Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Blame Game

Now that it seems quite possible that Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for President and both Republicans and Democrats are panicking, the question is: who is to blame for this disaster? There are different answers. Some people blame the media. Some people blame the Republican Party for not taking Trump seriously when he first started campaigning. Others blame the people who support Trump.

The question is important. Some of us are old enough to remember when, in 1933-- the Germans voted Adolf Hitler to be Chancellor --the German equivalent of president in the system they had then. No one is saying that Donald Trump is going to commit genocide. But it is hard to overlook his tendency to be racist and sexist, to be quite supportive of violence, and to be utterly irrational. What will happen to us, should Trump become President of the United States?

The first thing we need to notice is that the people playing the blame game begin with the implicit premise that they have nothing to do with this, they are blameless. But it is useless to ask what caused this disaster if we are not willing to consider that everyone has some part in a move towards something that looks a lot like fascism. The question in what way we are responsible is  only useful  if we are looking to prevent similar failures in the future. But we cannot prevent future failures if we are unwilling to  say  honestly: We did this. We did it in this way. We need to do this and that and something else to avoid a future repetition.

What does it take to produce millions and millions passionate supporters for Donald Trump? One thing it requires are people who are ignorant, who don't see an ignoramus when he's talking to them, and who, worse, don't care whether Trump knows what he's talking about. To support Trump you need to be really uneducated. One source of this terrible event is the massive failure of our educational system. We have not been willing to pay for good schools. We have not been willing to pay our teachers decent salaries.

Eight years ago we had a president who was not as nasty as Donald Trump but he was not very smart and equally ignorant and nobody seemed to mind that. His first election might not have been quite on the up and up, but we saw him in action and he got re-elected even though there was no question of his limited education and intelligence. That too was a clear failure of the American educational system.

Lesson number one: if you want reasonably intelligent presidents in the leadership you need to see to it that all voters get a decent education. We don't do that.

But that's only part of the problem. American society is clearly divided into classes. There are families with money. They can send their children to good schools and good universities to become skilled professionals. They tend to run the government. And then there are a lot of people who are poorly educated, who used to have good manufacturing jobs and now have low skill  service jobs that don't pay a lot of money, that are not very steady. Since the early 1970s --almost 50 years ago --wages for this segment of our people have not risen substantially. For them, work has not always been easy to find. It has not been satisfying. It has continued to pay very little.

The upper class, the well educated professionals, who have political power have not been interested in this working-class. They have not cared that their wages have not gone up while pay on Wall Street has gone through the roof. They have not cared that people who used to have skilled and honorable manufacturing jobs now have service jobs which are not interesting, which it is difficult to be proud of.  They have callously ignored this working-class.

Four years ago when Mitt Romney was running against Barack Obama, he told his rich friends that 47% of the American population did not work , that they were on the dole. 47%, Mitt Romney said in so many words, were not people one needed to have respect for. They were not people who took responsibility. One would not consider inviting them to join one's club.

In this unfortunate comment, Romney put into words what all working-class people in the US know perfectly well, that we do live in a class society that the upper class runs the country for its own benefit and could care less for the well-being of working people.

When you bring this up, Republicans will start talking about "encouraging class warfare." They don't want you to talk about class distinctions. They will deny their existence. But they also deny that they have any responsibility for their fellow citizens who are all working men and women. They deny that they owe any respect to the men and women who do much of the work in this country.
Well now they get what they deserve. These ignored, abused working people have now found a voice and it is Donald Trump's. The patrician Republicans, like Mitt Romney, are appalled by vulgarians like Trump but that's what you get when you don't educate people and simply ignore or denigrate them. They will get their revenge in some way and they are getting it.

Lesson number two. An upper class that denies that there are people they exploit and despise will sooner or later have to confront a rebellion of the maligned lower-class.

These are some of the reasons why Donald Trump is flying high. Every one of us is to blame because it is a failure of the American Society, a major failure. It will not do to say: it is not my fault, it is the fault of those other persons or institutions.

We will have many Trumps, perhaps worse ones than the Donald, unless we build schools that educate children and not just warehouse them, unless we are honest about the class distinctions in our society and learn to respect everyone not only the super-rich and upperclass Mitt Romney’s of this country.