During the Great Depression, World War II and Korean Conflict, the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman protected workers, farmers, people of color and average middle-class Americans from rural areas, small towns and urban centers. Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter did much the same.
Democratic candidates encountered voter resistance to traditional liberal policies: first from the campaigns of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Republican candidates against crime, welfare, abortion and civil rights for minority groups, women, gay men and women and immigrants.
To counter lost support in the Southern states and growing losses in the Midwest and West, Bill Clinton won election by exploiting the George H.W. Bush recession and wrapping Republican policies into his rhetoric on crime, welfare and trade.
Following the contested election of George W. Bush in 2000, Barack Obama returned Democrats to power in 2008 and mostly followed Clinton’s domestic policies and Bush’s post 9-11foreign policies. after the 9-11. Under both Clinton and Obama, the Democratic Party befriended Wall Street interests and campaign contributions.
Thomas Frank — cultural historian, political analyst, and journalist — has spent the past two decades, especially after publishing “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” in 2005, addressing the Democratic Party’s embrace of the bi-coastal professional class educated at elite universities and abandonment of unions, average working Americans and small communities throughout the Midwest and the West.
“Rendezvous with Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society,” Frank’s latest book, offers a brilliant analysis of the consequences of the Democratic Party’s failure to address concerns of average Americans in the upper Midwest, and the small mill towns devasted by poorly conceived trade agreements that transferred U.S. manufacturing to Mexico and Asia, a shift that gutted Main Street while enriching Wall Street.
In “Rendezvous with Oblivion,” Frank explains how such guardians of democracy as higher education, newspapers and America’s small towns have been undermined by the moneyed professional elites cherished by the modern Democratic Party.
While describing the decline of higher education, print journalism and rural communities, Frank also explains why Hillary Clinton was precisely the wrong candidate to defeat “the Donald.”
Democrats ignored the rising resentment in the country against the elites, Wall Street, Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s trade policies and the Bush-Obama wars that Hillary Clinton supported, initially or partially. In anointing Clinton, moreover, the Democratic National Committee legitimized Trump’s claim that the election was rigged.
As the number of administrators exploded, the number of tenured faculty declined “as teaching college students becomes an occupation with no tenure, no benefits and no job security,” Frank says, noting they often earn less than the minimum wage and “now account for more than three quarters of the teaching that is done at our insanely expensive, oh-so-excellent American universities.”
He provides a similar critique of print journalism as newspapers and experienced reporters disappear in small towns and major city dailies shrink in size, staff, frequency and coverage. For Frank, reduced access to affordable higher education and quality journalism, two traditional sources of critical analysis, contributed to “the Donald’s” Electoral College victory in 2016.
Finally, a few library events in April and May to consider:
The Northwest Authors Series sponsors “Fisherpoets Return,” Thursday, April 25, at 7 p.m. Clem Starck will read from his latest book accompanied by Jon Broderick and Jay Speakman, who also will present some of their poems and songs.
The library’s annual membership meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 1, at 10 a.m.
Mark your calendar now and don’t miss the annual Memorial Day Rare and Old Book Sale, at the Cannon Beach Library, 131 N. Hemlock, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday through Monday, May 25-27. All proceeds support the library.