How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Thoughts on Trump, Clinton, & Sanders

Any serious inquiry into why Donald Trump was able to defeat Hillary needs to start by pointing out that while the majority of voters had concerns about both his temperament and his qualifications to serve as president he still won.  Nevertheless, about 20% of those who thought he lacked the temperament and 18% of those who thought him unqualified held their noses and voted for him.  They did so for three primary reasons:  party affiliation (90% of Republicans came home to roost), more Democrats crossed over and supported Trump than Republicans crossed over and supported Hillary, and those who sought change (68%) voted for Trump.  As flawed as Trump was, Hillary was seen as even worse by a significant segment of the electorate.

As a Bernie Sanders devotee, I have asked myself whether Bernie would have been a stronger candidate than Hillary.  I think so.  This was a change election and Hillary was not seen as change agent by white blue-collar men who have become increasingly alienated at being ignored as they lost their good-paying manufacturing jobs.  Under severe economic strain they were ripe for a strong anti-establishment figure that offered simplistic solutions to complex problems.

On the other hand, Hillary was seen by blue-collar workers in the rust-belt who were angry over the loss of their jobs, social status and upward mobility as someone who was a two-faced tool of the establishment - on one hand she pontificated about the need to address the growing income inequality gap and on the other hand she was taking huge sums of money from big banks for speeches and was reluctant to release it's content.  Couple this with her insulting "deplorable" comment which played right into Trump's contention that she was "nasty" and not "trustworthy."  The more you could plant doubts about her trustworthiness the less he needed to defend himself against charges that he was serial predator who had repeatedly and blatantly besmirched the character of Mexican, Muslims and women.

It didn't help when it was found that Hillary had used a private server during her tenure as Secretary of State and had deleted thousands of emails.  Nor did it help that there were a myriad of murky business connections at the Clinton Foundation and that she was under continued investigation by the FBI until two days before the election.

Bernie Sanders would not have had the trust problem that Hillary was encumbered with and it would have been much harder to question his honesty on commitment to working-class Americans.  The Trump campaign would not have been able to fill the airwaves with advertisements trumpeting Bernie's "crookedness" or Hillary's email fiasco.

No doubt Trump would have attacked Bernie's proposals for dramatically expanding health care and making college free as being totally unrealistic and financially unsustainable and he would have been relentlessly tarred as a "socialist" bent on destroying America's free enterprise system.  I'm not sure how well this would have resonated at a time when voters on both the left and the right feel that the American power structure is engaged in ongoing efforts to rig our political and economic systems against them. 

Bernie Sanders' success in 22 states (including Michigan and Wisconsin) and Trump's victory signal that a significant segment of the electorate was fed up with big-money elites controlling our politics.  It is surprising that Donald Trump, a mega-wealthy Manhattan real estate developer, became the vessel for their frustrations and deep discontentment.  White working class Americans' bought his message - "Make America Great Again" - and his brand of authoritarian populism hook, line, and sinker. 

Early indications are that Trump will be a pick-and-choose populism.  There are no signs that he will adopt measures that will structurally reform our economic system or "drain the swamp" of the Washington, DC establishment.

What is needed to restore the American Dream is a progressive populism that levels the playing field by equitably sharing the burden, equalizing opportunities as best we can.  A populism that invests in our people and in our nations' infrastructure, strategically using regulations to prevent system excesses, and provides a secure safety net for those who are hurting. Being there for those who are unable to make it without a helping hand is a necessary failsafe guarantor of capitalism.

If this election has taught us anything, we need to rededicate ourselves to reducing the rancor, recriminations, rage and racisms that resonates far and wide in our nation and in our politics.

Both political parties need to begin to talk and listen to each other to see if some common ground can be found to address our nation's most pressing problems: the 47+ million people are living in poverty; growing income inequality; loss of blue-collar jobs due to deindustrialization, globalization and technological innovation; rising health care costs and our crumbling infrastructure.  It needs to begin with President Trump tamping down his toxic tweets and tantrums.  What I've seen so far is terrifying.  If the trend continues, his tirades, impatience and impulsiveness could undermine our fundamental tenets, traditions and the treads that bind us together.