Right now, the presidential election looks like it is up in the air. So many of my friends are mystified at how well Donald Trump is doing in the polls. Some are talking about moving to Canada if he wins. Others are saying this is the beginning of a new totalitarian regime in the country. Still others are suggesting that the polls are rigged in Trump’s favor. While I am also worried about a Trump victory in November, I do think I understand what’s going on and why. There are also serious implications for New York state.
Let’s begin with Trump’s apparent popularity. In order to understand it, I want to take you back to FDR. Coming through the Great Depression, he understood that even though he personally was a capitalist, there were limits on how much you should take and how much the working class deserved. Let there be no mistake that the rich are getting richer in this country. FDR knew that if people didn’t have pensions, couldn’t send their kids to college, and didn’t have the money to buy a house and pay the mortgage, a capitalistic democracy couldn’t flourish. So he did his best to make sure everyone had a car and a house and an American style of living.
Well, along comes the new capitalist class who seem to have forgotten Roosevelt’s rules. You know the story — foreclosures, lack of raises, being eaten by creeping inflation. The result is a lot of festering anger out there. It’s not that Trump is any kind of friend to the workers. Rather, it is that the Democrats have been in office for eight years and the middle class is ready for something else. This is particularly interesting since the outgoing Democratic President, Barack Obama, is extraordinarily popular. If you live in Michigan or even in upstate New York, you are not a happy camper.
More bad news for the Democrats: should we see another act of terrorism as we saw in Paris, but this time in New York, Trump will win when he uses his anti-Muslim rhetoric. Hillary Clinton is also a victim of Clinton fatigue and her personal popularity keeps getting lower. Add to that the fact that the Bernie-ites are still carrying on about how Hillary screwed Bernie (politically) and you have a worrisome situation for the Democrats.
In New York, where Hillary is expected to win big time, the theory was that voters would look “down ballot” for other Democrats and would finally sweep the Republicans in the State Senate from office. But let’s try to remember how unpopular Andrew Cuomo proved to be in upstate New York. He lost badly to Zephyr Teachout in a Democratic gubernatorial primary, except in Buffalo. That may put a crimp in Democratic plans to take the State Senate and any number of other offices that are up for grabs. New Yorkers need to vote in big numbers for Hillary in order to win all those other offices that most people have no idea about.
So what is to be done? First of all, Hillary has to spend a massive amount of the money she has collected to raise her personal popularity. She also has to call out Trump for what he is, a liar and a bully. I’ve interviewed Hillary more than once and I have to tell you that she is a delightful lady and conversationalist. You would not know that from looking at the polls. As for Trump, he will keep on harping on his distaste for what he calls “PC.” Even though the Democrats are right to move ahead on personal equality for those who have been hurt by prejudice, it is now problematic for them. As Trump has said, “I love the undereducated.” He plays to prejudice and intolerance and it is working. The Democrats have to work on erecting a big tent where everyone is welcome.