To think that Donald Trump has any goal as president other than boosting his tawdry brand is naive in the extreme and about as useful as dwelling about whether Santa Claus really exists. Still, his candidacy has revealed a lot about the country’s electorate and not all of it is bad news — Hillary Clinton’s offensive, if admittedly not entirely inaccurate, remarks about “deplorables” not withstanding.
The excitement generated by Trump’s campaign on the part of many working class white voters is an undeniable fact. That it took a semi-lucid billionaire running as a Republican to stir that sector of the electorate is ironic, to put it mildly, and shows how broken the political system is, and just how sadly out of touch Obama, Clinton and other Democratic leaders are.
It’s worth noting that we have seen this Trumpenproletariat before, four years ago as the vanguards of the Ron Paul Revolution. Of course Paul, who espoused kooky “Austrian” economics, always had a hands-off relationship with the white supremacists in his base. Trump, by contrast, openly panders to them in a way that would make a nun exclaim that you need to leave some room for the Holy Spirit.
Now in 2016, many of the poor non-union white working class that has been burned by the Democratic Party’s embrace of Wall Street — that throwaway segment of the populace condescendingly described as “deplorables” by Hillary and quietly written of as “white trash” at Upper West Side cocktail parties — see Trump as their best shot in 2016.
Are they crazy? Vicious racists? Some no doubt are and that’s lamentable, but it’s hardly a surprise, especially given current political realities.
During the past eight years of Obama’s presidency, the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent has grown wider and wider yet liberal Democratic policy initiatives offer virtually nothing to address the problem. In fact, liberal Democratic policies have caused a great deal of inequality since they basically have entrenched the power of business and the rich at the expense of everyone else.
Meanwhile, bizarrely, Trump of all people has offered a series of proposals that many people, including those on the left, would normally embrace. Is he sincere? Probably not, but when you’re a disenfranchised, disgusted voter being fed obvious bullshit by the Democrats, it’s easy to see why you might find Trump appealing.
Here’s a short list of Trump proposals that make a lot of sense.
Expand rather than privatize Social Security
Earlier this year Trump said he would expand rather than privatize Social Security, while trying to eliminate abuses and problems in the system. Since we know that Obama was willing to cut Medicare and Social Security as part of the Grand Bargain with the GOP, that is very positive.
Medicare for All
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has been a right wing whipping post since the day it was born. But by any objective progressive it is a complete and utter failure, as seen most obviously in the recent actions of Aetna. For those who remain below a certain income level, Obamacare is like free Medicaid, which is great if you live in a state with decent benefits. But once you go over that cap, it becomes a Kafkian nightmare. And unless you have a job at a big corporation with benefits, it quite literally incentivizes poverty while serving as a massive bail-out to the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. It squashed out the small insurance companies and targets small businesses for doing well.
When Trump talked about getting rid of it, what did he propose instead? Nothing less than Teddy Kennedy’s Medicare-For-All single payer plan, and with no blather about “free markets” and other silliness. This was said at the same time that Sanders was filling stadiums with people reacting enthusiastically to the same proposals, which helps explain why Trump and Sanders have appealed to some overlapping sectors of voters.
NATO/Russia and China
A vast majority of the population is unaware of how dangerously close we have come to serious conflict, or even war, with Russia and China. Are there problems with Presidents Putin and Xi? Certainly. Do their respective circles of political lieutenants have rather large and apparent flaws? Of course. But that’s no reason to start a thermonuclear standoff. Since the reunification of Germany, NATO has intentionally expanded its reach to Russia’s doorstep and the U.S. has backed a series of “pro-Western” coups, under the misleading heading of “color revolutions.” If Moscow was undermining governments in Mexico and Canada, the U.S. would not be amused so Russia’s concern about U.S. steps on and near its borders are easy to understand. But in the U.S., saying this makes you a traitorous enemy of “America’s bipartisan foreign policy of the past half century.” Well, given the coups, needless wars and bloodshed spurred by U.S. foreign policy since World War II, being a “traitor” may be an honorable term.
Trump saying that he would re-negotiate NAFTA seems unlikely, especially given his less-than-stellar relationship with Mexico and because the man doesn’t seem able to negotiate his way through a cable television schedule. But the working class in America has learned this year that a big cause of their downfall (besides the “ill-ee-gullz”) is this Clinton-passed trade deal. The public loathing of NAFTA is so discernible that it has become an albatross around Hillary’s neck.
If you haven’t heard of the loathsome Trans-Pacific Partnership, it makes it possible for corporations to sue governments for anything from environmental regulations to labor laws. It extends proprietary laws with patents so significantly to severely limit access to essential medications for the treatment of cancer and other major illnesses. And on top of this, it intentionally cuts Russia and China out of trade in Europe and the Pacific, a type of economic embargo. Trump has opposed it, amazingly, since it is a virtual consensus of elite opinion in this country and around the world.
Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act
This one is truly astonishing and all the more so because it’s in the Republican platform. Many people were rightly horrified by the Republican convention in Cleveland, due to its striking resemblance to several of Leni Riefenstahl’s works combined with a general tone reminiscent of a Wrestle-Mania pay-per-view special. But at this grim affair the Grand Old Party put into its platform a plank calling for reinstating Glass-Steagall, the New Deal legislation that put a wall between investment banking and consumer banking. Its Clinton-era abolition played a huge role in the 2008 economic crash and the intense concentration of financial industry power ever since.
So are some of Trump’s supporters deplorable? Sure, but Hillary’s remarks about them — which will likely cost hear dearly, especially in key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania — reveal her elitism and reflect the wretched state of her party.
What’s truly deplorable is that Trump is running to the left of the Democratic nominee.