U.S. political civil war continues unabated
Barack Obama said of the U.S. midterm elections that “the character of our country is on the ballot,” and the outcome proved him right. The United States is a psychological basket case, more deeply and angrily divided than at any time since the Vietnam War.
It’s not evenly divided, of course. The popular vote saw the Democrats lead the Republicans nationwide by an eight per cent margin, but that translated into only a modest gain in seats in the House of Representatives and in state elections because of the extensive gerrymandering of electoral districts in Republicanruled states.
The more important truth is that the Republican Party is almost entirely in the hands of white nationalists, and totally controlled by Donald Trump. It’s no longer conservative. It’s radical right, with an anti-immigrant, racist agenda and an authoritarian style and about 90 per cent of the Republicans in Congress are white males.
The Democratic Party is multicultural, feminist (84 of the 100 women elected to the new House of Representatives are Democrats), and even socialist. Only one-third of Democrats in the new Congress will be white men and almost half the Democrats in the House of Representatives can be classed as Democratic Socialists.
Donald Trump will get little further legislation through Congress, and a Democratic-controlled House will be able to subpoena his tax returns and investigate his ties to Russia, but he didn’t lose spectacularly on Tuesday. Indeed, he proclaimed that it was “a great victory.”
The Republicans’ losses were within the normal range for a governing party in mid-term elections, so the political civil war continues unabated.
The divisions will deepen because neither major American party understands what is making Americans so angry. Donald Trump knows it is fundamentally about jobs, but he is barking up the wrong tree when he blames “off-shoring” and free trade and promises to make the foreigners give the jobs back.
Many Democrats suspect what the real problem is, but won’t discuss it because they have no idea how to deal with it. What is really destroying American jobs is automation.
It’s destroying jobs in other countries too, with similar political consequences. The Leave side won the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom because of support in the post-industrial wastelands of England. The neo-fascist candidate in the last French presidential election, Marine Le Pen, got onethird of the vote because of her popularity in the French equivalent of the U.S. Rust Belt.
But the process is farthest advanced in the United States, which has lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs — 8 million jobs — in the past 25 years. Only 2 million of those jobs were lost because factories moved to Mexico or China, and that happened mostly in the 1990s. The rest were abolished by automation.
The Rust Belt went first, because assembly-line manufacturing is the easiest thing to automate. The retail jobs are going now, because of Amazon and its ilk. The next big chunk to disappear will be the
4.5 million driving jobs in the United States, lost to self-driving vehicles. The official U.S unemployment rate of 3.7 per cent is a fantasy. The proportion of American males of prime working age (25-54) who are not working, according to Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute, is 17.5 per cent.
Until the major parties can acknowledge it is computers that are killing the jobs (and that it probably can’t be stopped), the anger will continue to grow. You can’t begin to fix the problem until you understand it.