Unless something quite remarkable happens between now and the time of the Republican National Convention, the Republican nominee for the office of President of the United States will be Donald Trump. (Quite remarkable would be revelations from Trump’s tax returns, which he desperately does not want to make public, ranging from, he’s worth much less than he claims he is, to a list of failed business ventures that “the great businessman” absolutely wants no one to know about, to a detailed list of his legal difficulties over the years.) And given how he, and the Republican Party, are going to run their campaign (basically, as I have said, on three words, “emails, Benghazi, and Clinton”) given that the Democrats’ presumptive nominee hasn’t shown the slightest indication that she knows anything about what she would have to do to win (we will be getting to that one just down the road), he has a reasonably good chance of getting there.
So how did a man who has not the slightest of qualification to hold the office get to this position? Many reasons, of course, but one which not too many observers have talked about is what the policies of the Democratic Party have been since that time in the mid-1980s when Bill Clinton (with the former Goldwater Girl, Hillary Rodham, at his side) and his allies took it over, through a political organ called the Democratic Leadership Council. They bear a major responsibility for the emergence of Trump.
Their basic political philosophy was that if they could just look enough like Republicans without actually becoming Republicans they could take the White House and then they could “do some stuff.” As it turned out during the Clinton Presidency, their attempt to do the one “Democratic Party” sort of thing, create a sort-of-national health insurance plan that would cover just about everybody, met with a disastrous failure. The plan itself had certain internal deficiencies, but also they did not have the foggiest notion of how to handle the campaign for it politically. I was a “designated spokesman on behalf of the Clinton Health Plan,” which I saw as a half-a-loaf that was better than none. (That position earned me the public wrath of friends of mine who were “single-payer” people [I had been one, and have been once again since the failure of the CHP], none of whom ever bothered to ask me just why I was doing what I was doing. But that’s another story.) They were so poorly organized, right from the git-go, that one had to wonder just why it was that they went with it. (But that’s another story too.)
From there, as is well-known, it was downhill politically and policy-wise for the Clintons: welfare de-form, strengthening the “Drug War,” related directly to it establishing the foundation for the utterly cruel and useless “criminal justice” system we have today that has invariably led to mass incarceration, mainly for young African-American males, establishing the principle that “the era of ‘big government’ is over” (which, borrowing directly from Ronald Reagan) Clinton proudly announced in one of his State of the Union Addresses, the deregulation of the banking system that invariably led to the Crash of 2008, and, of course, the creation of the international trade policies which have led to the de-industrialization that is a major feature of our nation today.
It happens that many of these policies were very similar to those of the Republicans, sold to the nation as necessary for “reaching across the aisle, to make government work” (while all the while the Republicans were doing everything they could, including impeachment over a sexual affair between consenting adults, to obstruct Clinton, even as he was giving way on so much of their governmental agenda at the time). Trump screams about certain of these policies, especially trade, when it happens that the U.S. has indeed deindustrialized because the Republicans got there first (under George H.W. Bush). But which the DLC-Democrats went along with them, and even, in the terms of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, facilitated. (Free trade does not necessarily have to be accompanied by the export of capital. Germany is an excellent example of that approach. But the DLC-Republican policy certainly facilitated both.) So this is one sense in which Democratic Party policy since the time of the DLC has laid the ground-work for Donald Trump.
The other, equally important, factor is that the DLC-Democrats have never taken up the cudgels against the policies and practices of the Republican Party on the “social issues” that Trump has only brought right out into the open. Ever since Nixon created the “Southern Strategy” to bring the racist South into the Republican Party after the Democrats had created the beginning of the civil rights era in the 1960s, and then created its companion “Drug War” to go after African-American young men (see my book, “Ending the ‘Drug War’; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach,” especially chap. 3), the GOP has run on racism. But until now, it has almost always been expressed with “dog whistles.” They have also run on misogyny, expressed in terms of their policy to re-criminalize abortion. They have run on xenophobia, never being able to come up with any kind of workable immigration policy (because doing so would rob them of one of their major issues). And of course, there is the modern era old-reliable (sorry, Tommy Heinrich) for the Republicans, homophobia.
So how did the Democrats pave the way for Trump, who is now out in the open on every one of them except homophobia? (It will be interesting to see how this native New Yorker who surely has many gay friends and business associates, handles that one in terms of retaining Republican votes as the election campaign proceeds.) They did it by not fighting the Republicans on any of these issues right out in front, right from the git-go. They did it by not making the Republican Party the Party of Prejudice and Religious Determinism right from the start. In fact, with his support of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” for the military and the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” Bill Clinton and the DLC made it possible for the Republicans to run on homophobia for the next 20 years. And in fact, they still are, but now they are turning their attention to a sub-set, the trans-gender population (as if the latter did not face enough prejudice without it being made into a political issue). And the Democratic Party is still not labelling the Republican Party, not just Trump, as racist, xenophobic, misogynistic (well, with Hillary Clinton being the likely nominee they are finally beginning to move on that one), and the party of religious determinism.
The Republicans have been there since the Time of Reagan, but they were just dog-whistling about it. But since the Democrats did nothing to expose them for what they really were and are, it is all too easy for Trump to go the next step, and just put all the hate, fear, xenophobia, and prejudice, right out here on the (campaign) stump, for everyone to see. In other words, the Democrats helped to clear the way for Trump not only by not fighting the Republicans hard on the issues-of-prejudice from the beginning, but, going back to the Bill Clinton era, by in certain sectors, facilitating them.
Yes indeed. It’s the Duopoly at work!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Senior Editor, Politics, Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, he is: a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; a “Trusted Author” for Op-Ed News.com; a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man. He is the Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine.us. Further, he is an occasional Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter, BuzzFlash Commentary, and Dandelion Salad.
Dr. Jonas’ latest book is Ending the Drug Problem Brewster, The Public Health Approach, Punto Press Publishing, 2016, and available on Amazon.