It's the Unions, Stupid
I could spend a whole piece talking about Donald Trump’s intentional “gooning-up” of his campaign appeal. It is right out of the fascist playbook. After all, the quickest way to distance himself from his fondness for fascist saluting at his events is to turn the protesters into villains.
Instead, let me say that my views on the fall campaign and Hillary’s chances have now changed in the aftermath of Sanders’ surprise victory in Michigan. Plainly put, Hillary is in trouble now.
She pandered for black votes in the South by attaching herself to Obama and his record. But now she needs to tell the Rust Belt that the Obama recovery hasn't gone far enough and hasn't done enough to bring back good paying jobs. Doing that would have required her to distance herself from Obama’s economy and lame stimulus approach, as well as reminding Sanders and voters that she opposed free trade deals in the Senate that she subsequently was forced to support as Secretary of State.
She could have also gone to war against the GOP Congress's refusal to do anything these last six years, but she even failed to do that effectively. But with more critical Rust Belt contests coming this week in Ohio and Illinois, as well as Missouri, her “we need to hang together” with the president message (and by inference his feeble economic recovery) won't work in an electorate that is plainly rejecting the free-trade status quo peddled by both parties for thirty years.
Her alignment with Obama for political convenience to fend off Sanders was a political calculation that can only work in some areas and with some parts of the base. But in an election where the chief GOP rival is claiming the white working class vote with an overt anti-free trade appeal aimed against both Wall Street and K Street, and in a primary season where your chief rival inside the party has already undermined your claim to the Rust Belt vote, Hillary now isn’t a sure bet to win these states in the general election.
And if Hillary can’t win the Rust Belt in the general election, then she shouldn’t be the Democratic nominee, no matter how many delegates she takes to the convention. Because this year, it is different, and if the party elders can’t see that, then Bernie should get the nomination if for no other reason than to offer a nonracist, pro-worker counter-narrative to the GOP's racist, thuggish message supposedly in support of the working man.
Hillary could have solved all of this if she had an overriding premise and set of core principles guiding her message, instead of a “pander here, pander there” approach that bit her in the ass among the white working class. Simply put, the elixir is this:
Democrats should be countering Trump’s argument with a strong pro-union message to protect workers’ rights and restore the middle class. If Trump is truly concerned about bringing jobs home and keeping factories in the Rust Belt open, and fighting Corporate America’s stranglehold on economic policy, Democrats should call his bluff and up the ante with a call for re-unionization. Doing that would energize thousands of ground troops this fall.
If Trump supports unions, he fractures the GOP. If he won’t go that far, then Democrats can blast him for not really being concerned about workers, and instead being more concerned about the same corporate bosses oppressing workers, just now here at home. Democrats can then portray Trump as just another corporate tool.
That’s what Hillary would have done, if she and her campaign were smart. Instead, they decided on a bankrupt, blind allegiance to Obama’s record and putrid recovery, with the good and bad that comes with it.
Now we get to see the bad.