Some Thoughts on the Election

November 15, 2016

I spent yesterday in Trump Country, visiting friends in Campo and Jacumba Hot Springs. This is a region populated mostly by white ranch owners and immigrants from Mexico. The ranch owners are not wealthy. My friend Sam, for example, has been there over 25 years. His wife has been sick for the last 10 years, and he lovingly cares for her. Over a cup of coffee, we discussed the election.

Sam doesn’t like Trump, but he liked Hillary less. He has seen his standard of living steadily decline, and at his age, there’s not a thing he can do about it. He tends to view this as a zero sum proposition, and is convinced that whoever has moved ahead in the last 8 years did so at his expense.

Sam is typical of the Trump voters Michael Moore has described in his interviews. He’s not one of those obnoxious racists who hates all minorities, and anyone calling him a misogynist should spend just one day taking care of his ailing wife the way he does every day. Yes, I’m well aware that he’s not a Black Lives Matter fan, nor is he a feminist. But I know that trying to win him over by calling him a racist and misogynist will just drive him permanently into the Trump camp.

Interestingly, there were a couple of turning points that made up his mind to vote for Trump. First was Hillary’s “deplorables” comment. He, and probably every Trump voter like him, automatically assumed that Hillary was talking about him. I know that Hillary was talking about the outright racists at the Trump rallies, but she should have learned from Romney that you just can’t make comments like that without incurring severe penalties. Denounce specific people and examples of racism and misogyny, yes, but don’t put people into “baskets.”

The second thing that really turned him off was the way the DNC treated Bernie. Sam was actually intrigued by Bernie, and might have even voted for him. The socialist label bothered him, but I think that could have been overcome.

The Democratic Party will never win if it sacrifices minority and women’s rights on the altar of appealing to white voters. But it has combine that with offering something to the Sam’s of the world.

Plenty has been said by many other people about defending the rights of minorities, women, LGBTQ’s, etc. But here’s something that I think the Democratic Party must really learn to address: Creative Destruction.

Creative Destruction happens whenever there is industrial and technical progress. When cars came along, blacksmiths lost their jobs. Coal miners are today’s victims of creative destruction, as are millions of semi-skilled and skilled workers in manufacturing.

Trump’s answer to creative destruction is a lie. There’s no way he can bring back coal again, unless he nationalizes the coal mines and runs them at a loss as a state industry.

The Democratic Party’s answer was almost worse. Since NAFTA, the Democrats have basically just pointed out that society as a whole is better off with free trade and technological progress. But an auto worker making $50 an hour relegated to part time work at a Home Depot is not going to be a happy camper, and could care less whether free trade was a good thing in the abstract. For him or her, it is the destruction of their family and their way of living.

The next wave of creative destruction will come with anyone who drives a vehicle for a living. There are 2.5 million truck drivers in the U.S. There are 300,000 cab drivers. These people are on the verge of getting replaced by driverless vehicles. And many truck drivers don’t even live in the cities, so when they lose their jobs, they can’t even get a minimum wage job.

Democrats better grab this bull by the horns. The answer isn’t to tell Republican feel-good lies. I’m sure we can come up with innovative programs to deal with creative destruction if we realize what a critical problem it is. If we do, we can start rebuilding the Democratic Party from the ground up.

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