What's Tony Thinking

Troubled by Trump, But Worried by Dems


Thomas Friedman sounded a “Code Red” for the upcoming 2018 elections in an excellent column recently. The great imperative is elect Democrats to control of one or both houses of Congress — not because the Democrats have everything right, but because the Republicans in Congress have shown themselves incapable of putting any check on Trump.

Here’s Friedman:

“If I were writing the choice on a ballot, it would read: ‘Are you in favor of electing a majority of Democrats in the House and/or Senate to put a check on Trump’s power — when his own party demonstrably will not? Or are you in favor of shaking the dice for another two years of unfettered control of the House, the Senate and the White House by a man who wants to ignore Russia’s interference in our election; a man whose first thought every morning is, ‘What’s good for me, and can I get away with it?’; a man who shows no compunction about smearing any person or government institution that stands in his way; and a man who is backed by a party where the only members who’ll call him out are those retiring or dying?’”

Friedman is right. Trump and what he represents pose a mortal danger to America and to our democracy. But Friedman also nuances his position by saying that Democrats need to acknowledge some “things that are true even if Trump believes them.” Friedman again,

“Still, Democrats can’t count on winning by just showing up. They still have to connect with some centrist and conservative voters — and that means understanding that some things are true even if Trump believes them: We do have a trade issue with China that needs addressing; we cannot accept every immigrant, because so many people today want to escape the world of disorder into our world of order; people want a president who is going to grow the pie, not just redivide it; political correctness on some college campuses is out of control; people want to be comfortable expressing patriotism and love of country in an age where globalization can wash out those identities.”

I share Friedman’s sense of urgency about electing Democrats this fall to impede Trump in the next two years. But I find myself worried about what the Democrats will come up with for the Presidential election in 2020.

Why am I worried? For this I turn to a recent column by Jon Talton of the Seattle Times. (By the way Talton’s columns in the Times business section are consistently excellent).

Talton notes that a cluster of potential Democrat contenders for the Presidential nomination for 2020 have come out for a plan of a “universal guarantee of a job to everyone who wants one.” Senators Cory Booker, Kristen Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders are all on board.

But when the unemployment rate is under 4% a huge government jobs program sounds to me like generals preparing for the last war. A guaranteed jobs program would be, no doubt, a big headline item. But is it a headline that will draw, in Friedman’s words, some centrist and conservative voters? More to the point, is it a solution to our real problems or an ideological exercise?

I worry that in the face of Trump, Democrats will be pushed — as we have been in Seattle — to far left positions that excite the party activists but are a miss with the general public.

Deeper in Talton’s column he catalogues the kind of policies that  created a more equitable U.S. economy and a stronger society in the decades of the 1950’s through the 70’s.  With updates for the digital world and global economy, such measures might do so in the future. Here’s Talton:

“Rather than a jobs guarantee, Democrats would be better served by making federal investments in advanced infrastructure, such as high-speed rail, rail transit, clean energy and modernizing the electrical grid. These would create large numbers of construction and operating jobs.”

Parallel to the decline of our technical infrastructure is a decline of our social/human infrastructure. Causes of this are complicated but the tilt from the 80’s on toward a “winner-take-all” economy that encouraged rapacious behavior on the part of most wealthy. At the same time middle and working classes have not only seen wages stagnant, but perhaps more importantly, social decline and erosion of healthy communities.

Yes, I’m deeply troubled by Trump, a President who fuels hate and bigotry to advance himself. But I wish I were more sanguine about what the Democrats will offer in 2020. My hunch is that Joe Biden, though up there in years, may be the best bet. Biden convincingly represents two crucial qualities: human decency and a genuine concern for all Americans, including working people.





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