Super Tuesday: GOP pushes powerlessness; Democrats promote empowerment

Yesterday, on “super Tuesday,” the contrast between the Democrats and the Republicans running for the presidential nomination was stark: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both stood for empowering the American people. The Republican candidates promoted powerlessness.

Both political parties held primaries and caucuses in 15 states and American Samoa to elect delegates to their national conventions, both to be held this coming July. Clinton and Trump were the big winners, but no candidate in either party won anywhere nearly enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

Clinton now has a total of 855 delegates to Sanders’ 269, including “super delegates” appointed by the Democratic Party itself. It will take 2,382 delegates to win.

Among Republican frontrunners, Donald Trump now has a total of around 298 delegates; Ted Cruz has 193 and Rubio 97. You need 1,237 delegates to become the Republican nominee.

All polls show that either Sanders or Clinton could beat Trump or Cruz in a general election and that Sanders could beat those two and also Rubio who polls slightly ahead of Clinton.

Ominously, however, Trump’s popularity is growing.

Some white working class Democrats and independents, many of whom voted for Obama in the last two elections, are becoming Trump fans. The reason has been confirmed by poll after poll and by a field report issued by Working America, a unit of the AFL-CIO that has programs for nonunion workers.

Trump is appealing to the millions of people who are economically worse off than ever before. They feel angry, frustrated and betrayed. They know our government is broken and that our political processes do not work for them. They feel utterly powerless and do not even consider the possibility that through joining with others they can improve conditions through collective action.

“Magical thinking”

Working America reports: “The frustration with politics is pervasive. White working-class voters often feel powerless to change a government that they do not see as respecting their concerns or serving their needs. They want things to be different but despair that they ever will be.”

Many of these voters see in Trump a person who “speaks his mind” and is heard. Many evangelical Christians believe that Trump’s great wealth is a sign of God’s favor.

These Trump supporters engage in what observers are calling “magical thinking.” They believe that if Trump is elected they will somehow absorb his personal power.

In his victory speech last night, Trump forcefully listed the ways our government is letting down working people. He said “manufacturing companies used to come to the South” to avoid paying decent wages. “Now they go to Mexico or China.” Corporations, he said, “flee this country to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”

Trump continued: “Our infrastructure is going to hell; our bridges, hospitals, airports, road systems and trains are all broken.

“People in middle income groups are making less now than 20 years ago … even though they built this country.” Our government, he said, is in the hands of lobbyists and special interest groups.

“Politicians are all talk no action.”

How does Trump propose to address these problems? He doesn’t say. He simply assures his supporters that “I have lined up the richest and smartest people in this country,” and that “they will take care of everything.” He strongly implies that the American people don’t know what to do to “fix things,” but that the billionaires do.

Trump rarely mentions policies, but when he does he’s in lockstep with every other Republican presidential wannabe. Like them, Trump pledges to repeal Obamacare, deregulate business and cut corporate taxes. Like them, he promises to cut federal funding for women’s health care services, end all gun controls, eliminate national standards for schooling and repeal Obama’s execute orders giving minimal protections to some undocumented immigrants.

Furthermore, Trump, like every other Republican candidate, says he will tear up the anti-nuclear development agreement with Iran.

And, like all the Republican candidates, Trump proposes to create more employment by cutting down on the number of workers in America. He would eliminate undocumented workers from the workforce and shut America’s doors to new immigrants, especially Muslims.

In fact, each of the Republican candidates, including Trump, blasts the others for not being in rigid enough lockstep with what they call the “conservative” agenda.

Democratic, progressive unity

 Hillary Clinton last night forcefully listed the ways working people are being let down. But she also acknowledged that minorities, women and gay people still suffer from discrimination and that “workers’ rights, civil rights and voting rights are under attack.”

Unlike Trump and the other Republican candidates, in their speeches last night, both Clinton and Sanders were very clear about why working people are having a hard time making ends meet and why they lack job security.

Sanders said, “The system is rigged. Most of the new wealth being generated is going to the top one percent.”

Clinton echoed this, saying, “Too many people with wealth and power seem to have forgotten” what they owe to their workers “and this nation.”

Clinton pledged that her Administration would “hold accountable” corporations that “turn their back on America … that cheat employees … exploit consumers … rip off tax payers … or destroy the environment.”

And while all the Republican candidates tried to pitch the myth that if freed from controls wealthy corporations would somehow heal America, Clinton said “this country belongs to all of us, not just those at the top.

“We are all in this together.”

She called on all Americans to help her win programs to “give America a raise … protect hard working immigrants … lessen student debt … make sure all Americans have adequate health care.”

Last night, Clinton won races for delegates in six states and Sanders won in four.

In an indication of growing unity among Democrats, David Axelrod and Paul Begala, both key Clinton advisors, acknowledged on CNN that Bernie Sanders and the “political revolution” he is building have greatly influenced the Clinton campaign.

Furthermore, according to CNN commentator Van Jones, “Sanders has made Clinton a better candidate.”

From now until June, there will be Democratic Party primaries and caucuses in some 40 states and terrirories.

Axelrod and Begala both encouraged Sanders to stay in the running. Axelrod said, “Sanders himself is saying that his campaign is about more than winning the presidency. It’s about getting more people involved in the political process. He is building a movement and wants to bring that  movement to the national convention to have influence in the Democratic Party and its platform.”

Photo: Tom Lynn/AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.