National Commentary

This Election’s Insurgency

nfbenton-mugHillary Clinton won the popular vote in Tuesday’s national presidential election, the second time since 2000 the Democrat did this but lost the election because of the archaic particularities of the Electoral College system.

But instead of sinking into despair, those who supported Clinton for all the right reasons need to see what happened as an opportunity, not merely a defeat.

The message the vote has sent is this: The kind of corporate and establishment chiseling and greed that has crippled the economic well being of the nation’s middle and lower classes will not be tolerated by way of a slow and methodical demise.

Many who voted for Trump did not do so for racist or sexist reasons, although those were certainly factors, but because, according to one recent statistic, only half of the adults in America right now can get their hands on $400 were an emergency to arise.

This is the kind of reality that sparked the Bernie Sanders insurgency on the Democratic side. While a well-meaning Hillary Clinton sought belatedly to address this in her campaign, she was no match for Trump’s ability to catalyze this into an angry insurgency.

Democrats who backed Clinton in this election now have the opportunity to capitalize on the election result to take the nation’s afflicted to the streets, to mobilize for the kind of real change that can bring relief to families under crushing debt, including student debt, lack of a pathway to a future and the burden of chronic numbing poverty.

The insurgency reflected in this election was not about Trump, but about these kind of things. When I was asked after the election what to do about efforts at bringing together Hispanic, Muslim, African-American and other marginalized groups to craft a common agenda for positive change, I recommended they go ahead and do it, even with more passion and zeal than before the election.

Make the greedy, corrupt corporate establishment pay! Now is the time! This election is a wake up clarion call for a new politics to be more engaged, more insurgent and more adamant about demanding opportunity and attacking inequality. In all the states where a mandated increase in the minimum wage was on the ballot, such measures passed overwhelmingly. In right-to-work Virginia, a statewide referendum that called for outlawing mandatory union membership was crushed.

The lessons of the Great Recession are still very much on the mind of an electorate that is not about to forget how global financial elites became so obsessed with usurious accumulation of wealth at the expense of average people that they did not flinch as their financial unraveling wiped out jobs and the security of virtually the entire middle class.

Washington was found to be “broken” because, while the Republicans in Congress determined to block every initiative coming from President Obama, the Democrats were seen as going soft against Wall Street and looking the other way as their organic constituencies, the middle class, minorities and other marginalized people, continued to struggle.

Trump will be facing a cornucopia of woes associated with his shady personal investments and allegations of child sexual abuse. Last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” skit featuring Alec Baldwin as Trump summed up the massive irregularities in the Trump campaign, showing him kissing, in successive order, an FBI agent, Russia’s Putin and a sheeted member of the KKK. The CNN news character dismissed them all as unimportant in favor of further grilling the Clinton character about emails.

While the role of the FBI Director James Comey, Putin and the KKK and other “alternative right” racist cults in the Trump campaign will not be forgotten, it was the media’s biased role, as depicted in the skit, that was the most outrageous.

As the Nation’s Katrina Vanden Heuvel wrote yesterday in the Washington Post in “A Media Malpractice Post-Mortem,” “Despite Trump’s pathological dishonesty, racial demagoguery and brazen disdain for the First Amendment, much of the media has portrayed him as a ‘normal candidate’ for the presidency.”

“We need more watchdogs rather than lapdogs to challenge powerful interests across the political spectrum,” she wrote.

That’s a fix that should also be an immediate priority.