If Sanders had been the candidate

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

If Sanders had been the candidate, it wouldn’t be so easy for people like Tim Duy to write essays like this:

That sense of hopelessness would be justifiably acute in rural areas. Economic development is hard work in the best of circumstances; across the sparsely populated vastness of rural America, it is virtually impossible. The victories are – and will continue to be – few and far between.

The tough reality of economic development is that it will always be easier to move people to jobs than the jobs to people. Which is akin to telling many, many voters the only way possible way they can live an even modest lifestyle is to abandon their roots for the uniformity of urban life. They must sacrifice their identities to survive. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Follow the Brooklyn hipsters to the Promised Land.

This is a bitter pill for many to swallow. To just sit back and accept the collapse of your communities. And I suspect the white working class resents being told to swallow that pill when the Democrats eagerly celebrate the identities of everyone else.

And it is an especially difficult pill given that the decline was forced upon the white working class; it was not a choice of their own making. The tsunami of globalization washed over them with nary a concern on the part of the political class. To be sure, in many ways it was inevitable, just as was the march of technology that had been eating away at manufacturing jobs for decades. But the damage was intensified by trade deals that lacked sufficient redistributive policies. And to add insult to injury, the speed of decline was hastened further by the refusal of the US Treasury to express concern about currency manipulation twenty years ago. Then came the housing crash and the ensuing humiliation of the foreclosure crisis.

The subsequent impact on the white working class – the poverty, the opioid epidemic, the rising death rates – are well documented. An environment that serves as fertile breeding ground for resentment, hatred and racism, a desire to strike back at someone, anyone, simply to feel some control, to be recognized. Hence Trump.

Is there a way forward for Democrats? One strategy is to do nothing and hope that the fast growing Sunbelt shifts the electoral map in their favor. Not entirely unreasonable. Maybe even the white working class turns on Trump when it becomes evident that he has no better plan for the white working class than anyone else (then again maybe he skates by with a few small but high profile wins). But who do they turn to next?

Most of Duy’s comments are true of Clinton but not of Sanders. Especially this:

This is a bitter pill for many to swallow. To just sit back and accept the collapse of your communities. And I suspect the white working class resents being told to swallow that pill when the Democrats eagerly celebrate the identities of everyone else.

At a stretch, an angry partisan might accuse Clinton of accepting the collapse of working-class communities, but I don’t think anyone would accuse Sanders of that. We can build a progressive movement that improves everyone’s life, regardless of how they view their identity. We can build a society in which everyone is lifted up to a higher level. We can acknowledge that some groups have historically faced bigotry, and doing so takes nothing away from the white working class. But it is completely incoherent to suggest that because some Democrats say “We respect people’s sexual orientation” we must also accept that some members of the white working class want to say “We hate all black people”. Accepting one kind of statement doesn’t mean we have to accept the other kind of statement. Those statements are not equally legitimate.

I am astonished that some one as intelligent as Duy would fall into the belief that there is some kind of connection between “just sit back and accept the collapse of your communities” and “Democrats eagerly celebrate the identities of everyone else”. It is a bit of stretch to apply this to even Clinton. Certainly, you could never accuse the progressive wing of the Democratic party of celebrating people’s identity while rejoicing in the economic collapse of the white working class. As any progressive will tell you, these are groups that overlap. The economic collapse effects women at least as much as it effects men, and it has been far more terrible for blacks and hispanics than it has been for whites. Anyone who suggests that progressive have spent the last 50 years ignoring economic issues is pushing a very partisan right-wing version of history.

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