This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.
The Trumpenfinger to the elite wasn’t meant to be pretty.
I’m being optimistic in using the past tense about the former president. I do hope he’s fading from the political scene. However, there are important reasons why almost half the voters supported him in 2016 and 2020 and why so many remain loyal to him today. We ignore those reasons and those votes democratically cast at our own peril and, yes, at the peril of democracy.
Start with the Trump policies which have carried on into the Biden administration.
Trump said immigration was out of control; I thought that was xenophobia. Didn’t think we needed a wall. But immigration is out of control. Border towns have been given the impossible burden of millions of people pouring in. Liberal “sanctuary cities” whine when a few busloads are sent their way. Biden triedT to continue Trump’s COVID-prevention excuse to turn migrants away at the border; but a federal judge has just ruled that out. Hispanic voters increasingly support Republican efforts to stop illegal immigration. Yes, there should be a better path to citizenship. Yes, we need workers. But part of the signal sent with the Trumpenfinger was that elites were, perhaps deliberately, ignoring the problem of a broken border and the effect on real people.
Trump said the US had struck bad trade deals in the interest of globalization. He pointed to China as an example of a country taking advantage of our liberal trade rules. Again he was accused of xenophobia and racism. Biden has doubled down on a hostile China policy. Apparently the people pointing the Trumpenfinger were right.
This is not just a left-right thing at all. Corruption in the “bipartisan” middle is what enraged both the left-wing Occupy Wall Street and the right-wing Tea Party movements when not only banks but also bank investors and over-compensated bank officers were bailed out during the great recession. Lately the only bipartisan bill which passed was the Chips Act, a subsidy for some of the most successful corporations in the world which make computer chips – and whose executives and investors can be counted on to remember their friends with campaign contributions. Neither Republicans nor Democrats, who each had a turn at controlling the presidency and both houses of congress, have managed to repeal the outrageous carried-interest tax loophole for venture capitalists. Trumpenfinger! But Trump didn’t get rid of it either. Lately President Biden decided that the Americans most in need of relief are those who attended over-priced colleges on credit
Hilary Clinton called the people who didn’t agree with her “deplorables”. Understandably, they gave her the Trumpenfinger. “Liberals” say that those who don’t agree with them on abortion are in favor of enslaving women; those who don’t agree that the US is and always has been a fundamentally racist society are extreme racists; those who don’t want sexuality discussed in school until at least fourth grade are irremediably homophobic; those who are openly patriotic are fascists; police should be abolished in the interest of reducing crime (this from people living in buildings with doormen and enclaves with private security). The Trumpenfinger is an understandable response.
January 6th was inexcusable. Trump egging on people and then claiming the secret service wouldn’t “let” him join them is deplorable — and cowardly. Trump, the messenger, decided that he was the indispensable messiah. That doesn’t work either.
Trump should, and hopefully will, fade away. He is no longer a useful vehicle for other politican’s ambition. Some of the message he was elected to bring has been absorbed. We endanger democracy, however, if we ignore the rest of the message or denigrate our fellow citizens who delivered the Trumpenfinger to shatter our complacency.