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North Carolina

[ 38 ] December 1, 2016 |

The biggest long-term threat of Trumpism is the end of democracy. That might sound like hyperbole, but it isn’t. All we have to do is look at the last several years in North Carolina, where Pat McCrory and the extremists in the Republican legislature have gone to incredible lengths to ensure they remain in power. That has included such out of control gerrymandering that the courts just threw out their districts and ordered new elections to be held next year. It has included excluding as many black people from voting as possible. It has even included talk of courtpacking since the Democrats took control over the court this year. Even with that, just enough North Carolina voters rejected McCrory that he narrowly lost his reelection bid. And yet, McCrory is refusing to give up power, lying about widespread voter fraud and seeking every possible way to remain in control. It’s so obvious and blatant that even North Carolina Republicans haven’t been willing to go this far. But it is still absolutely outrageous.

Mr. McCrory has refused to concede, and despite having no path to victory, he has been engaged in an all-out assault on the integrity of the election system. His fight appears likely to serve as rationale for a renewed effort in the legislature to make North Carolina’s voting laws and regulations even more onerous.

The McCrory campaign has alleged that his defeat resulted from “massive voter fraud,” an irresponsible claim for which there is no evidence. It challenged the eligibility of 43 voters, contending they were felons. A review of public records by Democracy North Carolina, a voting rights group, established that nearly half of those voters were not, in fact, ineligible.

“It’s scandalous that they would malign innocent people to poison the larger public’s trust in the election system,” Bob Hall, the executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said in an interview. It’s dishonorable for Mr. McCrory to promote voting fraud myths and add fuel to voter suppression efforts as he’s going out the door.

But dishonorable is how McCrory rolls. It’s how the Republican Party rolls. It’s how Donald Trump rolls. And it’s how they are all going to roll if they lose in 2020, despite the massive voter suppression about to happen in many states, if not nationally. Expect Trump to strongly resist giving up the Oval Office, even if he loses by a reasonably significant margin.


Concern Trolling from Cousin Ross

[ 144 ] December 1, 2016 |


Ross Douthat is VERY CONCERNED about the future of the Democratic Party. You may be shocked at his solution–the party should move to the right!

For instance: Democrats could attempt to declare a culture-war truce, consolidating the gains of the Obama era while disavowing attempts to regulate institutions and communities that don’t follow the current social-liberal line. That would mean no more fines for Catholic charities and hospitals, no more transgender-bathroom directives handed down from the White House to local schools, and restraint rather than ruthlessness in future debates over funding and accreditation for conservative religious schools. Without backing away from their support for same-sex marriage and legal abortion, leading Democratic politicians could talk more favorably about moral and religious pluralism, and offer reassurances to people who feel themselves to be dissenters from a very novel cultural regime.

Democrats could also talk anew about the virtues of earned benefits, about programs that help people who help themselves, about moving people from welfare back to work. This (Bill) Clintonian rhetoric hasn’t entirely disappeared from the party, but it has diminished, and some of the Trumpian (and pre-Trumpian) backlash against liberalism in white working-class communities was associated with welfare programs — disability rolls, food stamps, Medicaid — that seem to effectively underwrite worklessness at a time of social disarray. It would not require Democrats abandoning their commitment to the social safety net to foreground programs more directly linked to work and independence, and to acknowledge the problems of dependence and stagnation associated with no-strings-attached support.

In other words, Democrats should hold the precise positions of one Ross Douthat! This is a sure-fire winner moving forward! Please take this with all the seriousness it is worth!


[ 141 ] December 1, 2016 |

The House Science Committee, ladies and gentlemen.

Huns and Hyphens

[ 1 ] November 30, 2016 |

What’s a Wednesday evening without a bad slapstick anti-German comedy from 1918 that features Stan Laurel in a supporting part?

Prince John

[ 57 ] November 30, 2016 |

I don’t usually just compose posts that consist of tweets. But extraordinary times call for unusual measures.

It goes on.

The Colonial Booze Trade

[ 18 ] November 30, 2016 |


We all need things to read other than articles where liberals and the left yell at each other over the election, depressing election post-mortems, and pieces describing the horrors to come. So how about some good reading on the colonial booze trade?

In 1713, because of the lobbying of the powerful brandy producers frantic at having lost the British market during the War of Spanish Succession, a law was passed in France making it illegal to either produce or import distilled alcohol made from anything but wine, a law that stayed in effect for most of the eighteenth century. While English rum was making its way into the Royal Navy, onto fishing vessels headed for Newfoundland and slaving vessels headed for West Africa, and English molasses into the kitchens of both England and New England, the French metropolitan restrictions on rum production and exchange ran both broad and deep, in the first instance dramatically decreasing the value of both French rum and French molasses. Rum produced on the French islands remained the drink of slaves and expanded to some degree throughout the Americas, most often as return cargo for shipments of provisions coming from both French and British northern colonies.

Distilled alcohol was certainly making its way into France’s northern colonies of Louisiana, Acadia, and Canada in the seventeenth century. It was consumed in the towns of Montreal, Quebec, Trois-Rivières, and Port-Royal (and New Orleans in the eighteenth) and traded with Amerindians in the fur trade, but it was not derived from sugar cane syrup. Instead it was almost exclusively French brandy, shipped in the seventeenth century from La Rochelle, and later from the other major Atlantic ports such as Nantes and Bordeaux, as well. Although there are no records establishing exactly when brandy was first introduced to New France as a trade good, it was almost certainly in the first third of the seventeenth century, well before sugar cane plantations and refineries were established on the French-occupied islands of the Caribbean.

Despite this early date, it is likely that the Dutch or the English were, in fact, the first to trade some kind of brandy with Amerindians at Orange in the early seventeenth century. There is evidence that English fur traders in what is now Maine were trading aqua vitae for furs in 1633, and that the Dutch were trading their own brandy for furs in the same decade. Somewhat ironically, there are strong possibilities that the Dutch brandy being traded had as its base material sugar syrups from the French Caribbean islands. The same transatlantic trade in French sugar syrups that produced the spice breads that Du Tertre noted in the 1660s delivered the base material to Dutch distillers in their own country.

Getting thirsty here.

Advent in the Trump Era

[ 136 ] November 30, 2016 |


I am non-religious. I grew up Lutheran, which cured me of all religion. Didn’t turn me into an atheist. Basically, because I can’t know if there’s a higher power, I don’t care enough to bother with it. The same is truth of math.

But while I may not be religious in any way, it’s also important for the left to recognize its religious allies and allow them to embrace causes and justice in terms of religious language. Too often, we cede religious messaging, especially Christianity, to the right. That’s a bad and sad thing, because a Christian message for the left has a lot of value, even if I don’t really care about it. Thus, I have to appreciate this reckoning with religion after the election. Plus Christians should be encouraged to swear more.

Castro and Africa

[ 50 ] November 30, 2016 |

Cuban president Fidel Castro (R) expresses his joy in meeting former South African president Nelson Mandela at Mandela's office in Johannesburg 02 September 2001 . Castro who took part in the UN World Racism conference in Durban used the opportunity to visit Mandela, whose health is affected by cancer.                  AFP PHOTO YOAV LEMMER (Photo credit should read YOAV LEMMER/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the greatest arguments in favor of Fidel Castro was his anti-colonial, anti-racist foreign policy in Africa. Two essays discuss this critical part of his legacy. First:

Cuba’s involvement in Africa started with its support of Algeria’s liberation struggle against France, then moved to the Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 1964 Castro sent his personal emissary, Che Guevara, on a three-month visit to a number of African countries. The Cubans believed there was a revolutionary situation in central Africa, and they wanted to help, argues the historian Piero Gleijeses.

While Cuba record in the Horn of Africa was mixed under Castro (it followed the Soviet Union’s lead in militarily aiding Ethiopia’s dictatorship against a Somalian invasion and Eritrean independence fighters), successes did follow elsewhere, where it pursued a more independent foreign policy.

Even as Cuba’s intervention struggled in Congo, Amilcar Cabral, leading a guerrilla struggle against Portuguese colonialism in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, asked for Cuban assistance. Between 1966 and 1974 a small Cuban force proved pivotal in the Guineans’ victory over the Portuguese. Following the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau finally won independence.

Cuba’s involvement in the freedom of South Africa from white minority rule was even more dramatic. Twice – in 1976 and again in 1988 – the Cubans defeated a US-supported proxy force of the South African apartheid army and Angolan “rebels”. These instances were the first times South Africa’s army was defeated, a humbling experience that the apartheid regime’s white generals still, in retirement, find hard to stomach.

As Gleijeses told Democracy Now! in December 2013, at the time of Mandela’s passing, black South Africans understood the significance of these defeats. The black South African newspaper the World wrote about the skirmishes: “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban victory in Angola.”

Gleijeses remembered Mandela writing from Robben Island: “It was the first time that a country had come from another continent not to take something away, but to help Africans to achieve their freedom.”

Castro’s policy in Africa was far more progressive and humane than the United States, France, and England, that’s for sure. That’s doubly true for South Africa, where Castro was offering critical support for the African National Congress at the same time that Dick Cheney was openly supporting apartheid.

It was the beginning of the love affair between Castro and the people of Cuba and Nelson Mandela and the freedom fighters of South Africa, as well as across our continent, where he is today being mourned and celebrated as a freedom fighter himself.

That love blossomed in 1966 when Havana hosted the Tri-Continental Conference, a meeting of leaders from national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America, including South Africa’s.

And the relationship between Castro’s Cuba and the liberation struggle of South Africa grew deep roots when, in the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba provided military training and other forms of assistance to South Africans.

I was privileged to meet Castro in 1987, when Cuba helped prepare me for my mission into South Africa for the African National Congress’s Operation Vula. As part of that operation, members of the exile leadership infiltrated South Africa as the advance guard working clandestinely in the country.

I can still feel the energy Castro exuded. I remember the unreserved readiness with which he responded to our requests to help my mission as the commander of Operation Vula. He bore none of the posture of a person seeking to make his presence and power felt. I felt myself become a better person in his company — better in the sense of wanting to never stop making a difference to the lives of others.

Our interactions with Castro and the Cuban people reinforced a deeper understanding of the significance of the freedom for which we were fighting. During the late 1970s and ’80s, the A.N.C. and its military wing had their main camps in the People’s Republic of Angola. So did Swapo, the Namibian liberation movement.

From the moment Angola achieved independence in 1974, the military might of the apartheid South African state was turned to overthrowing the Angolan government. Angola survived in large part because Cuba sent its soldiers to give their lives for the freedom of the people of Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Their blood has seeped into the soil of my continent.

In the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola, which lasted from 1987 to 1988 and was one of the largest battles on African soil, Castro committed thousands of elite Cuban troops to fight for freedom.

That bloody battle buried the apartheid regime’s military ambitions and paved the way for the peace accord mediated by the United States and signed in 1988. It led to the withdrawal of all foreign belligerents from Angola and the independence of Namibia. The agreement also led to the closing of the A.N.C.’s camps in Angola — a development that ultimately helped bring the apartheid regime and the liberation forces headed by the A.N.C. to negotiate South Africa’s transition from white minority rule to democracy.

Mandela, in notes for what was intended to be a sequel to his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” wrote: “Men and women, all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go. Some leave nothing behind, not even their names. It would seem they never existed at all.”

The world will always know that there once was a man named Fidel Castro. Africans will never forget him. His unshakable anticolonial and anti-apartheid beliefs guarantee a revered place for him in the hearts of South Africans.

I guess if Fidel Castro was a monster, so was Nelson Mandela.

Of course, none of this means that Castro was a saint. He obviously wasn’t. But his incredible support for African peoples against colonialist and racist regimes seeking to oppress them is a very important part of his legacy and for this he deserves a great deal of credit.

A Day in My Life

[ 220 ] November 28, 2016 |


Above: Steve Bannon and Jonah Goldberg

On Saturday, I wrote a post about Fidel Castro. It is titled “Castro–It’s Complicated!” That’s because he was a complex man with a complex legacy. I used the post and a boatload of historical literature on these issues to do two things. First, I attempted to place Castro within the context of his time, both in terms of Cuban history and the larger history of postwar global revolutions. Most of you liked that. I also sought to point out the hypocrisy of American responses to Castro given our own history. The response to this was more mixed, but that’s fine. In general though, the point was that Castro was a very complex person who needs to be seen in a larger context. Fairly uncontroversial generally, especially given that around some parts of the old left there were outright lamentations for his passing, although most of the left had pretty complex takes on it.

Earlier today, I was contacted by the press person for Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News to appear to talk about my Castro essay. First, LOL. Yes, please make me your piñata for the evening. What fun. I mentioned this to Lemieux earlier today and he pointed me to what my interview would look like. I didn’t even respond to the bow-tied jerk.

But then, why did this happen? How on earth did this come to their attention? I found this really confusing, especially given the tone of the essay. The post literally says “It’s Complicated!” But of course I remembered the Professor Watch List, which I am on. And so I figured I should at least investigate this a little bit. So I put my name into Google News. And lo and behold, it is of course originating from terrible, poorly written stories by right-wing students funded by the larger fascist funding network. I mean, could you at least spell my name correctly in the various paragraphs when you discuss me? Or at least incorrectly in the same way? It’s like some kid who gets a D in my class all of a sudden gets hired to write for Rolling Stone or something.

But here’s how the fascist networks operate. Low level functionaries get paid something I guess to gather the red meat. And then it spreads up the line, presumably without anybody even reading any of it. Again, this is based on a post actually saying that Castro’s legacy is nothing more than complicated. The kid uses quotes from it that are literally “Castro did this one thing was good but on the other hand did this other thing that was bad.” But if we know one thing in 2016, it’s that truth does not matter. So it started going up the food chain. First, Laura Ingraham’s lifestyle site (what!?!) grabbed it. Evidently, they employ an editor because my name was spelled correctly.

Who grabbed it then? Why none other than Steve Bannon, Inc. Yes, I was attacked in the official publication of the incoming president of the United States.

Many professors at universities across the United States have praised Castro for his efforts in combating colonialism, capitalism, and racism.

Erik Loomis, a professor of history at the University of Rhode Island, praised Castro as a champion of social justice, calling the dictator “a tremendously complex person who attempted to rebuild a society around ideas of justice while also refusing to allow democratic institutions to form.”

Loomis goes on to add that in his several decades at the helm of leadership in Cuba, Castro brought “outstanding medical care and education to his own people and the poor around the world while limiting the ability of educated people to use their skills at home.”

He called Castro, along with Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, “an inspiration for billions of people around the world seeking freedom from colonial overlords.”

Like Loomis, 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came under fire during the Democratic primaries for an interview he gave in 1985 in which he praised Castro for his efforts in bringing healthcare and education to Cuba.

Let’s step back a second here.

calling the dictator “a tremendously complex person who attempted to rebuild a society around ideas of justice while also refusing to allow democratic institutions to form.”

So, like, someone who tried to do some good things but also really screwed up? Wow, I truly wish I was on the front lines with Pol Pot in 1976. And then:

He called Castro, along with Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara and communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, “an inspiration for billions of people around the world seeking freedom from colonial overlords.”

That’s crazy. Actual demonstrable facts undisputed by any professional historian. Might as well be a member of the NKVD torturing some poor sap for a forced confession in 1938 Stalinist Soviet Union!

I do like how they segue straight from me to one Bernie Sanders. Also, if the following video of Bernie praising Castro proves one thing, it’s that the Trump campaign would have had no red meat to attack Sanders with and thus Bernie would have walked away with the presidency if only Democrats hadn’t nominated that huge sellout $hillery.

From there, it has gone to the most dishonest human being on the internet. That’s right, one Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism: Two Words Next to Each Other. After wrapping himself in his sexual fantasy of what George Orwell stood for instead of the actual Orwell with his tremendous commitment to justice, he writes:

Such un-nuanced arguments always make leftist eyes roll. As University of Rhode Island professor Eric Loomis put it, “Castro: It’s Complicated!” cautioning against thinking “in terms of simplistic moral judgments.” It seems to me that when people want to ban simplistic moral judgments, it’s usually because simple morality is not on their side.

Some of us would call nuanced arguments and a lack of simplistic moral judgments “critical thinking.” But then this is Jonah Goldberg, so LOL.

To my knowledge, this is as far as it has gone. This is so transparently stupid that I can’t imagine it going any farther. But again, this is part of a well-funded plan to intimidate professors from speaking out. And let’s not beat around the bush–Breitbart is Trump’s publication. It’s entirely possible and in fact probable that I am going to become a frequent target of attack in a nation with declining freedoms. You can imagine that I don’t feel that comfortable right now. But as I have said before and will continue to say, this is the moment where you decide whether you will stand up to fascism or whether you acquiesce to make your life easier. This level of previously unfathomable intimidation is going to continue and get worse. I will fight until the end. Being tough in the face of this and publishing more rather than less is the only answer. And despite the fact that facts don’t actually matter to these people, if they want to attack me on issues of historical fact backed up with dozens if not hundreds of books and articles of historical and other scholarly literature, go for it.

In conclusion:

The Economic Anxiety “Debate”

[ 524 ] November 28, 2016 |


I am really frustrated with the entire state of the post-election debate, whether it is liberals hating Bernie Sanders, the left gloating, or especially the dismissal of economic anxiety as a real thing. This debate is especially problematic because you have some people legitimately saying that the overwhelming reason for white votes for Trump is economic anxiety. This is not true. Most whites have been voting Republican for a long time. On the other hand, you have stories like this that interview white Republicans that seem to dismiss the entire idea of economic anxiety because that’s not what is driving the various voters they speak with. Such is this piece on voters in Ritzville, Washington. Ritzville is a town in eastern Washington with not much going on except for being an outpost on I-90.

Ritzville proper is something of a time capsule from the ’50s. Even the names of the throwback storefronts hint at this — Memories Diner, the Ritzville Pastime Bar and Grill. It’s also got a Perkins and a Starbucks closer to the highway and the people of Ritzville are proud to tell you both are among the most successful in the state — thanks to truck drivers and travelers making one last stop before the final push to Seattle.

Two main streets run parallel on either side of a set Northern Pacific railroad tracks, headed south toward Tri-Cities. One street’s got the gas stations and the motels while the other is where the old stone buildings and “character” of the town lies, including Chamberlain’ shop. Every few hours, an Amtrak or a multi-engine train pulling coal or oil or grain lumbers by and the town is cleaved in two.

It seemed like a place to test the dominant narrative that has grown out of the election: This, supposedly, is the place government has forgotten — the home of the poor, rural, white masses that flipped the national electoral map for Trump. While cities flourish, the story goes, agrarian backwaters like Ritzville have fallen off of the map for public officials. Frustrated, residents of towns like this turned to Trump, casting a vote for change, even if it came from a man further from these parts of the world than any candidate in history.

Yes, Donald Trump turned Grays Harbor and swaths of Washington’s Timber Belt red. Yes, factories have closed and union members have leaned farther right. But the people I spoke to in Ritzville and nearby Lind don’t go right to economic hardship when asked why they voted for our new President-elect. They meander toward other things like refugees and Trump’s proposed wall along the Mexican border and, yes, the “rioters” in Seattle before arriving at economic anxiety, if they ever get there at all. Many out here are doing just fine.

Seems to me like some basic research about Ritzville is in order before making any claims about its relationship to the election. In 2016, Adams County voted 67-24 Trump, at least according to the latest number I saw. In 2012, Adams County voted Romney 66-32. In 2008, Adams County voted McCain 67-32. In 2004, Adams County voted Bush 73-26. In 2000, Adams County voted Bush 69-28. I could go on. There is nothing about what happened in Ritzville or Adams County that says anything at all about what has changed between 2012 and 2016. It says nothing about “economic anxiety” in any way. What it says is that Adams County, Washington is a deeply conservative place and that hasn’t changed meaningfully at any point in last 5 election cycles at least.

And that’s what is really frustrating about the blithe dismissals of economic anxiety as an important thing. Of course one can point to crazy racism and laughingly say “Economic Anxiety!!!” But that doesn’t help because those people weren’t changing their votes over this or any other issue.

Where the economic anxiety debate legitimately matters is not in long-term Republican counties. It’s in traditionally blue counties in swing states that swung sharply to the right in the last 4 years. Erie County, Pennsylvania went 48-46 for Trump. He won by 2000 votes. In 2012, Obama defeated Romney 57-41 in Erie County, winning by 19,000 votes. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by about 68,000 votes. It is counties like these–blue-collar union counties with long histories within the Democratic Party, histories that lasted long after LBJ delivered the South to the Republicans in 1964, long after the Reagan era, that voted for Barack Hussein Obama twice. The critical question is why did these people switch their votes at this time. This is where a discussion of economic dislocation and hopelessness plays an important role. It must play an important role. These are voters that Democrats can probably get back without appealing to racism, which it absolutely must never do. That’s the debate we need to be having. Economic issues need to be taken seriously as part of that debate.

But as for why ranchers in eastern Washington or suburbanites north of Dallas voted for Trump, stories that say it was not because of economic anxiety are so obvious as to be ignored.

Resistance in Trump’s America

[ 83 ] November 28, 2016 |


This sort of massive resistance is critical. It will happen around undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities. If ICE agents actually invade churches to take out undocumented people, the national outrage will be tremendous.


In New York, with a large and diverse Latino population, Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged not to cooperate with immigration agents. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has declared that it “will always be a sanctuary city.”

Across the nation, officials in sanctuary cities are gearing up to oppose President-elect Donald J. Trump if he follows through on a campaign promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. They are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents.

In doing so, municipal officials risk losing millions of dollars in federal assistance for their cities that helps pay for services like fighting crime and running homeless shelters. Mr. Trump has vowed to block all federal funding for cities where local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

Some believe Mr. Trump could go further than simply pulling federal funding, perhaps fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.

“This is uncharted territory in some ways, to see if they’re just playing chicken, or see if they will relent,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reduced immigration.

Cities have “gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down on them,” Ms. Vaughan said.

The fight could also signal a twist in the struggle over the power of the federal government, as this time liberal cities — rather than conservative states — resist what they see as federal intervention.

Cities “may not have the power to give people rights,” said Muzaffar Chishti, the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at the New York University School of Law. “But they have a lot of power of resistance, and that’s what they’re displaying right now.”

It’s hard to really say to what extent some cities will resist. When city budgets decline by 10 percent, will that lead to tensions that harm immigrants? If mayors are prosecuted, what will happen? But if people stand tall in this situation, the moral correctness of their stance will win out in the end, I believe. While a lot of Americans are pretty racist, many of them, or at least the average Trump voter, is some degree of passive in that racism. Will they go so far as to see troops invade churches? Well, some will. But some won’t and I refuse to believe that the country has become so depraved that it will squash resistance like a bug. Maybe I am just overly optimistic right now.

Overall, this is a fine story except to say that at the very end, they very heavily mischaracterize the meeting in Providence that Mayor Jorge Elorza spoke at. I was at that meeting. It did not have 150 people. It had approximately 1000 people. That’s the sort of mass resistance meeting that can really lead to something positive. And right now, we all need something positive to hang some hopes upon. What we need is massive resistance to crackdown on voting rights, to the doubling down on the war on drugs, to the treatment of Muslims, and to all the outrages that could potentially be starting in less than 2 months.

American Unions: An Extinction Level Event

[ 92 ] November 27, 2016 |


Above: The federal response to a strike in 2018.

Harold Meyerson’s election post-mortem for organized labor is exactly as grim as it should be.

As Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – states that once were the stronghold of the nation’s industrial union movement – dropped into Donald Trump’s column on election night, one longtime union staff member told me that Trump’s victory was “an extinction-level event for American labor.”

He may be right.

A half-century ago, more than a third of those Rust Belt workers were unionized, and their unions had the clout to win them a decent wage, benefits and pensions. Their unions also had the power to turn out the vote. They did — for Democrats. White workers who belonged to unions voted Democratic at a rate 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts, and there were enough such workers to make a difference on Election Day.

That’s not the case today. Nationally, about 7 percent of private-sector workers are union members, which gives unions a lot less bargaining power than they once had, and a lot fewer members to turn out to vote. The unions’ political operations certainly did what they could: An AFL-CIO-sponsored Election Day poll of union members showed 56 percent had voted for Hillary Clinton and 37 percent for Trump, while the TV networks’ exit poll showed that voters with a union member in their household went 51 percent to 43 percent for Clinton, as well. In states where unions have more racially diverse memberships, Clinton’s union vote was higher (she won 66 percent of the union household vote in California).

In states where union membership is predominantly white, Trump did better – actually winning the Ohio union household vote with 54 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 42 percent The very economic and social wreckage the unions had warned against when they had opposed NAFTA and permanent trade relations with China ended up diminishing their own numbers and that of Democratic voters, and helped spur Trump to victory.

Of course, the very combination of real economic anxiety and racism that sent white union members into the Trump camp is going to just cause more economic anxiety for them. But hey, it will cause terrible things for black people too so win! I guess. But it’s not like Trump is going to craft policy that will pay off that union support. He hasn’t named his Secretary of Labor yet, but given the rest of this nightmare fascist plutocratic Cabinet, there is no reason to think of this as anything but nightmarish. That doesn’t mean that the history of struggle among the American working class will end. Workers will always fight for a better life for themselves, even if they get killed by the military for doing so. But it may well mean that 80 years of progress are repealed in the next 4 years. Unfortunately, in this case, Democrats hold plenty of blame too for not taking the impact of globalization and automation particularly seriously for the last 50 years, assuming that other gains in the economy would make up for these hard-hit communities. Well, these hard-hit communities have hit back hard. Even if it ends up a self-punch too.

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