What we saw this week was not the death of America but a wake-up call to the Democratic Party to recognize that without education, without intellectualism, our country will move in the wrong direction. And in the end, Jimmy Carville said it best, "it's the economy, stupid."
What we need to instill in others moving forward is that America's greatness has for the past 150+ years been at the hands of liberal policy. A belief that the likes of Fox News and Conservatives have successfully undermined, confusing the electorate as a means to regain or maintain their power.
I'd like to back this statement with facts and a small history lesson, but before I begin, I must suggest something that may seem a little radical to some: capitalism for all that is exceptional about it, is inherently destructive. And with unchecked capitalism, with unregulated capitalism, the majority of those under it will suffer beneath its cruel and reckless nature. Capitalism seeks to earn capital which in turn sparks innovation, creativity, and progress. However, when it is unrestricted, it can also ravage the ones on the bottom. Detroit didn't lose its factories because of a bad trade deal, they lost them because their Unions were busted by Reagan's policies.
This is not to say that I believe in the other extreme: communism, a system that in itself could never work. Humans, by nature, require freedom and mobility. They need the plus and the minus that a "free society" gives you. They demand a system that is only choked by the dark red cloud of communism. But there is a middle ground, and that is capitalism restricted by our social contract. By socialist ideals and protections against the powerful.
If we begin in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln, we find what modern historians might consider -- a liberal. The first of the modern liberals.
Lincoln was a liberal, who believed that the Government and the nation were being corrupted by unchecked capitalism and one of its most egregious symptoms was slavery. This radical idea leads those in the South to believe Lincoln was infringing on their American rights. Which begins a centuries-old debate about the role of the Government. Lincoln deemed we must use the powers of the government to protect all its citizens. Even if that meant that some, the ones with the power, must give up what they considered their freedoms. This was the seeds of modern liberalism. The "fair share." Lincoln didn't want to destroy people's economy, he wanted to protect the rights of all Men, regardless of race, color, or economic background.
After Lincoln's Civil War win and his subsequent assassination, the country attempted to undo the policy and positions that he had taken. In the reconstruction period after the Civil War, we had nearly 60 years of Conservative control. Which, though did not revert to the pre-Civil War policies of slavery, took on the current conservative stance of self-reliance and pro-capitalism. This pervaded both parties, Republican and Democratic under Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, and McKinley.
McKinley was a conservative, who brought in the modern conservative era. In his three years (before being assassinated) the biggest law that he enacted was the Tariff Act of 1890, which raised the taxes on imports. This was a means to promote "domestic products" and reduce foreign influence.
Following McKinley was the conservative Theodore Roosevelt. Who's best known (not just for his national parks) but for ushering in the "Progressive Era" whose primary objective was to rid the government of its corruption. This idea that the government was inherently evil is the mainstay of Lincoln's Civil War.
Coolidge was a conservative, who believed that regulation stifled business and lower taxes helped promote it. He passed the Revenue Act of 1924, with GOP-controlled branches of government. Five years later, with another Republican at the helm (Herbert Hoover), the markets crashed, and so began the Great Depression.
Roosevelt was a liberal, who believed that the Government, like Abraham Lincoln, was meant to protect people, that every American should have a basic safety net so that the greed of the few did not destroy the innocence of the many. The 1935 Wagner Act helped strengthen labor Unions, the best and, frankly, only effective way to protect workers from the evils of unchecked capitalism. With strong Unions, everyone wins. Employees are happy and have more money in their pocket, and corporations succeed. Yes, with less overall earnings (as they're giving much of it away to its workers) but, it becomes a long-term, sustainable system. With Liberals in control of all branches of government, FDR signed in the New Deal and, with the added benefit of the economic boom of WWII, brought us out of the Great Depression.
Truman was a liberal, who attempted to continue to steer the country out from World War II and into a new "peacetime economy." The economy had been propped up on the legs of WWII and needed a new piece of legislation to help this transition. So, Truman passed the "Fair Deal" but with a lack of liberal support since FDR's death and conservatives steering Congress, the "Fair Deal" was gutted (see: Obamacare) and was unable to prevent the 11-month recession of 1949. The conservatives were able to use this failing economy as a means to regain power, and in 1952, Americans voted for their first conservative in nearly 20 years. An outsider. A man who had never held public office.
Dwight Eisenhower was a war general. However, little did the conservatives know that he would run the country as a centrist. He was tough on Russia and even threatened the nuclear bomb to end the Korean War. At home, however, he expanded social security, opposed Republican rule in Congress (specifically the likes of Joseph McCarthy), created the International Highway System, began the process of desegregating the Army, and appointed two relatively liberal judges to the Supreme Court (Earl Warren and William Brennan). The 1950s ended up being a moderately prosperous era in America. One that conservatives sometimes aspire too (without understanding that it came after over 30 years of liberal to centrist policy).
Eisenhower's vice president, Richard Nixon, was not so liberal and when he appeared on television as a sweaty, old school politician, even though he came from the popular Eisenhower administration, he was defeated. And once again, we had another liberal running the country in John F. Kennedy.
This was 1960, and the country was still being threatened by Russia, and the Cold War was at its peak. JFK and Lyndon Johnson got into a military quagmire that made us more concerned about the rise of communism than about continuing the success of Eisenhower's America.
The 1960s was a period of great upheaval. With America feeling great from a decade of economic prosperity, we began to feel more confident that we were the superior country. We had finally recovered from the Civil War and became a country ready to move on.
However, the specter of communism loomed over the country. A fear of losing all that we had created in the 1950s, struck fear into the hearts of Americans and we allowed ourselves into the quagmire of the Vietnam War, begun by JFK but lead mainly by Lyndon Johnson. With the one-two-three punch of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and MLK's assassination, with the escalation of the pointless war in Vietnam, conservatives, the party who thrived on people's apathy of the government, once again were able to take back control.
Nixon won on his ties to Eisenhower who led an economically strong America as well as a strong military strength in foreign policy, something the old administration lacked. But Nixon was drummed out of office because of his corruption. Another blow to American's belief in the government as a whole.
Ford, Nixon's VP, was a terrible president who was faced with a post-war recession and attempted to solve it the way conservatives always solve it: cut taxes. His ineptitude as a leader made America once again switch back to the Liberals, but unfortunately, Carter was also terrible.
Signing the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, lead to further erosion of the power of labor unions. The reason to sign the act? "The government is wrong for private industry and stifling profits." This was the response to the stagflation that faced the nation since the end of Vietnam. When the economy is dying, the response (the wrong response) is to shrink the government. FDR knew this and we got the New Deal, why have we so easily forgotten this?
This reaction makes no sense as what worked in the late 1940s and 1950s was building up the American safety net. Encouraging growth and strength of Unions. Instead, Ford, Carter, and eventually Reagan were tricked into believing the secret to American economic success was deregulation or essentially: "trickle down economics."
Reagan was the king of "Trickle Down Economics" known better as "Reaganomics." This economic policy which promotes: deregulation, lower taxes, and smaller government, has a satisfying short-term economic boom. When you lower taxes, people suddenly have more money. It looks and feels fantastic in the very very short term. But it does not invest in American companies or correct the issues that tax cuts seemingly fixes. Instead, it's like the old adage: give a man a fish, and he can eat for a night, but teach a man to fish, and he can eat for a lifetime.
The thing that Reagan did do, however, which made him the icon that he is today: he presided over the symbolic end of the Cold War. He restored what had become a decades-long disenfranchisement of the presidential office. He was cool, well spoken, "scandal-less." He was not the guy presiding over a fruitless war (Johnson); he was not a crook (Nixon); he was not a bumbling idiot (Ford); and he was not a pussy (Carter). Reagan represented what America wanted. Someone to look up too. Someone to believe in.
Reagan's greatest and most lasting effect: his destruction of Unions. Beginning first with finishing what Carter had started with the Airline Deregulation Act, firing 13,000 air traffic controllers and destroying their Union. He then appointed a majority vote (3 of 5) in the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw bargaining and union representatives which lead to nearly half of the complaints raised by Union members being ignored or untried. This allowed companies to continue to dismantle and untangle the firm grip of the Unions.
Reaganomics and its immediate success helped bring America out of the recession of 1982. It helped Reagan get re-elected and helped George Bush get elected in 1988. However, with the deregulated Unions, the corporations running amok, there was a brand new recession in 1990.
When Reagan took office in 1980, the top 1% of income earners had an effective tax rate of 70%. Reagan lowered this to 28%. Clinton, in his term, raised taxes back to 39.6%. Clinton did other things to help fix the economy and with the support of conservatives signed NAFTA, which effectively helped companies move from the likes of Detroit and the "Rust Belt." This will come into significant play over 20 years later during our current election.
Clinton's economy did very well, due to many false indicators: free trade (businesses boomed), the internet bubble of the late 1990s, and balancing the budget by raising taxes on the wealthy. However, Clinton did nothing to support the lower and middle class. He didn't do anything to help build back the Unions, didn't do anything to regulate private industry. With NAFTA, Clinton made an enemy of the lower and middle class who saw George W. Bush as a new Reagan. Al Gore represented Clinton's NAFTA program.
And George W. Bush delivered as promised, bringing back Trickle Down Economics and deregulation. He also continued to support free trade but with the added cost of the Wars on Terror, the economy could no longer sustain itself. The lower and middle class just ran out of money, even as the private industry continued to make more and more and more and more.
With nearly 30 years of Reaganomics, of conservative economic ideals, America faced the greatest economic disaster since Great Depression.
So, of course, we moved back to a new version of FDR: Barack Obama, who took the lessons of these failed policies and worked to reverse them. First by raising taxes, then by regulating private industry, and latest (and most importantly) help strengthen Unions again.
These small, incremental effects did not have the sexy initial boom of Trickle Down Economics. However, it makes our country stronger and more prosperous in the long run. We've seen steady, upward mobility of our citizens, a rising stock market, and all around strength and confidence in the economy. Something nearly unheard of after such a devastating crash.
And how did we follow that up?
Attempting to elect Hillary Clinton, who bears the name of the guy who helped destroy the Rust Belt. Hindsight is 20/20, but it actually makes perfect sense why she lost these voters. At the end of the day, social causes are important. Safety of our citizens is paramount. But for the capitalistic society that we live in, paychecks speak more than the rights of transgender bathroom rights.
Hillary Clinton lost because her husband signed NAFTA. Trump knew this. Trump may be a misogynist, he may be wholly unprepared for the Office, but it doesn't matter. If you are thought to destroy a whole town's economy, if you were complacent: anything is better.
When we elect our new leader of the Liberals, we must be sure that their drive is not only the rights of its citizens, but someone who understands how to explain liberal policy is better for the economy than the conservative's.