Defeating Trumpism with the White Working Class

Donald Trump was right. The system is rigged. Government doesn't work for working folks. It's not helping families make ends meet. And it is definitely not creating jobs for the middle class.

And white people are mad as hell.

The white working class, high school-educated, have since the 1990s, seen increased death and unemployment rates, and see no signs of relief.

The president-elect's analysis blames this failure of government on corrupt politicians and insider elites like Hillary Clinton. As with all Trumpisms, it lacks any deeper analysis--including the real perpetrators profiting off a rigged system. Besides brief mentions of Goldman Sachs (who is definitely guilty as hell), Trump leaves out the main beneficiaries of neo-liberal policies over the last 40 years.

Trump's favorite example of flawed government stealing jobs from working class white families is NAFTA--all of which he blames on the Clintons. Yes, NAFTA was bad for workers. Yes, the Clintons should take a lot of blame for it. But the real culprits are its beneficiaries--corporate elites, like Trump himself.

The economic gains of NAFTA went straight into the bosses' pockets, at the expense of workers--home and abroad. Manufacturing jobs that used to be in Ohio and Pennsylvania were transplanted--all to make labor cheaper for billionaire capitalists. Millions of jobs were lost over the border, overseas and through "innovation." And lots and lots of white people were laid off.

But there is almost no mention of the capitalists that made billions off of this deal. Take for instance General Electric, which benefited immensely from NAFTA. Many billionaires from Warren Buffett to Jeffrey Immelt to Steve Cohen have made millions from GE in their push for ever-expanding profit. Through stock buyback programs and dividends, they have extracted billions out of a company that in return cut costs by shifting workers' jobs abroad.

Now repeat this process over and over for every company in America, with an interchangeable cast of billionaire investors, hedge funds and private equity firms, and you get millions and millions of unemployed folks with a declining standard of living and a very small cohort of billionaires.

The Clintons helped push NAFTA through. But, let's be clear--the real culprit is the billionaire class profiting off of NAFTA at the expense of workers.

This of course was an impossible argument for Hillary Clinton to make. She herself is a part of this group of elites.

Of course, so is Trump. But, instead of basing his arguments against the billionaires like himself, he scapegoated immigrants. This allowed him to capitalize on the anguish of working-class white families across America--while completely avoiding any scrutiny of his own profiteering.

Bernie Sanders and Trump had similar arguments on trade--arguments that incited working class whites. Sanders, though, correctly blamed billionaires and elites. Instead of making a horizontal argument blaming a separate exploited group (immigrants), it transformed the argument into a top-bottom analysis (everyone versus billionaires).

What Sanders lacked was a connection to communities of color, which make up the base of the Democratic Party. His analysis of billionaires profiteering off of a rigged system didn't dig into the racist practices billionaires have used to extract profit from communities of color for centuries. As much as he could rail against billionaires and millionaires, he could not muster a consistent argument about racial inequities.

Uniting angry white voters with black and Latino voters is possible when we take the argument beyond simple Trumpian epithets about immigrants. There is a common group that is making life unbearable for all working folks -- billionaires. The system is rigged in their favor. And the Clintons were a part of it.

This argument cannot be made by other corporate Democrats. Like Hillary, it will come off hollow. Chuck Schumer and Corey Booker cannot carry this mantle. They in fact are the problem. We need to move beyond the old Democratic ideology of the Clintons and into a new wave of anti-capitalism. This is the only way we will defeat Trumpism.