Naomi Klein: The Democrats done it

In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Naomi Klein gives her analysus of why Trump won the presidential election: Kalein puts the blame squarely on the Democratic party, who embraced neo-liberalism:

“Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present.

“At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness.”

I think Klein is on to something here. When you realize that a moderate like Bernie Sanders looks like a socialist to most Americans, you realize just how far to the right the Democratic Party has gone. Klein notes that the neo-liberalism embraced by the Democrats has not provided much in the way of benefits to a lot of people.

And Klein offers a way forward:

“People have a right to be angry, and a powerful, intersectional left agenda can direct that anger where it belongs, while fighting for holistic solutions that will bring a frayed society together. Such a coalition is possible. In Canada, we have begun to cobble it together under the banner of a people’s agenda called The Leap Manifesto, endorsed by more than 220 organisations from Greenpeace Canada to Black Lives Matter Toronto, and some of our largest trade unions.”

So I looked up The Leap Manifesto referenced by Klein. It’s not perfect, it’s obviously targeted at Canadians — but it’s pretty good.

Something like the Leap Manifesto written by and for progressive U.S. residents would be a great place for us to start rebuilding democracy here in the U.S.

6 thoughts on “Naomi Klein: The Democrats done it”

  1. In fairness to most Americans, Sanders calls himself a socialist, and they supported him—the polls consistently showed him doing far better against Trump than Clinton did. I think the crucial factor that any explanation of the race must explain is why the rust belt voted twice for Obama and chose the socialist Jew in the primaries, yet rejected Clinton.

    Hint anyone who thinks Democrats would vote for blacks and Jews but not women does not understand Democrats at all.

  2. 1. I think it’s very hard to find objective facts supporting the argument that the Democratic party has moved far to the “right”. It is correct that it tacked right under Bill Clinton, in an attempt to regain a popular majority. But it has tacked left since then. The Democrats haven’t gone as far left as the Republicans have gone to the right. And of course Hillary’s campaign platform was the most liberal Democratic platform of all time.

    2. Naomi Klein says in her essay that the 1930s shows that to defeat right-wing extremism you need a “real left”. Yet I have the distinct impression that if she had been around then, she would have been a vehement opponent of FDR, and would have instead backed some farther-left political party. FDR was a liberal, but a political pragmatist at all times. He made huge compromises to get Social Security passed, and in pushing through the WPA and the CCC.

    3. I sometimes don’t know exactly what people mean by “neoliberalism” except that it is something that they don’t like. But I would think that the millions of people who received health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act might be regarded as “much in the way of benefits to a lot of people”. I think Joe Biden had a quote about that: . I think the fiscal stimulus that Obama pursued helped start the recovery and create millions of jobs, many in clean energy industries, and many in education and other social service sectors — it wasn’t mainstream Democrats’ fault (are they the “neoliberals”?) that the stimulus was not continued, but rather due to opposition from Congressional Republicans. Read Michael Grunwald’s book on the stimulus for some needed correctives to the historical record. . The Earned Income Tax Credit is arguably a “neoliberal” idea that has provided “much in the way of benefits to a lot of people”.

    4. The notion that Bernie Sanders would have sailed into office is of course, unknowable. History moves on and we can’t re-run it. But you can’t make a reasonable argument based on how Sanders fared in the polls prior to facing any real opposition attack ads. As Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek has recently argued, it is quite plausible that such attacks would have been devastating to Sanders, and if he had been nominated, and then defeated after his image had been destroyed by devastating attack ads, we would be wondering why we didn’t nominate a candidate whose main problem was a few emails. Sanders had a lot of baggage, which Clinton did not use because she did not want to alienate his supporters.

    5. Naomi Klein’s hatred of trade — I’m not sure you can argue that this is really a progressive position. Yes, trade does hurt some U.S. workers. On the other hand, it helps other U.S. workers. And it helps some very poor people in other countries. And as a practical matter, it is very unclear that , for example, imposing high tariffs on Chinese imports would actually be a progressive policy. We do need to figure out how to ADJUST better to changes in the world economy, including trade. We do need to figure out how to redistribute funds from the winners from trade and technological change, to help the many who are not winning. To do so, the public might have wanted to consider the merits of a candidate who proposed increasing federal revenue by $140 billion per year, with over 90% coming from higher taxes on the top 1% of the income distribution. And they might have been impressed with a candidate who would use such funds to provide training and apprenticeships to manufacturing workers, and technical assistance to small manufacturers, to help that sector be more competitive. That candidate was HIllary Clinton. Now, Clinton obviously did not campaign effectively on those strategies. This is in part her own fault. It also may be the fault of the news media and James Comey, who insisted on turning the “nothingburger” of Hillary’s emails into a major issue that overwhelmed all other policy issues. As has been pointed out, the news media devoted more time to Hillary’s emails than to ALL POLICY ISSUES PUT TOGETHER. So much for a discussion of the candidates’ positions on climate change, let alone their positions on trying to help American manufacturing, or even their tax plans.

  3. Tim, wow, lots of analysis and interesting comments! I’m still at work, so I have to keep this reply brief.

    Neoliberalism, for me, is a move away from New Deal liberalism, towards an embrace of free-market solutions. One characteristic of neoliberalism is an increased reliance on privatization to accomplish liberal social goals — and I mean relying on privatization beyond simple pragmatism, to the point where neoliberalism begins to advocate for free-market solutions.

    For a relatively neutral analysis of how far to the right or left U.S. politicians are, based on their public policy statements, see which graphs the left-right position on economics for the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 elections. According to their analysis, Hillary Clinton is about as far to the right as George W. Bush. Obama ’08 was center-right, while in 2012 Obama and Romney were just about equally far to the right. In 2016, Clinton and Trump were about equally far to the right, and Jill Stein looks like a center-left candidate but not a leftist. you can disagree with their assumptions, but the point is that they’ve been using consistent criteria to evaluate U.S. presidential candidates since 2004; and using their consistent measurements, Hillary Clinton 2016 looks like George W. Bush 2004; and George W. Bush would certainly have been to the right of Bill Clinton.

    It’s worth remembering that Richard Nixon instituted wage and price controls in the face of economic crisis; that he advocated for single-payer health care; and that he normalized relations with China….

    Re: Sanders: I’m not not one of those who think he’s perfect, and I tend to agree when you say Sanders could have been (probably would have been) very vulnerable to attacks. He hasn’t had a great record of playing well with others, either, so I’m not convinced he would have been particularly effective if he did get in office.

  4. Disagreeing about Sanders on two points:

    1. The only attack anyone came up with was based on the idea a socialist shouldn’t be able to buy three homes. This is a hard argument to take seriously from someone who claims to be a billionaire.

    2. Sanders has a long history of playing well with others. As the only socialist among Republicans and Democrats, he had no other choice. It’s why he became known as the Amendment King and has been praised by people on both sides of the aisle.

  5. Will, thanks for challenging me on whether Sanders plays well with others. You’re right, he has worked with people on both sides of the aisle. I tended to focus on those instances where he did nothing, ignoring the rest.

  6. I finally looked at the Political Compass test. I’m afraid that I don’t find it at all credible. Anyone who thinks that Trump is to the left of Clinton on ECONOMIC issues is someone who is not paying much attention to public policy in a serious way. To take a simple example, Trump’s tax plan calls for major tax cuts concentrated on the rich, whereas Clinton’s tax plan called for major tax increases on the rich. The persons running this test have a very simplistic view of economic policy. Trade and globalization positions appear to dominate everything else, which is a ridiculous position.

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