Looking For The Silver Lining
The 2016 Presidential race has developed a dark picture of American life for the next several decades. Donald Trump’s, Hillary Clinton’s, and Bernie Sanders’ campaigns each have shined a dim light on the size and shape of this elephant but have neither defined the real dimensions of the problem nor proposed comprehensive remedies. Many voters are reacting in ways which aggravate rather than contribute to a positive path forward.
Donald Trump is the most disingenuous of these candidates, but in many regards is the most appealing. His campaign dialog is carefully constructed to raise fear and anger without specifics or genuine solutions. Everyone but “us” (presumably the crowd he is speaking to) is either the “problem” or sympathetic to the forces causing the “problem”. And foreign countries and foreigners in general are the central forces creating the “problem”.
Bernie Sanders has described the “problem” broadly as income inequality and targeted banks, Wall Street, and large corporations as the villains. One might reasonably question whether income inequality is the problems or the symptom. Campaign rhetoric, however, is not the best place to explore this difference. Sanders speeches are as divisive as Trump’s but split the “us” between the wealthy and the middle class.
Hillary Clinton has campaigned in a more classical partisan way. Her message is that the GOP is the wrong direction especially if you are middle class, gay, Hispanic, or a woman. She expands her message to a broader range of domestic issues and a more rational set of foreign policies. Clinton is the personification of a traditional Presidential candidate which Americans have seen for years.
So why the dark clouds?
There is income inequality and no candidate has proposed any rational steps which would lead to wages distributions similar to the good old days of the 60-80’s.
The Republican party, which is paralyzed from its coalition nature, lumps together deeply held but demographically losing ideas, has added xenophobic, hate baiting standard bearer in Donald Trump. Tax cuts for the wealthy represent a mighty leap of faith for one to connect them with a boom in “good paying” jobs creation. Globalization combined with the current American skill base does not suggest tax cuts will suddenly change the jobs picture.
Sanders’ vision of breaking up banks, restricting corporate campaign donations, and taxing the wealthy even more, while seeming fair if one is middle class or lower in income, does not suggest any reason that “good paying” jobs will suddenly reappear.
Cooler heads must step back and consider whether corporate America’s decision to outsource jobs and pay their senior executives many more multiples than the average worker is leading to a better place. It is hard to see how globalization can suddenly be made to look like it doesn’t exist, the world is a global market.
The globalization consequence reveal there are a lot of Americans who are now unskilled to take on higher paying jobs. Corporate America needs to wake up that at the current pace of average wage stagnation, there will be a shortage of consumers soon who can afford to buy what corporate America makes (or sells).
Which candidate do you think can engage in such a conversation with corporate America?
The dark clouds are not the repeal of Roe v Wade or Obamacare even though both would be serious social disruptors. The American people are not going to return to a no abortion world nor are the health insured going to give up coverage willingly.
The dark clouds are not tilting the Supreme Court back to a conservative outlook nor turning loose the neoconservatives to conjure up another WMD country to invade. America’s social momentum is not going to turned back by some religion pandering decisions, and even if there would be another foreign invasion, the all volunteer Army, where few Americans have skin in the game (like enlistment or tax money), will fare no better than “W’s” venture.
The dark clouds are only dark in comparison to other country’s dark clouds. If American leaders keep in mind that a country can’t grow its economy if all it depends upon are citizens who have no (or too little discretionary) money themselves.
Embargoes and tariffs will not cure the problem because for each dollar received with tariffs, the trading partners will reduce their US purchases equally or greater. Job training and government spending can work temporarily but to have a lasting impact, far more workers have to acquire new skills which in and of themselves demand “good pay”. Which candidate carries that message?
Americans who now support Donald Trump are not bad people and they are not that unusual. Globalization is complicated and there is little reason why these Americans should believe the greedy heads of corporations understand or care.
Trump-type supporters can be found around the world, particularly when a country’s key industries and their associated jobs have become redundant. Trump-type leaders, however, have been time after time seen as ineffective.
It is only May and the general election does not take place until November. The silver lining, if there is one, is that there is still time for even the most emotional American to realize of the three candidates, only Clinton has a chance at improving their lot in like.
This race may end up picking the lesser tarnished of the two evils but so doing may be the smartest choice.