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The End of Ideology: What Kind of Democracy is This?

The day we thought would never come has arrived.  The impossible dream turned nightmare has slipped into our reality.  The revolution happened and it wasn’t quite what we hoped it would be.

The Republican Party will nominate New York billionaire and reality TV phenomenon Donald J. Trump to run for the office of president.  The party should henceforth be known as the Frankenstein Party for it created this beast when it funded the Tea Party rebellion.  The elites who thought they could control the monster with Fox fed rightwing ideology must now eat crow and pretend to like it.  Just like chicken.

The Democrats will nominate a political hack that we’re all supposed to pretend is pure as the first snow of winter because she’s a woman and it’s her turn.  The party will use identity politics for the third consecutive election so that they don’t have to confront the fundamental betrayal of the working people they pay lip service to at election time.  Last time it was the first black, this time it’s the first woman and next time it will be the first Hispanic.  All of them sing and will sing the same song about lifting people up while workers of all colors, genders, cultures, religions and orientations continue to sink in the mire of low wages, high healthcare costs, poor retirement options and lost labor rights.

The Democrats haven’t been the party of labor since JFK.  Since Bill Clinton’s third way they have not only turned their backs on the blue collar people that used to inhabit the middle class, they have cut the throat of labor at every opportunity.  NAFTA, CAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the hits just keep on coming.  Did anyone really think that Hillary would rethink her policy on Free Trade?  The only rethinking Clinton has ever done is how to phrase her triangulation so that she can later claim she was misquoted and misunderstood.

Meantime the Grand Old Party is trying to figure out what exactly is left in the rubble of this primary campaign.  If the Don is to be believed (here’s a hint: he is not) they are now the party of fair trade.  They are now the party that opposes unnecessary wars.  They are now the party of ambivalence on first use of nuclear weapons.  They are now the party that does not particularly care about the traditional wedge issues like gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana.  What’s left of their party?  Anti abortion extremism, Obamacare opposition, anti-immigrant rhetoric and Islamophobia.

The Don stands against stupid people (but loves the poorly educated) and stupid deals but if you really believe he stands for anything beyond his own self-aggrandizement then you probably believe the Trump Empire is more than just a name.

We are left with a familiar result of the two-party system:  The bad against the worse.  What we do not have is a battle of opposing ideologies.  There is no conservatism left in the party of Donald J. Trump and whatever liberalism remains in the party of Hillary is confined to self-serving identity politics: voting rights, equal pay, immigrant rights, gender equality and the rights of the LGBT community.

I am not saying these are not important issues; they are.  I am saying they all serve the political interests of Hillary Clinton.  The money issues are not on the table because they would not serve her political interests.  Clinton is the candidate of Wall Street and her party will follow suit.  There will be no meaningful economic or tax reforms under a new Clinton administration because those policies will be written by Goldman Sachs.  There will be no advancement in the rights of labor because labor cannot compete with Wall Street when it comes to political contributions.  There will be no shift away from Free Trade to Fair Trade policies unless it led by Donald J. Trump.

I have grown tired of so-called liberals twisting themselves into knots trying to justify Free Trade under the banner of inevitability.  They argue that globalization is inevitable as if the terms of globalization are not negotiable.  The problem, of course, is that when the elite gathered to set terms they explicitly did not invite labor.  To defend Free Trade is to advocate low wages in perpetuity and seal the deal on the end of the American Middle Class.  It is a position the traditional Democrat cannot take.

This is the critical issue.  How ironic is it that the Free Trade mandate inaugurated by Bill Clinton and perpetuated by both parties could now die at the hands of a Republican?

By all accounts Donald Trump is vehemently anti labor and anti union but he has taken hold of an issue that could win the vote of working people.  He speaks of currency manipulation, fair deals, smart negotiations and bringing industry back to America but the more he talks the less he says.  It becomes clear that despite his alleged business acumen he does not really understand the issue.  He does not understand that Fair Trade means lifting up labor in other nations if they want preferred trade status with us.  He does not understand that Fair Trade means protecting the rights of labor not only abroad but here at home.  After all you cannot demand the right to organize the workplace in Guatemala if you’re denying that same right in Arizona.

We are left with one candidate who understands trade policy and ultimately comes down on the wrong side and another who doesn’t understand trade policy and ultimately will arrive at the same position.

It all comes down to identity politics.  Donald Trump is the ultimate outsider.  He represents every American who despises the system and feels alienated by the political process.  Who among us cannot relate to that emotion?  The deal breaker is:  He has exploited blatant racism and bigotry against Mexican immigrants, African Americans and members of the Islamic faith.  He has a long history of insulting and disrespecting women.

There is such great irony in the fact that Senator Bernie Sanders could have broken this recurring pattern of bad against worse.  There is such irony that Sanders would be leading in the race for the Democratic nomination right now if not for the irrational support that Hillary Clinton received from the minority communities led by the Congressional Black Caucus.  Until this election I held that legislative entity alone in the highest regard.

What did Hillary promise you on the eve of the South Carolina primary?  You are not political neophytes; you know the Clintons are malleable on all issues, including those that most directly affect minority communities.  You know your communities stand the most to gain from a truly progressive agenda yet you were the first to sell out.

You are not alone.  I watched in disbelief as Fair Trade champion and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown endorsed Clinton.  I watched in disappointment as Elizabeth Warren remained on the sidelines.  Either and both could have made a huge impact in exposing the duplicity of Hillary on trade policy and Wall Street reform.  What were you afraid of?  What were you waiting for?  What did they promise you?

It is frankly hard not to feel alienated.  It is hard not to feel disenfranchised.

We have an election in which I cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate and yet there is one candidate I am compelled to vote against.

What kind of democracy is this?

A week ago I reregistered as a Democrat for one reason and one reason only:  To vote for Senator Bernie Sanders in the California primary.  There’s still a slim chance this thing isn’t over.  Six months ago there was no chance Trump could be nominated.  In any case it may be a long time before I can cast a meaningful vote for a candidate again.

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Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

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