By Arthur Z. Schwartz
I will not bore you with another piece about how awful Donald Trump is or is going to be. You can read that every day in the New York Times and watch it on CNN. Last January, I said that he was spawning a neo-fascist movement, and I still believe he has that potential. But I do not think that he will take on the Republican-leaning corporate elite in the truly demagogic way that a pure fascist would. Trump still thinks about those rich folks he wants in his hotels and golf club.
I want to discuss why Trump won, and what we, as one of the key progressive communities in the United States, need to take away. We are a community whose voters gave Zephyr Teachout 68% of the vote against Governor Cuomo in 2014, and gave Bill de Blasio 55% of the vote in 2013 against our sitting City Council member, Christine Quinn. But in April 2016, our district voted almost 2 to 1 for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. And over 60% of eligible primary voters voted. We, as a community, believed the best about Hillary and were drawn by the prospect of electing a female President.
As everyone who reads WestView knows, I was for Bernie, and even attended the Democratic Convention as a delegate pledged to him. I was for Bernie because I saw Hillary Clinton as the candidate of a core elite group, which had consumed the Democratic Party since the election of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton talked the “progressive” talk, particularly about race issues, but their walk was much different.
The Clinton years were marked by “welfare reform,” a $50 billion crime bill which resulted in the mass incarceration of black Americans; the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which allowed U.S. Corporations to take manufacturing jobs to Mexico (and destroyed the U.S. garment industry); and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), which lifted the Glass-Steagall Act’s restrictions on bank affiliations with brokerage firms. Those years were also marked by one of the crassest acts of sexual harassment in U.S. history. Power centers were built around the Clintons and their brand of “progressive” yet heavy-handed politics.
Many leaders in that orbit have been very “liberal” about social issues, like abortion rights and gay rights (although many were late to the gay marriage cause), but had strong ties to U.S. corporate interests. Bernie nailed it when he hammered away at Hillary’s $750,000 in speeches to Goldman Sachs et al., and the fact that she and Bill went from being “nearly broke” in 2001, to amassing more than $100 million today. Even Barack Obama, who I still revere, was deep in that camp. He built a complex national health insurance plan wholly around private insurance companies and their profit motive, and packed his economic team with Wall Street insiders.
We see the effects of a Democratic Party run by Clinton-type elites emerge even locally. Brad Hoylman has an image of being the nicest, most progressive person. But, he erased from his official biography that he served for 10 years or more as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Partnership for New York, the principal big business lobby in New York; the Partnership is linked to Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Rudin, Silverstein, etc. In fact, Hoylman held that position while acting as Vice Chair and Chair of Community Board 2, while it was “fighting” the Rudin development at the St. Vincent’s Hospital site. Word is that his old Partnership friends are quietly lining up contributors for a 2018 run for Attorney General, should Eric Schneiderman challenge Andrew Cuomo. Of course Cuomo, while not a product of the business world, enjoys massive contributions from corporate New York, which we know has shaped his perspective on tax policy and corrupted even his closest political aides.
My point? We need to clean up the Democratic Party from top to bottom. Not only were voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin not fooled by Clinton’s veneer of “progressivism,” NYS voters outside of NYC weren’t buying it either. Trump won big north of Westchester, and in Nassau and Suffolk counties. If we don’t want more Trumpism, the Democratic Party must become a party not just of liberals tied to corporate America, who try to win by being champions of “civil rights” but who really have no program for addressing inequities in America.
How do we get there? I have joined with hundreds of other activists around New York to tackle reform. The NY Progressive Action Network (NYPAN) will be having a statewide meeting on December 4th, in Greenwich Village (Lithographers Union, at 113 University Place) from 10am to 4pm. Join us, or follow us on Facebook.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village.