Early in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Donald Trump was the subject of much mockery. No way this buffoon could win said the pundits.
Michael Moore, left-wing rabble-rouser and and film-maker, disagreed. To put it in his words, “This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president.”
He was right, of course. And he didn’t just say Trump would win, he explained why he would win. He would win because Middle America, which is made up largely of farmers and blue-collar workers, was fed up with economic suffering.
In his documentary Trumpland, he expanded in typical Moore fashion, “And it’s why every beaten-down, nameless, forgotten working stiff who used to be part of what was called ‘the middle class’ loves Trump. He is the human hand grenade that they can legally throw into the system that stole their lives from them. … [His] election is going to be the biggest ‘F**k you’ ever recorded in human history. And it will feel good.”
And no doubt it felt very good indeed for Trump’s rabid supporters, but it didn’t feel so good for the Democrats. Not good at all for Hillary Clinton.
And yet to some degree she deserved it. She was gold on classic liberal issues—race, women and the environment—but as for the voters, she seemed more interested in Wall Street and celebrities than Middle America with its “deplorables.” And yet these people should be a natural constituency for the Democrats, the party of FDR, the party of working men and women. But they handed them over to Trump and he seized the day.
Now Biden seems determined to win them back. He succeeded to some extent in the 2022 midterms but that success was due largely to the country awakening to the danger Trump and his acolytes present to democracy.
His State of the Union address last Tuesday made it clear that his Democratic Party has recognized its sins and intends to serve the working class. He referred to those who “have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible,” and emphasized the importance of meaningful work: “My dad used to say, Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck, It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect.” His words implied that he sees the need for Middle Americans to have dignity, to be respected.
He talked about good-paying manufacturing jobs moving overseas while factories closed and
once-thriving cities and towns becoming shadows of what they had been. And he went on to talk about the transformative steps his government has taken to create good jobs and restore the pride that has been lost.
He referred to his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the largest investment in infrastructure since Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System; the CHIPS and Science Act to protect the country’s supply chain and provide investment in manufacturing; and the Inflation Reduction Act which will provide investment in renewable infrastructure while reducing greenhouse gasses. All the above will create millions of good-paying union jobs. As Mike Knisley of the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council put it, “I think it’s a renaissance for the labor movement.”
The icing on the cake is his proposed Protecting the Right to Organize Act currently working its way through the Senate. According to the AFL-CIO, this is “the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression.” As a special flourish Biden mentioned one of his guests—a unionized iron worker.
His speech sent a strong message that the Democrats are back. They, not Donald Trump, are now the blue-collar workers’ true champion. Shades of FDR.
The Republicans are left with the culture wars which, one must admit, they are very good at. Will white working-class voters opt for resentment and racism or will they opt for Biden’s “blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.” All will be revealed in 2024.