Many Democrats want Bernie Sanders to drop out of the race because they feel he’s giving ammunition to Donald Trump to attack Hillary Clinton in the general election. Not true. Clinton’s problem is that she is on the wrong side of the most important single issue in the minds of white middle class voters, and Sanders is simply giving her a taste of what she’ll face from Trump.
In 1993 President Bill Clinton decided that he had to philosophically become more like Republicans if he were to win a future election. The most disastrous concession he made was to abandon his party’s opposition to unregulated international free trade and get NAFTA passed, a solid Republican goal.
Today, the two major political establishments still choose to remain blind to the devastating effects of such trade agreements on America’s middle class. Not only have they resulted in the loss of millions of well-paid jobs, the workers who lost jobs entered the labor market and depressed the wages of other workers in their class. In addition, workers got the clear message that corporate threats to leave the country were real, and the threat of job loss destroyed any ability of them to pressure employers for even decent wages and working conditions.
Only two candidates for president are willing to publicly and loudly proclaim this obvious truth: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. The Republican establishment is in denial because unregulated anything is their core belief and they refuse to admit they’re wrong. The Democrat establishment is in denial because one of their favorite presidents supported free trade and their party is now associated with it.
It’s ironic that today, a presidential candidate for the Republican Party has become its presumptive nominee because he has adopted what should be a Democratic goal: renegotiation of all trade agreements on an individual nation basis, and in a way that benefits America’s workers for a change. Not only that, he supports raising the minimum wage, maintaining Social Security, and raising some taxes on the wealthy.
Sure, he may be a demagogue with dangerous biases and doesn’t have a record that would suggest he would make a good president — but the public is mistaken to believe that he hasn’t accurately identified some of the most important causes of the disintegration of the middle class. The vast majority of his supporters aren’t bigots. They’re angry citizens who accurately feel they are victims of bad government policies.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is doing her level best to stand by her man and defend previous trade agreements, with minor adjustments. She compounded her problem when she announced that Bill Clinton — the one who gave us NAFTA — would have a key role in designing her economic plan for the future. She also insists on keeping the unpopular Obamacare, also with adjustments, instead of what the Democrat core knows to be best: Medicare-for-everyone. If she’s elected, let’s hope she is significantly influenced by Sanders and changes some of her positions. Otherwise, she will make things better than any Republican would have, but things will not improve enough to stop the middle class from diminishing.
Unless we start defending the interests of America’s middle class, it will continue to disintegrate. Trump may be a demagogue and Sanders too far left to be elected, but the establishments had better listen to them.
Chuck Kelly is a new resident in Fairview Forest and is author of “The Destructive Achiever; power and ethics in the American corporation and Farewell Fantasyland; time for political and economic reality.” He can be reached email@example.com.