‘Wall Street Plus Identity Politics’ Formula is Over for the Democrats
If the Democrats want to win, they have to speak to the real concerns of working people; but how can they when Wall Street dominates the party? – Tom Ferguson in conversation with Paul Jay
PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore and of course we’re talking about the election as President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Now joining us to give us his views is Thomas Ferguson. Is emeritus professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Thanks for joining us Thomas.
THOMAS FERGUSON: Hi there.
JAY: So, first of all, I know you do a lot of analysis, of polling and trends and things like that and we were just talking off camera. The only poll that really seemed to get this right was the LA Times USC poll which weighted their poll for people that won’t tell pollsters the truth. That a lot of people that were going to vote Trump didn’t want to tell pollsters that were going to. To what extent did you see this coming?
FERGUSON: Well I have unfortunately like a lot of political candidates, a dual line for this. One is the piece that you and I have talked about on camera several times, that Walter Dean Burnham and I wrote about back in 2014 where we said that that election showed that both parties were breaking up. That the elites of both parties were basically at odds with their mass base and we also said that we thought that Hillary Clinton would have a lot of trouble putting together the old coalition of effectively Wall Street [pleasant] if you’ll allow me to speak quickly and directly for the sake of communication. Identity politics wasn’t going to watch, that they could not appeal to enough plain ordinary American workers and lower income folks with that line.
JAY: Meaning vote for the first female president.
FERGUSON: We didn’t think that that well – that’s an appeal but what they did was obviously a lot. They basically paid little attention to labor issues, to income, all of it was couched in code and they spent a lot of time ducking the questions about the economic growth and an inequity that Sanders talked about.
JAY: I think she tried to more or less become a type of Sanders candidate. Except most people wouldn’t buy it. She just couldn’t be – Biden once said it during the primary. She’s just not authentic when she talks about economic inequality.
FERGUSON: Look everybody knew what you get from the Clintons. That was the equivalent of a death bed conversion and now here it is quite literally in political terms. No that was never believable. Anyway if you’re asking me did I see it coming?
Burnham and I think really laid out what happened and we did it two years ago. On the other hand, I myself thought, I was actually in England at the time of BreExit and I remember the shock and I thought people would mislead. I just underestimated it. Or as George Bush would say, misunderestimated it and I thought that she’d probably narrowly win. I was wrong.
You can see this. I’m looking at exit polls this morning. They’re really interesting to study. You can see for example in the white college age women that Hillary only got 6% more of those than Trump did which is sort of unbelievable. Those big numbers you hear on the TV and see in articles about the size of the gender gap, they get those large numbers by including women of all kinds of other situations.
So you’re both getting race and class dropped in. In that sense, the Clintons perhaps believe their own Kool-Aid about the size of the gender gap. Pure gender gap clearly couldn’t be that big and it wasn’t. Moreover, you can see a lot of funny things in the turnout if you pay attention. The best estimate I’ve seen of turnout last night was about 55% which means it was overall down.
On the other hand, when you look in specific places it’s pretty obvious that African American turnouts were down. They were for instance down in Detroit and by enough to cause Clinton the state. It similarly – it sure looks like white turnouts in Pennsylvania were up and probably elsewhere. In that sense at some shuffling and a net loss on turnout and that looks to me to have advantaged Trump.
But let me come to what I think is probably the heart of the matter. I think we really are at the end of the classical democratic formula of the Clinton period which was Wall Street plus identity politics. I think this is it. You’re never going to be able to put that humpty dumpty back together again. They are going to actually ask – if the democrats want to win they’re going to actually have to make a strong appeal to working class Americans. Now you know the problem this is going to create. There’s a ton of money in the democratic party. It is not going to sit there and tolerate candidates like Sanders. You know they just really despised and hated. And overall they don’t like Elizabeth Warren either. So we’re now going to have a very interesting situation where you’ve got a top heavy party with cash at the top. Then you have no mass base at all basically or very little.
JAY: Now you have an influx into the democratic party of neocons and all kinds of right wingers, overt republican style who couldn’t stomach Trump assuming Clinton would win. He ain’t taking them back and this is his republican party now. So, a lot of these people are going to have to find their home in the democratic party. Yea this is a tricky question. I basically agree with you. I think Trump won this victory by effectively mobilizing against the rest of the republican party. That’s what he as a billionaire could do. It’s a point I’ve made to you on camera and off a lot. You know only a billionaire could have pulled this off in the party. And though now he has to deliver for these people out there. I mean for if you like the hard land. Then he has a few other supporters appeals, the Peter Thiels, the Carl Icahns, the John Paulsons of the world. And he’s got this huge block of quite antagonistic republican leaders to him. Paul Ryan is surely one. I want to see how this works out because basically I think Trump’s going to have to chose between trying to deliver for the average American and holding his political base that just won this remarkable victory. Getting the support of the rest of the party. He goes for the rest of the party then very quickly he will hit the same rocks that hit the rest of the political establishment of the republican party and the entire democratic establishment. They actually have to deliver something for the population. It’s real clear when you study the exit polls how the trade issue but also personal finances, your view of the country, are you better off and all that, these were all really powerful factors.
JAY: Now Trump is unable to actually promise and do any of this stuff from the democratic party. The republicans – Trump cannot deliver on almost anything he said except he can attack Latinos, he can attack Hispanics in America, he can start something aggressive in Syria and “crush ISIS”. He’s creating a foreign policy cabal around him which is the far right of the Cheney kind of right, starting with his Vice President Pence. But domestically the people that voted for him, their lives are not going to get better and in al likelihood are going to get worse and it’s only a matter of time till that becomes clear.
FERGUSON: Well careful because I actually think the situation in the US economy for the average person is distinct for some relatively affluent person, is actually pretty desperate. Even a medium sized increase in public’s [inaud.] infrastructure I suspect would do quite a lot for the economy.
JAY: But is he promising more spending other than on the military?
He’s promising massive influx of money into the military.
FERGUSON: Well with Trump you know we’re back to the old Groucho Marx line, these are my principles and if you don’t like them I’ve got others. He said different things at different times but my best – if you’re asking me I may not quite read this the same way you do and I could be wrong but I think you will see an infrastructure program. I suspect that’s going to happen. It’s clear that they may take a different view as to the importance of keeping the dollar high. They may be willing to do something to push it down. That is to say by not for instance building a fed to keep it up or something like that. We’ll have to see how this works out. This is going to be an extremely interesting situation. I share the view that it’s unstable. I don’t its failure is written in stone yet.
JAY: Well we’ll see. I just think that if you look at who his allies are and on the economic side, the economic thinking, it’s all about keep wages low. I mean he can talk whatever he wants during the election campaign but you can’t pray at the alter of high profits trickle down and then say you also think that wages are going to go up because we know that those are two contradictory propositions.
FERGUSON: Take my point Paul that the level of spending here, the deficiency and aggregate demand, even though Stanley fisher and other people are walking around and saying we’re near [full and plummet], we’re not. And I think there is room for some fiscal expansion and I suspect that yea that will help the average person and get some of these more extended measures of the labor market down. I wouldn’t underplay this. That’s just my [inaud.]. We all come back in two months or three months or even longer and see whether I was right. I don’t regard this as a clear doomed failure until they lose courage to break with some of their new friends.
JAY: Well we’ll see. If the gossip of who are the cabinet members are going to be and who’s running this government, it seems to me that Trump is going to run around smiling at people and it’s going to be the hardcore right that’s going to run the government. They’re apparently even talking about the possibility of Sarah Palin in the cabinet.
FERGUSON: I wouldn’t be surprised to find her somewhere in the cabinet. Cabinet’s sort of not that big a deal anymore. You want to watch the national economic council. The council on economic advisors and obviously the secretary of the treasury job which does seem somehow by some miracle to be slated for another Wall Street person. So let’s probably the best thing to do on this one is adjourn for the time being and let’s see what happens. We can talk some more on the subject.
JAY: Okay well I’m sure we will. Thanks very much for joining us Thomas.
FERGUSON: Thanks Paul.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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