White workers, understandably disillusioned with the present, have voted to return to one of two different and now confused pasts, neither of which offered much to the working class. This time may be different, but it looks as though the workers have trapped themselves.
As the liberal elite sold its soul to Big Finance, it naturally lost the loyalty of a disillusioned working class that had never viewed liberty as half so important as middle-class comfort. Blaming the favored minorities and the corrupted liberal elite, workers marginalized by a generation of war against the middle class–in which the pro-Wall St. center of the Democratic Party elite was complicit–turned like puppets—unimaginative and naive—to the right. This right wing was itself composed of two very distinct and competitive factions with different goals but a shared amoral willingness jointly to manipulate the workers in order to get power.
None of this was preordained. Warren’s election as the leader of a post-recession movement to reform the American financial system and Sander’s near upset of Clinton in the primaries underscored the vote-gathering potential of genuine liberalism and opened the door to real progress in the arduous process of designing democracy, but the Democratic Party elite choked, articulated a breathtaking silence that served only to repel their supporters, and backed away from victory. That Clinton nonetheless outpolled Trump by, according to the current count, a couple million votes only underscores how popular a thoughtful, sympathetic, and progressive stance would have been. But that was not to be. Psychology analysts could have a field day figuring out why, in light of the many obvious problems facing American society, the Democratic Elite felt so smug, but smug they were, leaving many millions of irritated voters wandering in circles looking for a leader and a power vacuum into which others quickly stepped.
Neither racists nor corporate moguls had the slightest intention of inviting workers into the ruling class, the one wanting an angry mob they could ride to power, the other a desperate, uneducated, sullen mass of workers too poor to resist whatever pittance they might be offered in return for the pleasure of following orders eight hours a day. And so the workers discarded a democracy their ancestors had struggled to build through a post-Civil War century and a half of rising multi-cultural class consciousness, female suffrage, union organization, anti-colonialism, and two world wars against imperial and fascist authoritarianism…and voted to replace that admittedly tarnished democracy not with reform but with a return to the dual past of racist and corporate authoritarianism. Since each promised that this time, they would care for the workers, the workers decided to give the authoritarians another chance.
The question now remains, “Who will win: white power neo-Nazis lusting for a regime of scapegoating and violence or the new Robber Barons?”