Rigged economy was main issue in March 15 primaries

WASHINGTON – It’s crystal clear. Balloting in yesterday’s state presidential primaries show working people are angry that today’s economy is leaving them behind. And they are frustrated that their government has done little to help.

Too many are turning to Donald Trump.

Both parties held primaries in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri. The majority of voters said they were earning less today than ever before and were unemployed, underemployed or afraid of losing their jobs. They echoed Bernie Sanders in saying they believed the economy is rigged against them, a message that has also moved front and center in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The primaries were held to elect delegates to the national Democratic and Republican conventions to be held this coming July. Clinton and Sanders won nearly equal numbers of delegates in Illinois and Missouri. Clinton won considerably more than Sanders in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. Clinton now has about 1,570 of the 2,382 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. Sanders has about 800.

Ohio Governor John Kasich won all the delegates in his home state and Donald Trump took all the rest.

Senator Marco Rubio dropped out of the Republican contest after losing his home state, Florida.

Now there are three Republican presidential wannabees remaining from the original 17 or so: Kasich, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Trump.

All have the same platform: dismantle ObamaCare, end most regulations that govern businesses, cut corporate taxes, tear up the anti-nuclear development deal with Iran, eliminate or shrink the EPA, IRS and Department of Education and repeal President Obama’s executive orders protecting some immigrants.

Cruz and Trump say they’ll do all this on “day one.”

Both also stress deporting undocumented immigrants and shutting America’s doors.

In his speech last night, Cruz said that deportations of immigrants and making it harder for Muslims to enter the U.S. will create more jobs for Americans. This is reminiscent of the way Hitler created full employment for “pure Germans” by eliminating millions of people from the workforce.

Trumpist hyperbole

Ironically, Trump, who has called for virtually shutting down immigration, won the Republican caucus in a place hungry for new immigrants: the Northern Mariana Islands, an American territory. Almost 100 percent of residents there want to increase immigration so that there are enough workers to service the growing number of tourists from China. The caucus was held the same day as the state primaries.

In fact, the majority of those who voted for Trump yesterday said that unlike Trump himself, they favor a path to legal status for all undocumented U.S. residents.

They might not care about immigration, but they do care about jobs.

Trump ran in the Ohio and Illinois primaries as the “jobs” candidate.

He won big.

He’s vague about how he’ll create more jobs, but said in his victory speech that “it will take the rich” to solve America’s economic problems and that he will make it more profitable for American corporations to stay in the U.S., presumably by making wages in the U.S. even lower.

Trump himself manufactures clothing in Bangladesh and China.

An alarming number of those who voted for Trump in yesterday’s primaries are white working-class people who crossed over from the Democratic Party. Many are union members.

Rick Kepler, a retired Teamster union organizer in Ohio, told a National Public Radio show host that one of his local unions recently held a mock election in which half of the members supported Donald Trump.

Trump himself explained his appeal. In his book, The Art of the Deal, published in 1987, he wrote “I play to people’s fantasies … People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole.”

As a presidential candidate, Trump has been pitching “hyperbole” as truth.

Making the “rigged economy” main issue

Meanwhile, leading up to the Democratic primaries yesterday, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton held debate after debate and many town hall meetings, especially in Ohio.

That state, like Michigan, has been victimized by industrial flight and governmental neglect. Ohio has lost 200.000 jobs since 2000 and the median income has dropped 16 percent.

In the Michigan primary, held last week, Bernie Sanders hammered away at the fact that automobile manufacturers, once the mainstay of a booming economy, had abandoned the state for higher profits, leaving devastation behind.

Clinton picked up on that theme. In her speeches she stressed her plans to help working people by “reining in Wall Street,” making big corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and by expanding access to healthcare.

Sanders won in Michigan. However, by adopting large parts of Sanders message, Clinton won in Ohio.

According to one commentator, in her victory speech, Clinton “blew kisses” to young people and workers supporting Sander’s “political revolution.”

Clinton said that if elected president, she would work tirelessly to end the burden of student debt, work to pass a raise in the federal minimum wage, and “break down all barriers” to opportunities.

Although Sanders gained fewer delegates than did Clinton in Illinois and Ohio, his campaign helped groups affiliated with Black Lives matter win victories in both states.

In Illinois, Sanders sharply criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel closing nearly 50 public schools in predominantly minority communities and for suppressing a tape that showed a Chicago police officer murdering an unarmed African American teenager, Laquan McDonald.

The result: Cook County’s top prosecutor, who helped in the year long cover-up, was soundly defeated by Kim Foxx, who was supported by most progressives.

In Cleveland, the same thing happened. Cuyahoga County District Attorney Tim McGinty lost his bid for re-election to Mike O’Malley, who was supported by many groups affiliated with Black Lives Matters. McGinty had mishandled the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

There are many state primaries still to be held between now and June, including in the West and Northeast.

Progressive Democrats inside and outside the Hillary Clinton campaign are urging that Sander’s take the “political revolution” all the way to the convention.

They recognize that no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, the candidate will need the enthusiasm being generated by the Sanders campaign to win in November.

Photo: Voters cast their ballots in the primary election Tuesday, March 15, 2016, in Chesterville, Ohio.  |  Matt Rourke/AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.