper answer. It is a cop out. We already know that many Democrats are running because of what Republicans are doing. However, what are they proposing policy wise? Press these people on this very point.
Some politicians will try to get away with just telling you what they hate about the other party. It is likely because they have no political core, and have no idea what they want to do. Or they know what they want to pursue while in office is just as toxic.
Hating Trump is not a platform
Give the voter something to believe in, and an alternative to Trump.
Chiefly, come up with a political platform that emphasizes policies that are a clear alternative. Trump is a consequence of 40 years of bad programs by both parties. It is time to come up with something new. Above I pointed to some policy planks that the young want you to address. Let me give you one more. Climate Change: We know it is real, and we know solutions are needed. This could be an extinction level event. Take that to heart.
For many millennials climate change is essential to their survival. It is their generational issue.