The day after the election in a moment of despair I found myself saying, “I feel betrayed by the American people.” (It was a brief moment when it looked like Trump might again crush the pollsters and with a totally unpredicted victory.) I knew it was a bad thing to say, but that was how I felt. How, I asked, could so many fellow citizens, most of whom I respect and have confidence in, be so blind to the insanity of the past four years? Words to a long-remembered song kept going thru my head: Ding, dong the witch is dead” what a relief. Almost immediately I realized I got it wrong.
A better question would be the reverse, how could any of those citizens (Trump supporters) have any faith in people like me? I believe in government. I have no reason not to. I am a comfortable white person of privilege. I live in my own house, drive a car that is paid for, I read a lot. I do not regularly listen to talk radio, but I do check Fox News and pay attention to conservative pundits like David Brooks and George Will.
I am not rich, I am not famous, I am not important, but I do in many ways resemble the roughly one-third of the public that simply and completely don’t get the other two-thirds. I have some savings and some debt; I collect Social Security and use Medicare and I eat well, secure that I probably will eat well for the foreseeable future. Why would I complain about the government? If the government is even partly responsible for my condition, then the government must be good, right? I am part of the “elite.”
If believing in government goes with my condition, then what thinking goes with the 65 percent of Americans who are unprotected, vulnerable, struggling or living paycheck to paycheck in an economy that doesn’t value them enough to pay them a living wage? We all agree they are angry and frustrated, and our response is, why do they vote against their own interest, or worse, why aren’t they smart enough to understand what is best for them (like I do)? This is the arrogance and ignorance of privilege, not the other way around. We are channeling Hillary by calling 70 million less comfortable Americans “deplorable.”
The media and the two political parties have divided our fellow citizens up into the reds and the blues, conservatives and liberals, reactionary and progressive, but really, it’s a divide between believers and non-believers. If you’ve been ignored as a group in this country for 50 years, you probably don’t believe you can change government much but you certainly have a need to express your anger about it. You might not care about policy or promises because it’s all failed to improve your life, so you look for someone who expresses your anger at government. 70 million people did just that, 47.6 percent of our nation. Sit them down and ask them if they want good health care, they do; ask them if they need childcare, they do; ask them if they want clean air and water, they do; same for a living wage, affordable education and a little respect thank-you-very-much. After that ask them what they think the chances are that government will deliver?
I recently asked a friend, who I know to be a stalwart Democrat, if she was aware of Joe Biden’s voting record on the issues that affect the working people he claims to identify with. She said she was familiar with the record. I asked her if she thought Joe would change (for the better) in light of the new challenges facing the country. She said she has confidence Biden will rise to the occasion. Although she and I agree on a great many issues I have much less confidence in that happening. In fact, I think Trump supporters expectations will prove the more accurate.
Trump supporters talk about a “deep state.” Many Democrats ridicule the idea. The only thing the Trump supporters got wrong about the Deep State was that its only intended victim was Donald Trump and that its membership was limited to Democrats. In fact the neo-con/liberal deep state is the single biggest bipartisan accomplishment since the New Deal. The deep state conspiracy, aka party duopoly, is working incessantly and effectively to keep labor cheap, expectations low and the working class vote divided and powerless. This conspiracy doesn’t care whether Biden or Trump won. They tended to back Biden this time because he’s less embarrassing, but the results are the same either way, more profit for those who are wealthy and less comfort for those who are not.
Look what happened to the stock market when Biden was declared the winner — up 1500 points in a flash. You can rationalize it all you want but don’t tell me Wall Street (where the privileged grow their money) isn’t happy to welcome “Credit Card Joe.” If any entity is more committed to profit over people than Wall Street, please point them out to me.
Early in the game Trump talked like he might try to take down the “deep state/swamp” until he realized his interests coincided with theirs. Now Trump has begun his assault on 2024. Good. Maybe the threat of working people voting for Trump again, like they did this time, will motivate the Dems to actually do something for the Americans who really need it.
If Biden is truly the bipartisan legislative player he claims, look for progress on the pandemic stimulus, comprehensive immigration reform and infrastructure projects. If no progress happens on these don’t expect anything at all. If you believe Biden is better for America than Trump (like I do) but share my skepticism about his actual intention to put people above profit, then do something. The American people, especially elites like me, must hold his feet to the fire. Talk with people, march for the cause(s) you believe in, donate to people who are working for real reform, and above all look into STRUCTURAL POLITICAL REFORM. Ultimately, we don’t just need different faces; we need a better system!
Peter Taillie writes from Greensboro. He can be reached at email@example.com.