Not one pundit commenting on what Donald Trump said in last night’s debate pegged it for what it is: blatant racism and a clarion call, especially to white working people, for the start of a new right wing movement after he loses the election.
Which he knows he will.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, presented a vision for the future that should encourage progressives to continue to reach out to the Trump supporters of today and help them fight after the election for their real interests, not trumped-up ones.
Toward the end of the debate, conservative moderator Chris Wallace pointedly asked Trump: “Will [you] absolutely accept the result of this election?”
After the debate, both liberal and conservative commentators and many leaders of the Republican Party itself angrily said they were shocked that Trump was “undermining the American people’s faith in our democratic system.”
No one should have been surprised. Trump was merely taking a Republican racist tradition one step further.
Trump said he might not accept the results of the election because it might be rife with “fraud.” He said, “Chris — if you look at your voter rolls, you will see … millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”
This, of course, is nonsense.
But facts have nothing to do with it. Trump was dog whistling to his followers that African Americans, Latinos and immigrants could very well “steal” the election.
John McCain said the same thing when he was running for office eight years ago. He said that the community organizing group, ACORN, was trying to pull off “the largest voter fraud in history.”
And ever since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Right Act in 2013, every state that has been captured by the right wing has put in place laws aimed at restricting the votes of minorities.
Last night, Trump was staying in lockstep with these efforts.
But he was also signaling something new to his followers: his losing the election will be the fault of minority voters, and to prevent this from happening again, they should start building a new right wing movement.
Further proof that Trump is focused on post-election outcomes is that during the debate he continually fed conspiracy theories to his followers instead of presenting real proposals for gaining better, more secure lives for working people.
On the campaign trail, Trump has said there’s a conspiracy of “international bankers” against him. During the debate, he blamed Democratic Party plots for everything from the media coverage of the campaign to an anti-Trump demonstration in Chicago months ago to the invasion of Mosul, which he said was undertaken primarily to make Clinton “look good.”
By encouraging the conspiracy theory way of thinking, Trump is diverting the working people who support him from seeing that their standard of living has plummeted and their lives have been made insecure by a system rigged to benefit billionaires such as himself.
By rhetorically weaving a web of conspiracies during the debate last night, Trump was able to almost surreptitiously slip in proof that he is against working people making gains. He said that if elected, he would hand over America’s trade negotiations to his billionaire buddies.
There is nothing new in Trump’s campaign. Billionaires have always tried to pit workers against each other.
In sharp contrast to Trump’s appeal to racism, Clinton appealed to working people by describing the real cause of America’s economic problems today and by laying out proposals to genuinely address those problems.
“Most of the gains in the last years since the Great Recession have gone to the very top,” she said. “So we are going to have the wealthy pay their fair share. We’re going to have corporations make a contribution greater than they are now to our country.
“I want us to raise the national minimum wage,” she continued, “and I sure do want to make sure women get equal pay for the work we do.”
In addition, Clinton pledged to “stand up for the rights of people in the workplace” and “to enhance benefits for low-income workers and for women who have been disadvantaged by the current Social Security system.
“I want us to have the biggest jobs program since World War II,” she said, “jobs in infrastructure and advanced manufacturing. …
“I feel strongly that we have to have an education system that starts with preschool and goes through college.”
Clinton also stressed her determination to expand affordable health care, address climate change, preserve a woman’s right to choose, and to protect the rights of the LGBT community.
To win adoption of the programs and policies outlined by Clinton will take a strong, broad-based movement, and there is every indication that a President Clinton will encourage the growth of such a movement.
To succeed, this movement must include many of the working people who will probably vote for Trump. It will be both an alternative to the right wing movement Trump is calling for and a force to combat it.
There are plenty of signs that people who are Trumpites today could be members of progressive alliances tomorrow.
Unions across the country are beginning to successfully reach out to workers, especially white workers, who accurately feel they have been ignored by their government in recent years. There are new progressive community-based groups springing up across the country, even in pro-Trump areas. And there are new nationwide progressive political organizations that aim to support pro-worker candidates running for seats in everything from school boards to state houses to the U.S. Congress.
There are plenty of signs that American working people will follow their better instincts to join such fights. Despite the existence of misogyny, working people in three states have helped elect progressive women governors. (They also helped elect three Republican governors).
And despite racism, the nation did, after all, elect Barack Obama. He received enough votes from white workers to indicate that more can be reached.
Furthermore, during the debate last night both candidates cited Bernie Sanders to help bolster their points. They did this not to promote Sanders, but they know that to millions of Americans Sanders symbolizes the possibility that working people and their allies can get together to build an economic and political system that truly serves the American people.
For a full transcript of the debate, click here.