Happy days are here again, sta­tis­ti­cally

Texarkana Gazette - - OPINION - Martin Schram TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

NEWSBREAK: Happy days are here again, sta­tis­ti­cally.

Mid­dle class in­comes soared to the high­est level ever dur­ing Barack Obama’s pres­i­dency— up 3.2 per­cent to $59,039 in 2016, the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau re­ported Tues­day. Also: The of­fi­cial poverty rate dropped to 12.7 per­cent—just about where it was in 2007, be­fore the Great Re­ces­sion dev­as­tated the econ­omy in the last years of Ge­orge W. Bush’s ten­ure. And: The per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans with­out health in­sur­ance con­tin­ued to drop dur­ing Obama’s last year in of­fice—to the low­est level ever.

Step back a bit and look at the big pic­ture. Start with the Cen­sus Bureau’s of­fi­cial 2016 paint-by-the-num­bers por­trait of Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape. Now step back just a bit far­ther and, with that big pic­ture in mind, re­call Bill Clin­ton strate­gist Jim Carville’s ver­ity—“It’s the econ­omy, stupid!”

Well, if all of that is cor­rect, then here’s the in­escapable big-pic­ture truth: Repub­li­can stan­dard-bearer Don­ald Trump couldn’t pos­si­bly have been elected Amer­ica’s 45th pres­i­dent. No way.

Now this: In one of those amus­ing twists, the Cen­sus Bureau’s big news broke in the same week Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pub­lish­ers re­leased her new book, ti­tled, “What Hap­pened.”

Turns out, the fed­eral fig­ures and Clin­ton cam­paign saga are part of the same story.

n The Clin­to­nian What Hap­pened: While the de­feated Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee of course ac­cepts re­spon­si­bil­ity for her short­com­ings and mis­takes, she mainly wants to make sure you haven’t made the mis­take of for­get­ting about the dev­as­tat­ingly hurt­ful con­tri­bu­tions of James Comey and Vladimir Putin.

The then-FBI di­rec­tor blun­dered into com­mit­ting the big­gest Oc­to­ber sur­prise in pres­i­den­tial his­tory. Comey mind-bog­glingly an­nounced that, based on what he called new ev­i­dence, he was re­open­ing his closed in­ves­ti­ga­tion of her use of a pri­vate email server for of­fi­cial emails—shat­ter­ing her home­stretch cam­paign progress. Soon af­ter, he an­nounced it turned out to be no big deal—case closed, but dam­age done.

Rus­sia’s pres­i­dent or­dered a sus­tained covert ef­fort to un­der­mine Amer­ica’s democracy and se­cretly worked to de­feat Clin­ton by steal­ing and leak­ing her emails, ac­cord­ing to U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

n The Cen­sus Bu­reau­cracy’s What Hap­pened: Fo­cus­ing on eco­nom­ics (and never pol­i­tics!), the bureau dis­cov­ered that in the Obama years, the eco­nomic re­cov­ery from the throes of the Great Re­ces­sion ap­par­ently was more suc­cess­ful than or­di­nary peo­ple, or­di­nary jour­nal­ists and (by their own mea­sure) ex­tra­or­di­nary pol­icy ex­perts had gen­er­ally as­sumed.

The in­creases in me­dian in­come were found in all de­mo­graphic groups.

The na­tion’s un­em­ploy­ment rate in Au­gust was 4.4 per­cent, which was about where it had been be­fore the re­ces­sion be­gan.

And Obama’s legacy Af­ford­able Care Act (short­handed as Oba­macare), while be­ing vil­i­fied by Repub­li­cans for most of the Obama years, proved to be an ab­so­lute suc­cess when it came to achiev­ing record lows in the num­ber of Amer­i­cans who have no health in­sur­ance (and thus freeload off of Amer­ica’s tax­pay­ers by get­ting their health care in the most ex­pen­sive way, by show­ing up at hos­pi­tal emer­gency rooms).

n So Here’s What Re­ally Hap­pened: While Clin­ton is cor­rect in not­ing the dam­age done to her cam­paign by Comey’s blun­der­buss naivete and Putin’s covert at­tacks on Amer­ica’s democracy, the fact is that huge num­bers of vot­ers had very neg­a­tive views of Clin­ton, the Obama years and what Democrats would do for mid­dle class Amer­i­cans be­fore Comey and Putin ever did their deeds. Trump was draw­ing huge crowds in 2015, shortly af­ter en­ter­ing the race—and many in his crowd were the sort of folks who, in decades past, would have been rock-solid, blue col­lar, card-car­ry­ing union mem­ber Democrats.

In July 2015, I wrote a col­umn not­ing that Trump’s crowds re­minded me of the folks I first ob­served as a po­lit­i­cal cub re­porter in 1968, when Alabama’s Gov. Ge­orge Wal­lace, run­ning as a third party in­de­pen­dent, be­gan cam­paign­ing in North­ern rust belt cities.

Peo­ple who had fa­vored the lib­eral, in­te­gra­tionist Robert F. Kennedy (un­til he was as­sas­si­nated in June) were turn­ing out for the con­ser­va­tive seg­re­ga­tion­ist Wal­lace. Why? Be­cause, they said, these were the only two who talked like they had guts, telling it like it is, talk­ing to or­di­nary folks just like they were.

I ended by warn­ing that those who were treat­ing Trump as just a po­lit­i­cal punch-line might dis­cover on Elec­tion Night 2016 that “Amer­ica’s fed-up, mad-as-hell vot­ers just chose your next pres­i­dent.”

What hap­pened in 2016 was a colos­sal fail­ure of Demo­cratic mes­sage pol­i­tics.

Clin­ton, on the stump each day, and Obama in his last years as pres­i­dent, failed to talk com­mon sense to the folks who saw them­selves as Amer­ica’s for­got­ten mid­dle class.

They were, in the end, the Democrats’ for­got­ten foun­da­tion.

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