Trade is a Smoke Screen — The 2016 Election is a Referendum on Race
I’m with her but I gotta leap off Twitter to say something that requires over 140 characters. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party’s primary and offered at the Democrat Convention, presented a vision for an America where everyone succeeds, yet there are whiners on both sides claiming the election is rigged. As a woman of color I must laugh — try living a life that is rigged against you! With less than a hundred days left to stave off the fascist uprising, I have decided to speak out. Considering the archaic plattform of the GOP, Democrats need to win back the House, Senate and elect Hillary with a large margin to give her a mandate for bold leadership. I keep hearing talking heads and armchair-intellectuals on both sides of the spectrum say the election is close because of trade policies. I’m going to call B.S. and say it like it is — this election is a referendum on America’s original sin — race.
First, I would like to counter the claim that this election is about trade deals. There are leftists, Greens and so-called ‘progressives’ that claim they refuse to sully themselves by voting for Hillary or enthusiastically supporting her candidacy because apparently her complicity in NAFTA and the TPP negates her entire career in public service and record of advocacy for working people. From my perspective, it’s infuriating many of these folks would like to believe the hatred towards Hillary Clinton, angry mobs flocking around Trump’s candidacy and the equally idiotic vote in favor of Brexit in the UK is actually about trade — not race, misogyny and xenophobia. I would accept this analysis had Sanders won the Democratic primary and Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister, but that is not the case. If I have to boil down why the Brits shot themselves in the foot, I say, the UKIP capitalized on resentment towards immigrants, a surge of refugees due to instability in the Middle East and a string of deadly terrorist attacks orchestrated by Muslim extremists to build the following narrative: The EU’s open borders allow an Islamic terrorist, that sneaks onto the shores of Greece in a boat full of refugees, to use the EU’s open borders to easily arrive in Paris, Brussels, Cologne or even London and carry out a vicious attack because their values are incompatible with Western society. Personally, I think this view is ignorant to European imperialistic exploitation of the Middle East, Western funding and arming of Muslim extremist groups and governments during the Cold War, and the illegal invasion of Iraq that destabilized the Middle East and led to the rise of ISIS. A lack of reckoning with the past led the long standing anti-Europe and anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK to gain enough steam to bring a close vote on exiting the EU. And Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn sitting on his hands in objection to the neo-liberal policies of the EU, instead of campaigning to remain, was enough to tip a close vote in favor of Brexit.
Back in the USA, I think there is a parallel between Trump’s popularity around a Muslin ban and the ‘Bernie or Bust’ folks refusing to vote for Hillary — giving a de-facto advantage to Trump. It is a fact the only demographic Trump is winning is white males without a college degree. Michael Moore and many liberals think this is due to the Democrats, particularly the Clintons, failing working class white voters. However, they seem to forget the country overwhelming supported corporate greed over worker power by electing Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s Republican Party won the support of many working class Democrats by displays of bold patriotism and the use of racist dog-whistles. Corporate America already began outsourcing production and writing NAFTA before Bill Clinton was even elected. We see the weakest labor laws in states that have elected Republicans to control the government — ‘right to work’ laws, anti-union laws, etc. The election of Barack Obama, the United States’ first black President led to the rise of the Tea Party movement — electing Republican representatives into Congress to obstruct President Obama. The Tea Party’s most extreme battle in Congress was refusal to raise the debt ceiling and fund the Federal Government as a tactic to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s law to increase access to healthcare for the millions of Americans that couldn’t afford it. Concurrently, we saw the rise of the Birther movement, formed on the racist conspiracy theory suggesting the President is not an American citizen by none other than Donald Trump. I also question how genuine are Sanders’ supporters that attest to voting for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton on the grounds of Trade policy, when Donald Trump has a long history of investing in foreign over American manufacturing, hiring cheap foreign contractors, union busting and cheating his own employees. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has a record of supporting Unions, healthcare, higher wages, investment in education and policies to support job creation in regions suffering from a decline in manufacturing.
In my opinion, the greatest anxiety Donald Trump is capitalizing on is not economic anxiety, but the anxiety of having white male privilege challenged. At the start of the Democratic primary, not a single candidate had a particularly strong platform on racial justice. The Black Lives Matter Movement confronted each candidate on their positions. Both Hillary and Bernie adopted virtually identical, common-sense racial justice platforms. However, Hillary made impassioned speeches on the responsibility for all white people to recognize their own privilege in order to address the country’s biggest challenges around race. She has given the Mothers of the Movement a central voice in her campaign. She has a long record of listening to and supporting people of color. Sanders’ campaign critiqued Hillary’s record on race issues and placed blame for the rise of mass incarceration on her husband’s crime bill that she supported, which ironically, Bernie himself voted for. However, Bernie’s world view is not shaped by inter-sectional analysis, and when challenged, his responses to racial justice issues were limited through the lens of economics and class. Ultimately, his candidacy and message fell short of resonating with enough people of color and he was unable to win their vote, consequently loosing primary battles in states with diverse electorates. The majority of Bernie’s supporters understand this is ultimately why he lost the primary to Clinton, but there is a small minority that doesn’t, and believes a Clinton Presidency is worse than a candidacy built on bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia — there is an inherent privilege to holding this view.
As for Donald Trump’s supporters, sadly, we all know what the message “Make America great again” means and why it appeals. After years of listening to right-wing political leaders and Fox News declare inclusion and diversity are weakness and attacks on the white Christian Americans. Many people that consider being white and Christian as central to their identity are looking for a champion to fight back. It doesn’t matter that Trump doesn’t have plausible economic plans, or diplomacy skills or even the experience or temperament to lead the Military — he is putting women and people of color back in their place, like they use to be. Sadly, no matter how many Republican leaders repudiate Trump, he will still win the votes of a certain segment of American society. That is why this election is ultimately a referendum on race — we have come too far to go backwards and I believe the majority of people will cast their vote to confront the racial challenges we face, commit to healing those divides and moving together as a nation, stronger together. It will be challenging work and I have full confidence that Hillary Clinton is the most capable and experienced public servant to lead us through this process of growth. It’s definitely why I’m with her.