THE ruckus that ensued in Donald Trump's rallies in Fayetteville NC and Chicago reflect a painful truth. Americans are pissed. As per a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, voter discontent has reached a fever pitch: 72 percent say their elected officials can’t be trusted, and two-thirds believe the nation’s political system is dysfunctional. Some 21 percent of people want the eventual president-elect to employ drastic makeover of government structures and start over from scratch. Such utter disillusionment mutates into two polar extremes that howl, “We need complete redress of the system!” which makes Republican frontrunner Mr Trump's “Bring back America to Americans!” battlecry and Democrat Bernie Sanders' “Power to the people!” chant seem very alluring and palpable—at least to the heart that bleeds.
Trump's politics could be a bit blurry at times, uncontrollably assymmetrical mostly. He claims to run on a platform of populism, nativism, protectionism and authoritarianism—with strong opposition to immigration, free trade and military interventionism. Meantime, many detractors find his fiery espousals as white supremacist/racist and misogynistic—sending shivers of a Hitlerian blueprint. Remember, the Fuhrer gained popular support in 1924 by attacking the Treaty of Versailles and promoting Pan-Germanism, anti-Semitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory. He denounced international capitalism and communism as being part of a Jewish conspiracy. Hitler aimed to eliminate Jews from Germany and establish a New Order to counter what he saw as the injustice of the post-World War I international order dominated by Britain and France. The kicker was his first six years in power resulted in rapid economic recovery from the Great Depression. Germany back to the Germans. Trump's glib albeit straight-through rhetoric infers that the ills of current America is ushered by an immigrant community in connivance with giant corporations. And when we talk about the American who lost a factory job to overseas outsourcing and then sees Chinese products flooding retail shelves then comes home to an injured soldier kin languishing in alcohol, what do we see? Then Trump promises, “I will give your life back.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, Sanders offers democratic socialism as the answer. What does he really mean? Textbook-wise, Democratic Socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production. Democratic socialist countries vary in their espousals of socialist economic models. Some democratic socialists advocate forms of market socialism where socially-owned enterprises operate in competitive markets, and in some cases, are self-managed by their workforce. On the other hand, other democratic socialists advocate for a non-market participatory economy based on decentralized economic planning. Sanders imbues a number of thoughts—all on the line of democratic socialism that somehow saw some sort of success somewhere beyond America.
There was Pakistan's Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's economic programme which was based on the nationalization of industries, expansion of the Welfare State by introducing minimum wage and old age benefits. Sweden's Olof Palme was steadfast in his non-alignment policy towards the superpowers, accompanied by support for numerous third world liberation movements. And what about Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew who holds profound effect on the Communist leadership in China, especially under Deng Xiaoping. Check out China these days. There is also the example of Kerala in India, a fountainhead in democratic socialist welfare economy—broken down into liberalisation of the mixed economy, allowing restrictions against capitalism and lightening up of foreign direct investment, leading to economic expansion and an increase in employment. Kerala was a very successful model.
Wait. What about looking back at Franklin D. Roosevelt? He was a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic depression and total war. His program for relief, recovery and reform, known as the New Deal, involved a great expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy. As a dominant leader of the Democratic Party, he built the New Deal Coalition (after a series of Executive Orders) that brought together and united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners in support of the party. The Coalition significantly realigned American politics after 1932, thus defining American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. But this is not the 30s or 40s. There is a huge tilt in global order. China is not sleeping anymore, in fact it is wide awake. Cold War is gone decades ago and Russia is the number 1 producer of oil globally, and then there goes the resurgence of India, Brazil and Southeast Asia. These people aren't really leaving their families behind to work in the West, they got jobs now back home. Globalization was ideal but globalization stole American jobs, too. It only worked for the One Percent—and the One Percent is now multiracial.
These are important variables that a US president is looking into. Meantime, election is about winning. Those who can effectively rally the people to come out and march with them get the vote. Americans seem not very intent to dig in and pore more about campaign platforms, they simply want change. White America. Socialist America. Who knows what works later. Americans are pissed alright—but they should not be pissed all the time. Take time to calm down and figure things out...