Hillary Clinton did a lot of things right in this election. She won all three debates. She managed a well-funded, well-oiled campaign machine. Her advertisements were brilliant. Her events were well-conceived. Her volunteers were committed and hardworking. She won the popular vote.
Were it not for Director Comey and Russian intervention, she would be the President elect. But one aspect of the campaign was misdirected. The emphasis of her campaign was not why the Republicans are wrong, but that Donald Trump is an incompetent moral monster. That emphasis may have been the best message to get her elected, but for many years now the Republican theme of laissez faire, small government, and lower taxes has not been subjected to the full throated critical scrutiny it deserves.
Many are saying that the failure of the campaign was the failure to address the white unemployed in the Rust Belt. Although it was a constructive message, certainly the diversity theme of the campaign did not appeal to the needs of these voters. Moreover, the Bill Clinton administration (in which Hillary Clinton played a larger role than is ordinarily appreciated) failed these workers. Its solution was to press for retraining for these workers whether or not jobs existed. That is the same Clinton administration that changed welfare as we know it by throwing citizens off welfare on the premise that they should get jobs whether or not those jobs existed.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (not to mention Donald Trump) have each proposed the rebuilding of infrastructure, but the Republicans during Democratic Administrations have been reluctant to depart from their low tax, anti-government, lets-make-sure-nothing-gets-done philosophy to do what obviously needs to be done.
In my view, the issue confronting the Democrats is not best characterized as a problem of the unemployed white worker. The problem is not best characterized in terms of infrastructure. The problem is that workers of all races, religions, and ethnic groups have been left behind by the economy that Republicans worship. The Democrats need to return to the message of Hubert Humphrey: the Federal Government should be the employer of last resort. It should guarantee a job for every American. Those jobs and all others should be well paid, healthy, and safe. The market that Republicans worship will not assure that. The Republicans call regulations protecting workers to be burdensome. The Democrats should call them health and safety rights and guarantees.
Donald Trump has won over millions of workers with lies. He cannot rebuild our infrastructure, lower taxes, and lower the deficit at the same time. The workers will come to realize this. The Democrats were supported by workers before they sold out to hedge funds and technocrats while pretending to be smart about the global economy. It is time to offer a real solution for the workers left behind. It is time to attack the vision of an unregulated economy that the Republicans have been selling. And, if a better future is ultimately to emerge from our current nightmare, that time is now.