For the past 40 years, the Democratic Party as a national organization has systematically abandoned its historic representation of the working class in favor of a wholesale embrace of the professional elite and neoliberal principles that squash workers' representation at all levels of political and workplace engagement, and enhance the power of the wealthy few to govern all aspects of our lives.
The conservative agenda of exasperating the already dangerous gap between the wealthy and the workers at all costs; of stripping away all basic services so the richest of the white elite can get more gold-plated hot tub faucets; of eliminating the ability of workers to organize and gain an effective voice over how they should be treated and what their labor is worth; of perpetuating the mythical inferiority of racial minorities and women, banishing them to generationally perpetuated ghettos and kitchens; these haven't been Republican-only initiatives.
It was a neoliberal Democrat who acquiesced to demands to gut welfare programs that had for decades helped workers build their lives without an ax of abject poverty constantly hanging over their heads. It was neoliberal Democrats who helped strip workers of the right to organize and supported anti-worker policies like the so-called "right to work" laws. It was neoliberal Democrats who implemented free trade deals that shipped jobs overseas to low-wage countries while simultaneously repressing unions. It was neoliberal Democrats who supported the dismantling of regulations like the Glass-Steagall Act that protected working people from vulture financial firms.
It was neoliberal Democrats who watched (and frequently voted for) the gutting of pensions, the wars resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings, the ability of the executive branch to assassinate a citizen without a trial, the militarization of police, the fall of worker wages and skyrocketing compensation for the wealthy, the deregulation of Wall Street, and the ongoing privatization of public education.
While these neoliberal elites who control the Democratic Party may spout off the occasional pro-worker rhetoric, or add a seemingly friendly plank to the entirely meaningless party platform, their agenda and their results are clear. The status quo doesn't work for the people, and pretending like it does isn't just insulting to those who don't live in the party bubble, it's demonstrably ridiculous. As of December, the Dems have lost 900-plus seats in state legislatures, 12 governors, 69 House seats and 13 Senate seats in the last eight years alone.
Those same neoliberal elites and the party loyalists will be quick to claim that it was the working class that abandoned the party. (How many times have we heard that tired trope about the workers who vote against their own interest?) But it was the party that abandoned them, leaving the poor and working classes sacrificed on the altar of unfettered capitalism.
The idea that Trump is somehow unique, or distinctly worse than other conservatives in his policies is laughable. If Trump were to be impeached today, the same agenda would continue rolling forward without a moment's pause, because for all the posturing of House Speaker Paul Ryan, or Sen. Orrin Hatch or Rep. Mia Love, the ideas Trump is pushing is exactly what they have been advocating for years — albeit with much more disguised and sophisticated rhetoric. The only difference seems to be the more overtly authoritarian, racist and sexist rhetoric Trump uses and the boneheaded clumsiness of his incompetent staff.
The way forward should be clear: If you want to stop the conservative and neoliberal laissez-faire capitalist agenda destroying the nation, go after the Democrats. Throw out the neoliberal oligarchs controlling the party with tomorrow's trash.
While Trump's populist façade of speaking for the workers was a sham, it worked because the status quo has resulted in the demolishment of The People's representation. What good is getting rid of one bombastic fool if there's no legitimate voice of the workers to step in? Pretending everything was fine before Trump is lunacy.
Eric Ethington lives in Logan with his partner and child.