A few thoughts

So we’ve electioneered. And some things have happened. Unsolicited thoughts below the jump.

First, it’s silly to start saying “If only Bernie had been the nominee, none of this would have happened”. There is no way to know. The campaign would have been completely different. Ditto for any of the other things that could have happened that were out of the control of the candidates. You want to lay blame? Start with the campaign itself, which could have changed. But hindsight is always 20/20.

On a related note, I am also sick of hearing how the primaries were rigged against Bernie. Let me remind people (and this is one of the reasons that I didn’t vote for him): Bernie is not a Democrat. He is an Independent. “Democrat” and “Republican” are not labels you can just throw on yourself when you run for office. Parties exist to raise money, to train candidates, to get volunteers, to build a bench. Hillary had done that for decades for Democrats; Bernie did not. So of COURSE the party will support her! To do otherwise would doom the party apparatus entirely; why do you think the Republican establishment did the same to Donald Trump? Allow outsiders complete control and you may as well not have a party structure at all.

As to the actual results, they were shocking to me. I fully admit that I am part of the “urban elite”. I see economic recovery, I see “Help Wanted” signs everywhere, things are going pretty well in my neck of the woods. I am obviously very disconnected from what is happening in rural parts of our country. I think a lot of people who were shocked, myself definitely included, need to do better about understanding how bad things have to get to vote for Trump. At the same time, I think people who were Trump supporters need to understand much more about the lives we live, the diversity we enjoy, the cities we love, the friends and colleagues and family members we cherish. We don’t live in places where there is nothing but poverty and gunfire. The information and empathy chasm between both sides is vast and getting vaster, and that needs to change.

I truly do feel that we need to do more for areas that are suffering. I don’t think Trump will really do anything. Part of that is because there is only so much that can be done. In many areas, the jobs that allowed a high school graduate to get a good-paying job for life will simply never come back. And it’s not because of trade, or corporate greed, or because neoliberals sold you out. It’s because of technology and automation, and you can’t really turn back the clock on that. We can make more with far fewer bodies today, and those bodies that do work need to know tech. We all need to acknowledge that fact and find answers.

Trade is getting beaten up from the left and right these days. That’s largely due to the fact that we haven’t really had a good discussion on trade. Any economist will tell you that trade, no matter what trade, no matter how “bad” the trade negotiations are, benefit both sides overall. If people in the U.S. didn’t appreciate the cheap TVs and clothes and other consumer goods that trade brought us, Walmart wouldn’t be the largest retailers in the country. Trade benefits all of us overall, but hits certain people very hard when they lose their jobs. What can we do for these people? Are people willing to pay two or three times as much for a TV or an iPhone to keep a few jobs here in the U.S.? These are the discussions we should be having, not demagoguing on trade deals.

I think Democrats have a lot to learn from this election. One of the biggest lessons, to borrow a theme that Atrios has harped on forever, is that you need to give people nice things and you need to make it easy. Stop with the forms and the means testing and the special account for each and every expenditure you have and the receipts and more forms and eligibility rules and cutoffs and everything. What are the popular programs in this country? Social Security, Medicare, mortgage tax interest deduction, stuff like that. All of those things are largely automatic or require the barest of form-filling, and are available to everybody. If people are hurting, help them and make it easy! Universal pre-K, cheaper child care, a higher minimum wage (which several Trump-supporting states also passed on Tuesday). People like stuff. Give it to them, and then raise taxes on the wealthy a bit to pay for it. Does anybody but an out of touch policy wonk think yet another “Savings Account” that needs to be signed up for and tracked and documented is going to make anybody excited for their candidate?

It can be hard to stay positive and focused, but if every time the losing side in this country took their ball and went home, then soon all that would be left of America is a few corn stalks in Kansas. That’s not what we stand for. Instead? Fired up. Ready to go.

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