A narrative that has been emerging from the white, blue-collar demographic who supposedly voted Donald Trump into office is that globalism has destroyed their way of life. And for many of the poorest communities in the US, it has, primarily because the industrial manufacturing base that made this country thrive in the 1950s up through the late 80s has been devastated. The United States has shifted from a country that manufactures materials to a country that manufactures information. There is no way in hell a US company will pay the union wages to build an iPhone here in the US, when it can do so in Asia for a fraction of the cost. Donald Trump, despite all his hyperbolic campaign rhetoric, cannot perform a miracle and bring that manufacturing base back to the US, especially not if he deports all the illegals, the cheapest form of labor here (since they get paid far under minimum wage, but still get paid gobs more than sweat-shop workers in Asia.) In short, globalization won’t stop because some real-estate tycoon of questionable business skills wills it so.
When Donald Trump waves his magic wand, all jobs shipped overseas will return
With increased globalization comes increased multiculturalism, and with a more interconnected world, there will be more connected people. This is a no-brainer. Provincial, isolated communities (local as well as national) are now confronting, sometimes against their will, other groups/cultures/ideas of which they historically have had no contact. And why is it that the coastal cities, the ones where these supposed “Coastal Elites” dwell, have the most open policies and feelings toward multiculturalism? It’s because these cities have been multicultural for a long time.
Strong anecdotal evidence we needn’t all be assholes to one another
Let me take you on a brief tour of my local grocery, called Valentino’s, in Ridgewood, Queens, New York. (Queens County, for the record, is the most diverse county in the United States.) An Orthodox Jew shops next to a Muslim woman in full burka, next to a Serbian woman buying fruit, next to a Polish man at the deli counter, while the two checkout clerks speak Spanish to each other. There are white, black, brown and other folks all shopping, all minding each other’s business. (The 1980s Benetton commercials have nothing on this place.) Besides a few people getting angry when someone cuts the lines (and oh, boy, are there lines), I’ve never heard someone speak a racist slur here. People just want to get their fresh produce and go home. And here’s why: no one really cares about anyone else as long as they have their own needs met.
Many groups: white, black, gay, straight, women, men, etc., etc. are not having their needs met. And so we have: Trump, the supposed “stir shit up” candidate who promises to meet the needs of those groups angry enough to get him elected. It doesn’t matter that he won’t meet any of their needs; what matters is that the angry folks express their rage. Trump’s win is their catharsis. (The Left has been pissed too, but apparently not pissed enough to win the electoral college.)
The Right has been pissed for a long, long time, and the Left really had no idea how deep that rage went. You can thank Facebook’s filtering algorithm, MSNBC, and generational narcissism for keeping the Left blind to that sentiment.
The political movements on the Left: rights for LGBTQ people, Black Lives Matter, a woman’s right to choose, quality healthcare for all, have been framed by the Right as taking away their liberties. The Right has said to their constituents, “These crazy Lefties are stealing your fresh produce and leaving you with little or none for your families.” And those hearing these messages look up from their TVs and smartphones (all manufactured in Asia for slave wages) and see their shattered communities, ravaged by globalization, of jobs shipped overseas, never to return, of a collapse of the once-indomitable manufacturing base, they see terrorism and a world in a blitzkrieg of technological transition, they see a black president upon whom they project their most profound fears and hatreds, and they say, “Yes! Those Lefties with their neoliberalism and their policies of openness are destroying my world! There is no fresh produce left for me and my family, and it’s the Lefties fault!”
The Right has pulled off the greatest trick since Keyser Söze: they’ve convinced people the negative effects of globalism are the Left’s fault.
“It’s the Left’s fault!”
The Right has shifted all the blame onto the Left’s movements: Black Lives Matter has been reframed as an attack on law and civil society (which is why the Right’s response is either “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.”) Rights for LGBTQ people have been reframed as an attack on marriage and traditional families (which have been collapsing long before gays got the right to marry, and trans people could use any bathroom they choose). Obamacare has been reframed as government interference into people’s lives. (Remember the “death panels” ?) The Right has shifted the blame away from the real cause of people’s suffering: namely that 50% of world’s wealth is concentrated in the top 1% of people, who are the ones making the decisions that benefit a tiny few and not the other 99%. But any attempt to discuss a fairer income distribution and taxing the super-rich is immediately shot down as “socialism” and evil. “You worked hard for your money, so don’t let the government take it away!” Never mind that those at the very top often do very little work at all.
Here’s the thing: none of the Left’s movements (Black Lives Matter, rights for LGBTQ people, healthcare, women’s rights, etc.) will actually harm people, but will do much to improve the quality of people’s lives. Happy, healthy people with their needs met will create communities with reduced crime, with stronger familial and community values, and better economies. It’s the Left’s job, therefore, to deconstruct the Right’s argument and redirect the blame for the devastation of the US’s industrial manufacturing base onto its real causes: the shift in the US from the manufacture of material to information; cheap labor in Asia and elsewhere; unavailability of a fair minimum wage; failure of job retraining programs, and a dozen other things having nothing to do with the Left’s progressive agenda. The Left must shift the blame away from multiculturalism, which is an effect and not a cause of globalization. It must show that diverse communities make stronger communities. The Left must realize that, along with its most popular and valid political movements, it must address the collapse of the US manufacturing base and all of the people that left behind from that. It must address the massive wealth inequality and how that hurt the poorest communities the most. And most of all, it must do this while still championing its progressive causes. The two are not mutually exclusive.
The Left must reframe the argument as: When marginalized, underprivileged, economically downtrodden groups improve their stations, everyone, not just those specific communities benefit. A rising tide lifts all boats. We’re all in this together.
Which boat do you most identify with?