And yet. Today, we have a significant faction of people that believe today’s extremist tide has nothing at all to do with economics — not with the greatest financial crisis in modern history, not the stagnation of wages, not the implosion of the middle class. That it is “just racism”.
You are partly right. But, really, there is no extremist tide. The right wing is and always has been energized by racism. This isn’t something new. In fact, tapping into racism has been the core strategy of the Republican Party ever since the Southern strategy emerged over half a century ago. It works because there are so many racists and there are so many people susceptible to racist propaganda.
The failure of the liberal elite to motivate the left and provide a counter to right wing extremism lies entirely within the liberal elite itself. It isn’t about extremism or anything else — it is that the liberal elite have been pandering to the progressive left with words, while at the same time selling out to the same corporations the right wing has been servicing for time immemorial. The failure of the liberal elite is that it is a neoliberal elite.
Here are some hard facts. The population of the United States right now in 2016 is approximately 325 million. The population in 2012 was about 315 million, and the population in 2008 was about 304 million. In other words, the population of the United States has grown by about 20 million people over the course of the Obama administration. What’s more, the majority of that growth has been people of color. The white majority of the United States is being diminished, slowly but surely, and will disappear within the foreseeable future.
Yet, despite these population gains, and despite these gains being tilted toward people of color, Hillary Clinton failed to capture as many votes as Obama did in 2012. She failed to capture as many votes as Obama did in 2008 by about 5 million votes. Obama got 69.5 million in 2008 and Clinton got 65.5 million in 2016. Why did Clinton get so many fewer votes than Obama did eight years ago, when the population was smaller and the demographics were less favorable for a Democrat?
The reason is the real climate denial equivalency that has infected the left, which is the liberal elite’s belief that neoliberalism works. Neoliberalism doesn’t work. You may be able to placate the ignorant racist masses with racist words and enact pro-bank, pro-war, pro-corporatist, anti-worker policies that hurt them, but you can’t do that to the left. People on the left know they are being scammed. They know they are being cheated. They know they have been sold out. They know you say one thing and do another, and they are going to hold you accountable. They are not as easily misled as people whose entire motivation for voting can be encapsulated in the ignorance of racism. They understand when they are being presented with a “neoliberal disaster.”
If you can appeal to a group through racist rhetoric and consistently and assuredly win their vote, then of course they are ignorant, because racism is the product of ignorance. If you try to use the same type of disingenuous rhetoric on less ignorant people who are not moved by racism, then of course it will fail, because they are, by definition, more aware and more informed. This is where neoliberalism fails; it tries to port the same campaign and governing tactics to the left that work for the right, but it doesn’t work that way because people on the left and people on the right are different and vote for different reasons. You can easily scam a low-information racist voter by making racist promises and then delivering the economic gains to the white supremacist corporate elite, but it is harder to scam a higher information voter by making anti-racist promises and then delivering the economic gains to the same white supremacist corporate elite.
See what I’m saying?