June 17, 2024

fall and rise of the middle class

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 25 November 2020
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The fall and rise of the middle class
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – A strong middle class provides the cornerstone of American democracy, but it was hit hard by the Great Recession of 2008-09 when so many working Americans lost their jobs and their homes. These disaffected workers, most without college degrees elected Donald Trump in 2016, believing this faux-billionaire’s false promises. (Note: we normally would provide specifics rather than a generalization, but the thousands of lies are already well documented) When he failed to deliver, sufficient members of this key demographic group abandoned him in the 2020 election.
          A presidency built on lies collapsed under the weight of those lies and went into prevaricating overdrive after he lost. It’s a lie to say that he lost because the election was stolen from him. But a sizeable portion of the 73 million people who voted for Trump will believe it’s the truth because he says so. When lies like this take hold, they undermine our democracy – and they line the pockets of those who perpetuate the lies. Lying for money has become a highly profitable industry.
          The talk show pundits holding forth on Fox News and other proliferating right-wing outlets are getting rich spreading propaganda. Attorney Sidney Powell, best known for defending Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, apparently went too far when she said Trump’s election loss was engineered by a variety of sources including two Venezuelan presidents, one dead and one alive, and the long-dead Chicago Mayor Daley, among many others.
          This was too much for Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson, who, finally bailed on the conspiracy launched by Rudy Giuliani and Powell. Carlson’s reward? Venom spewed from the Right. Retracting that which he once peddled didn’t earn him praise from his fan base.
          Trump is defeated but that doesn’t mean his propaganda and the lies that propelled him are going anywhere. The question before us now:  What does President Biden do about it once he is sworn in next year? He will undoubtedly draw on his experience in 2008 and 2009, when he was put in charge as vice president of pushing through at the time the largest stimulus package of any administration to stanch the hemorrhage of jobs stemming from the housing collapse and near-collapse of the global markets.
          Now he will be the president taking office at a time of at least three major crises – a health pandemic, a reckoning of social justice, and an economic downturn.  Through it all, he must be mindful of the fact that he is succeeding a president who won because he successfully exploited the grievances of a middle class that felt disrespected and disregarded by both political parties for too long.
          Biden didn’t run on the Green New Deal advocated by the progressive wing of his party, but he ran on a more progressive platform than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton on climate change, and he has nominated for the first time ever a special envoy for climate, former Senator and presidential candidate, John Kerry.
          Biden sees opportunity in acknowledging the existential threat of climate change. He sees jobs, good-paying middle-class jobs in the industries that are springing up to provide sustainable energy. In Texas, home to the oil and gas industry, more people are now employed in sustainable energy and its offshoots, and that trend will only accelerate.
          Trump told blue-collar workers who lost their jobs to industrialization and foreign competition that it was the fault of Democrats, free trade, and socialism, a loaded word Republicans weaponized in the 2020 election.
          If Biden can deliver on the jobs Trump promised but failed to deliver, a more unified America is possible.
          If a Democrat can deliver jobs by acknowledging reality and listening to scientists, the most feared aspects of climate change can be avoided, and a key demographic prized by the right and the left – middle-class workers – might once again find a political home worthy of their vote.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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