This Election – In Historical Perspective


Bill Edley

TPC wants to welcome a new contributor from an unusual place. Inside the /Democratic Party. Bill Edley is a 35-year Democratic Party activist and former Illinois state representative and Democratic National Convention delegate. Bill is a raw meat “contrarian” just what the Democratic Party needs more of but then they are on a vegetarian diet. Bill’s views from inside the beast are published in leading media in the Midwest and we welcome his views.- Ed.

Labor Day is past, and the traditional presidential campaign has kicked off. By more than 2-to-1 margins, Americans believe the next generation will be worse off compared to life today, according to a recent Pew Research poll.

Should we be surprised?

There was a “Golden Age” after World War II (1947-1979), where worker productivity and median family income roughly doubled. But the connection between worker productivity and wages ended in the late 1970s, as business interests decided to stop cooperating with unions and started stridently opposing labor reform legislation.

According to U.S. Census reports from 1979 to 2013, worker productivity increased by 64.9 percent, while hourly compensation, including benefits and adjusted for inflation, rose by only 8.2 percent. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 stock market average, adjusted for inflation, was up 406 percent.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan famously fired the federal air traffic controllers, one of a few unions to support Reagan in 1980.  Georgetown University professor of history Joseph McCartin contends that “Reagan wanted to really turn back the clock … to an approach to American government … that was pre-New Deal … and that meant reorganizing the relationship between government and the labor movement.”

But Reagan could not do it alone. The next Democratic Party president was former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. Many historians consider President Clinton’s economic policies to have established him as the first “anti-New Deal” Democratic president.

Arkansas AFL-CIO President Bill Becker warned national leadership in 1986 that “almost any (Clinton) activity, in so far as our folks are concerned, is reminiscent of what Reagan is doing to us.” By 1992, Becker really turned sour: “This guy will pat you on the back, and it’s only later that you realize that he was pissing down your leg at the same time.”

In 2016, establishment Democrats are offering us a Clinton third term. In my view, a third term will cement in place Wall Street’s economic policies running both parties, leaving the political process without a countervailing reform force in either party.

I hope that I am wrong about the Clintons. But the Clinton family already has a record supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA – 1993) and giving 1.3 billion Chinese most favored nation status (2000), which led to nearly doubling the durable and consumer goods trade deficit to $837 billion, while cutting 3 million manufacturing jobs over four years and 5 million by 2016.

I don’t think their corporate-driven economic policies are changing, especially now that they’ve collected tens of millions of dollars from these same corporate interests.

What are our choices?

In my mind, the true choice isn’t among Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or some other third-party candidate. The real choice, rather, is Donald Trump or some third-party candidate and opportunities for reform elections in 2018, 2020 and beyond — or Hillary Clinton and a decade of corporate policies running government without an avenue for necessary economic policy reforms in the public’s interest.

Some voters use the “lesser of two evils” excuse. But the lesser evil never does anything for you to get your vote. And guess what … that’s what the lesser evil gives you: nothing.

If Trump wins, more anti-Clinton types went to the polls to vote against Clinton. If Clinton wins, more anti-Trump types turned out to vote. Either way, we will have the most unpopular president elected in modern history, with that president’s party most likely losing out in the 2018 midterm elections.

Let’s stop obsessing about one election, and take a longer view.

Ironically, electing an unpopular President Hillary Clinton will not only end progressive economic reforms for at least a decade, but also provide Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner an easier re-election bid in 2018.

Bill Edley is a 35-year Democratic Party activist and former Illinois state representative and Democratic National Convention delegate.

5 thoughts on “This Election – In Historical Perspective

  1. The German communists campaigned against the Social Democrat in 1933 as a “social fascist” and claimed a Nazi victory would “speed the revolution.” We all know how that turned out.

    Voting for any third party candidate in 2016 is a vote for Trump. I’m sure this “good Democrat” here will be perfectly happy with President Trump nominating thr3ee ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices, who will happily join the other three in gleefully determining that the social progress of the past 100 years is “unconstitutional.”

    Yeah, we’ll be able to organize all sorts of progressive campaigns that way.

    You people are morons.

    • First, America is a representative democracy with shared governmental powers. Dredging up Nazi Germany for a comparison to America in 2016 is more than a bridge too far.
      Second, both political parties, but especially the Democratic Party this year, depend upon creating a Good vs Evil mentality among the electorate, with Armageddon resulting if their candidate should lose. Hasn’t happened since Abe Lincoln and the Civil War, and won’t happen should Donald Trump win the election. I don’t believe there are too many billionaires willing to start WWIII and lose their gold-plated family lifestyle. And international bankers aren’t known for loaning hundreds of millions to delusional individuals. Trump has more to lose from screwing up the economy than 99.9999% of Americans, and if he screws up, Republicans will pay the price in 2018, 2020 and beyond.
      Third, Trump is no worse than most other Republican nominees, and better than most. He has much more liberal positions on gender and other social issues than his Republican brethren and at least recognizes the impact of America’s ridiculous trade policies.
      Fourth, both party establishments can’t stand him, but that’s a plus, not a negative. If President Trump gets out of line, the congressional establishment will impeach him for farting sideways.
      Fifth, and most important, he’s not another self-serving, greedy Clinton in the White House. We know the Clinton policy record, and it’s terrible. A Trump presidency will have opposition from countervailing political powers, whereas, the Clinton’s will embrace corporatism running our economic policies and will stifle descent within the Democratic Party.

  2. Bill Edley–The assault on (what was left of) organized labor on Reagan’s watch has been discussed here on TCP quite a few times. Karl Marx would have been astounded by how long it has taken, but the American working class (90%+ of whom are deluded into thinking they are “middle class”!) IS becoming impoverished. And the decline in purchasing power of the Greenback that is guaranteed by the insane “money” printing since the Financial Collapse of 2008-09 hasn’t even been unleashed yet! There is no “Democratic” Master Plan, no “Republican” Master Plan for the future. There is only the US Ruling Class Plan, which has worked like a charm to bring greater income inequality to our society than most anyone could have imagined two decades ago. But wait! In a very timely development, Mr. Trump today unveiled his own Master Economic Plan that will guarantee 4% annual GDP growth once he’s in office! [For those of you who don’t follow these things, it’s only by government finagling of statistics that the economy can claim to have been growing by about 1% annually of late!] I haven’t sought the details of the Trump Plan but I see a possible three phases: 1.) sign up hordes of wannabe bounty hunters to track down and round up for deportation millions of undocumented immigrant workers; 2.) build that wall on the Mexican border (because, really, Mexico is NOT gonna do it!); 3.) when those jobs are completed, everybody gets to work six part-time jobs per week (since employers don’t want to provide full-time job benefits), in a desperate effort to keep up with the rising cost of living. I’m looking forward to this rosy economic future!

    • I am not advocating for Trump but rather taking a longer term perspective than one election. Trump is no worse than other Republicans, in my view, but I don’t expect much good coming from Republicans. A Clinton third term will delay reform and undermine an emerging reform movement. Thoughts about a collapsing Middle Class is on point.

  3. Clinton is as arrogant and out of touch with us ‘common’ folks as Donald Trump. Below is a link to an insiders revelation of how she stole the Nevada primary vote which was pivotal in the final run up of the primaries. No wonder Trump, as absurd a presidential candidate as one can imagine, is still within striking distance of Clinton in the popular vote. Edley is right. It’s Tweedle dee vs. Tweedle Dum. Take the long view. Clinton and the Democratic Party can learn more from your vote to Stein or Johnson than for Clinton.. The sky will fall down no matter which of the two are elected.

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