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Robert Reich
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 3 November 2012
“The overall lesson is simple, and Democrats used to know it. As Harry Truman put it in 1948, we need a government ‘that will work in the interests of the common people and not in the interests of the men who have all the money.’”

The Three Biggest Democratic Takeaways from Election 2012

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It’s not too early to draw some lessons. Regardless of what happens Tuesday, Democrats should have three big takeaways from the 2012 election.

Lesson One: Democrats Can Own the Future.

Latinos, African-Americans, young people, and women have become the major Democratic voting blocs. That’s good news for Democrats because the first three constitute a growing percentage of the voting population (young people eventually become the entire voting population), while women continue to gain economic ground.

The challenge for Democrats will be to hold these groups in the future. All have been attracted to the Democratic Party in recent years mainly because Republican policies have turned them off – policies like the GOP’s draconian responses to undocumented workers, its eagerness to slash Medicaid and food stamps, its misogynistic approach to abortion, and its demand to cut federal spending on education and student loans.

But if Democrats want to keep their loyalty over the long term, the Party will need to do more than rely on Republican electoral stupidity. After all, the GOP might learn it has to become (or appear to become) more inclusive.

Democrats will need to champion policies especially important to these groups – for example, immigration reforms that take account of how long someone has been in the United States and how much they’ve contributed as workers and citizens; paid family and medical leave for women (as well as men) who must care for their families in emergencies; expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, providing larger income supplements to lower-income workers; and income-contingent college loans, allowing them to be repaid as a fixed percentage of full-time jobs over a limited number of years.

All these have the added advantage of being good policies, regardless of their political attractiveness.

Lesson Two: No Matter How “Business-Friendly” Democrats Are, Big Business and Wall Street Will Still go Republican.

No administration in recent memory has done more for business and Wall Street than Obama’s. It bailed out Wall Street (granted, the bailout was initiated under George W. Bush, but most of it – and its execution – happened under Obama) and never demanded in return that the biggest banks modify the mortgages of Americans who were caught by the bursting of the housing bubble. And the Obama Administration still hasn’t brought a single criminal charge against any Wall Street executive.

The Administration also spearheaded a giant stimulus package that kept the economy from falling off a cliff, that generated fat profits for the construction industry, and ultimately pushed stock prices back to where they were before the bubble burst.

The Administration’s Affordable Care Act created 23 million mandated customers for health insurance companies, and billions of dollars worth of new business for America’s largest pharmaceutical companies and hospital chains.

Yet notwithstanding all of this, big business and Wall Street threw in their lot with Mitt Romney and the GOP.

This isn’t to say corporate executives and Wall Street traders will always side exclusively with Republicans. Typically, they’ll hedge their bets – giving Democrats just enough campaign money to keep them in line.

But they’ll always donate more to the GOP, because the Republican Party will always outdo Democrats when it comes to making corporate executives and Wall Street traders richer by lowering their taxes, subsidizing their businesses, and abandoning regulations that stand in the way of bigger profits.

The lesson is so-called “business friendly” policies that translate into more money for top executives don’t pay off for Democrats. Democrats should push economic policies that are good for the middle class, and for everyone aspiring to join it.

They should also get firmly behind campaign finance reforms that limit the ability of big business and Wall Street to corrupt the political process.

Lesson Three: Democrats Need the White Male Working Class, and the White Male Working Class Should Need the Democrats

To create an enduring coalition, Democrats also need the white working class. They used to have it. In 1960, 57 percent of blue-collar whites identified themselves as Democrats, and only 26 percent as Republicans.

But that support began to erode dramatically. By 1980, 57 percent of the white working class voted for Reagan over Carter; in 1984, 65 percent backed Reagan over Mondale; in 1988 60 percent voted for Bush over Dukakis. And even though Bill Clinton managed to win back white working-class women, the shift of white men to the GOP continued.

It’s tempting to point to race as the major contributor. To be sure, southern whites began deserting the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And the GOP has lost no opportunity to play the race card – whether in the “Willie Horton” ads of 1988, or the more subtle racial message of “state’s rights” in 2012.

But that explanation leaves out the bigger story.

The wages of white men without college degrees began falling in the late 1970s because of globalization and technological changes that corporations were all too eager to take advantage of.

Today, the typical white male worker without a college degree earns less than he did thirty-five years ago, adjusted for inflation.

Yet the Democratic Party has done little to reverse this trend. (It pains me to level this charge because I was Secretary of Labor in the 1990s and didn’t fight hard enough.)

Democrats could have enacted labor law reforms that made it easier to form and preserve labor unions – which in the 1950s and 1960s gave the working class bargaining power to get a fair share of the profits. Democrats could have pushed for a nationwide system of productivity bargains, as in Germany, through which employees get a share of the gains from productivity growth.

They could have insisted all trade-opening treaties require that America’s trading partners have a minimum wage equal to half their median wage — and have set America’s own minimum wage to this standard. And Democrats could have reduced taxes on the middle and working class, and raised them on the rich.

By turning its back on white working-class men the Democratic Party created a political vacuum Republicans have been all too eager to fill.

Whether through racism, xenophobia, or homophobia, or by means of right-wing evangelical Protestantism, the GOP have found scapegoats. Blacks, immigrants, gays, and women seeking abortions aren’t responsible for the declining real wages of white men without college degrees, of course, but they are convenient targets of their anger.

The overall lesson is simple, and Democrats used to know it. As Harry Truman put it in 1948, we need a government “that will work in the interests of the common people and not in the interests of the men who have all the money.”

That lesson needs to be relearned.

This article was originally posted on Robert Reich's blog.

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ABOUT Robert Reich


ROBERT B. REICH, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future;” “The Work of Nations,” which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at Robert Reich's new film, "Inequality for All" is available on DVD
and blu-ray, and on Netflix in February.

Hey KOKUANANI, You have

You have partially figured it out. Reread his article. (between the lines)
Even though I totally disagree with you: low education white males (that's me) don't HATE Union members, >we hate UNIONS<. As long as they were for the members, we put up with them, but when it became obvious that most union leaders were out for their own power, we totally turned.
Anyway, back to Reich :
As the Unions lose importance (power), you will see the Demos back off from supporting you and your Unions.
The Demos are only out for power (read Larger and Larger Government) and will change with the wind of perceived future power. Unions will be left behind in their dust.
(Kind of like major Corporations, BUT at least they are supposed to for the benefit of their stockholders. Kind of like Small businesses, BUT they are supposed to for the benefit of their employees and families.)
But, don't feel alone, The Black Community will soon be dumped overboard for Hispanic Community, etc. The Demos will always have the poor. The Repubs only offer : "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for life?" (Not free food, every day of your life)
God Bless all of your American members and America.

Thank you, Professor Reich,

Thank you, Professor Reich, for acknowledging your part in Clinton's failure with respect to the Democratic party's support for labor, and the consequential weakening of support by labor for Democrats.

It's ironic, because the "less than a college degree" white males who continue to gravitate towards the loons in the Republican party are the very folks who SHOULD be supporting Democrats. Instead, those low-education white males have been persuaded by Republicans to HATE union members and public employees, convinced that those groups have it easy and are "taking" jobs and income that belong to the non-union, non-public employee white males.

If Clinton and Obama had made it easier for unions to organize, had championed the work of "public servants," a chunk of these folks could now BE in unions or public employment, expanding the Democratic base, instead of Dems fighting to win back these disaffected voters.

WOETOPOE - you say you live in CA. Why AREN'T you voting third party, Green or otherwise. Your vote won't "let Romney win," and a vote denied to Obama, and appearing in another column just might help convince Dems that we "f***ing ret*ards" need to be listened to.

I too live in a blue, blue state, and I'm relishing the opportunity NOT to validate the laundry list of lousy stuff that Obama has pursued. If you think your vote for him THIS time will somehow get you the items you've listed, I think you're sadly mistaken. You will have given him the one thing of value you have -- your vote -- and he's got no reason to listen to you over the next four years.

Until the Democratic party

Until the Democratic party figures out that we need a smaller economy and a healthier ecology in order for our communities to prosper the Dems are going to continue to flounder. They also need to give up on the national insecurity apparatus and defending the empire. I doubt they will do that, so I am staying with the Green party. Vote Jill Stein for president.

To all of you who wonder how

To all of you who wonder how things will ever change, I think a look at the history of this country suggests some possibilities. What you find from that history is not pretty if we cannot find any other means of righting the ship of state than we found before.

I think that if you just go back to the depression era, you see how bad things have to get before the electorate rises up in sufficient majority agreement to get the change that we needed. That only got us part of the way out of the depression.

The rest of the way there was "helped" by people in other countries getting so desperate that war seemed to be a good solution to them. The war united the Allied powers, got people back to "work", and so scared the capitalistst that the relented for a while.

That is a solution that some history provides us. I am not up on how Teddy Roosevelt accomplished what he did, but perhaps it was only temporary, until the other Roosevelt came to office. Have astute readers of history got some other examples that don't require such drastic things to happen before we get the change that we need?

Steve, here's a idea to

Steve, here's a idea to consider. The near stranglehold the Republicans held on the presidency was broken in 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt ran against W.H. Taft, the incumbent Republican. The resulting split in the Republican vote allowed Wilson to win election. It's hard to see how a Republican split could occur today, there are hardly any "moderate" Republicans left, but perhaps a "moderate" Democrat running against an "insurgent" Democrat could create a real election with real issues; the tea party Republicans just walking off the plank with the weight of their ideologies dragging them under. Just a thought.

What hope does any democracy

What hope does any democracy have when we have to relearn the foundation of democracy every 50 years?

Robert Reich, as I have

Robert Reich, as I have written before is a die hard Democratic shill, determined to maintain the corporatist two party system as I have written about recently: Reich continues to make excuses for his party rather consider the facts of what are actually happening. If he doesn't adapt soon to assessing reality then I predict he will be considered just a senile old observer, and he is younger than me!

Robert Reich is one of the

Robert Reich is one of the few individuals I have seen that have held a Government post and actually represented the people and still has a very honest view of our world and our place in it.A shill is someone who is paid to say something,like say, John Sununu.With all the lies, deception,voter suppression efforts coming from the Right, I can't believe you are so hateful of someone who even took a shot at his own efforts in the above article.

A bit of history plus what we

A bit of history plus what we can do now:

Our government was corrupt for 8 years because Bush and Cheney distorted our federal tax code to favor the corporations that outsourced American jobs and granted the richest American citizens tax breaks that they did not ask for. In addition, they caused the Iraq war based on contrived information that Weapons of Mass Destruction existed in that country. In addition there was the Afghanistan debacle. Both of these wars were conducted on money borrowed from China and the real purpose of them was to continue uninterrupted importation to the US of crude oil from the Mideast countries so that Exxon and the other four big US oil companies could continue to enjoy their massive profits and exorbitant tax breaks. Cheney’s Halliburton made enormous profits from their participation in these wars. All of this was not enough for their greed. So they refused to enforce financial regulations and that resulted in the billions of dollars of fraudulent Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS’s) assembled by Goldman Sachs that were sold to unsuspecting investors and banks all over the world. Of course as we all know as soon as it was discovered that these MBS’s were made up mostly of mortgages that were destined to be foreclosed on our big banks had to be bailed out with tax payer money. (To throw salt in our wounds, Goldman Sachs shorted the MBS investment packages as soon as they were sold and made a really big bundle of dough on their failure.) So the debts incurred from two unnecessary wars plus the financial crash resulting from fraudulent investment packages plus the horrendous tax breaks given to the very rich plus the outsourcing of American jobs that destroyed our middle class all adds up and the sum total resulted in the near depression and still existing recession we have been experiencing since 2008.
So in addition to the foregoing, where are we now? Let me put it this way: I am 78 years old and from when I was only four years old I remember my father saying "Money talks"! Of course that was only a colloquialism of the time that meant exclusively “You can get what you want if you paid enough money for it!” However, now that I am a mature, well educated and experienced adult, I know the difference between speech and money. However, our current Supreme Court Justice Scalia (who naively took the old colloquial expression literally) has ruled that "money is speech". This gross distortion coupled with another of his gross distortions; i.e., "Corporations are people" has encouraged and made legal an infinite amount of money (that could total billions of dollars or more) that U.S. Corporations can contribute to U.S. elected members of our U.S. Congress to assure adoption of their preferred policies and legislation. Our Supreme Court voted that their action is protected by our Constitution’s freedom of speech proviso. As a result, the Corporations' massive amounts of money funneled through an inordinately large number of lobbyists to our members of Congress "speaks" so loudly that the voices of ordinary U.S. citizens are not heard or ignored by our elected Representatives and Senators. This is not Democracy (government by the people). It is a form of Plutocracy (government by the wealthy). This is the insidious compelling and all powerful force that is the real problem causing the gridlock we have been experiencing in our U.S. Congress. I respectfully submit that nothing is going to improve in Washington D.C. until this crippling situation is changed. And, the ONLY way it can be changed is to take the money out of American politics. To make this change, because our Supreme Court approved what Justice Scalia maintains, we must amend our U.S. Constitution. The basic Amendment is set forth in - so click on this link or paste it into your browser and see if you would like to sign the petition. Again -

Professor Reich, this is

Professor Reich, this is somewhat different than your usual fare. A moment of candor, I guess, and confession is good for the soul.

I've been voting since I was eligible to vote, and usually Democratic, and never Republican for president, but it's saddened me as I saw the leading lights of the party lean more and more to the middle (and that middle was easing rightward). We used to have a working man's party that also fought for the rights of women and minorities. Now so many blue-collar jobs went overseas that the unions are only a shadow of what they once were, and more of us work in offices for government or business. Many workers began to feel abandoned by the Democratic Party, or felt that all the battles had been won for wage-slaves and so a "worker's party" was no longer required.

I'm still a skeptic about "free trade" and "globalization." Yes, I see incomes in China and India rising, and I don't begrudge them that, but here in America people who work for salaries have been running like hell just to stay in place. Or actually falling behind. And though this was a major goal - or so it seems - of the GOP, we have to admit the Democratic Party has been complicit in furthering too many of their aims.

Now, with Global Warming a reality, and the end of cheap oil looming ahead of us, the idea of infinite economic growth, accepted by both parties, seems more and more a Kingdom of the Clouds, a work of fantasy.

I know that much of the South's disaffection with the Democratic Party has its origin in racial bias, hidden or not, but many salaried people in America began to see little difference (even when there was) between the two major parties.

Either the Democratic Party should get back to its roots, or pave the way for younger and more energetic third or fourth parties to take up the slack and occupy the spaces they vacated.

Every time the Democratic Party has tried to emulate the strategies of the Republicans, they have fueled the desire for other candidates of other parties. In the 2000 election, Ralph Nader was saying all the things, making the same criticisms, that I was expecting from the Democrats. Instead, Al Gore was mum on many of those issues, and even selected a bland closet Republican (Joe L.) for his running mate. I wanted, so badly, to vote for Nader, but finally voted for Gore because I knew how bad Jr. Bush was, and I wanted to stop him.

It's not enough for the Democrats to be a "me-too" political party. That fate rightly belongs to the Republicans, who fought every law for social justice the Democratic Party ever enacted. They can't succeed only on their record of past accomplishments, but must become again a party that stands for something and leads the way to a better sustainable future.

There used to be moderates in the Republican Party; hell, I know of some that were considered "liberal Republicans," which would be an oxymoron in today's Tea Party climate.

Shape up, DNC, and get your priorities straight. Or get out of the way. I've already voted for a straight Democratic ticket, but if you win, and do business as usual, don't take my vote for granted in the next election cycle. Put up or shut up.

Robert Reich, as I have

Robert Reich, as I have written before is a die hard Democratic shill, determined to maintain the corporatist two party system as I have written about recently: Reich continues to make excuses for his party rather consider the facts of what are actually happening. If he doesn't adapt soon to assessing reality then I predict he will be considered just a senile old observer, and he is younger than me!

As you stated Big Business

As you stated Big Business and Wall Street will always go Republican, but this is simply because these Republicans want to lower taxes for the rich and put more burden on the lower and Middle Class. Romney is an idiot, if he thinks he can pay down the debt and lower taxes at the same time. It's simply impossible. In order to build the Middle Class and the working poor, we need to extend the Tax Code to Reach the incomes of the Rich & Super Rich. I believe the Democrats in Congress need to push for "20 Brackets to $20Million, and 60% top marginal rate". If the Democrats in Congress can't do this for the Middle Class, then we need a new Party. I would suggest 3% for income $0-$30K, 6% for $30K-$60K, 9% for $60K-$90K, 12% for $90K-$120K, 15% for $120K-$150K, 18% for $150K-$180K, 21% for $180K-$210K, 24% for $210K-$240K, 27% for $240K-$300K, 30% for $300K-$400K, 33% for $400K-$500K, 36% for $500K-$1Mil, 39% for $1Mil-$2Mil, 42% for $2Mil-$3Mil, 45% for $3Mil-$4Mil, 48% for $4Mil-$5Mil, 51% for $5Mil-$10Mil, 54% for $10Mil-$15Mil, 57% for $15Mil-$20Mil, and 60% for income over $20Million. This change along with all income no matter what the source is to be taxed as income, would straighten out 96% of all the country's problems. Talk about "Fair & Balanced", I don't think anyone could come up with a new Tax Code that is more fair & balanced. Do we really need a new Political Party, when the Democrats could make this happen, if they only would.

Reich makes good points, as

Reich makes good points, as do both commenters so far (DHFabrian regarding Clinton's rightwing influce and Norman regarding our need for 3rd parties).

But it is very important not to forget the wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, and generally against Moslems and Arabs, and not to forget our hundreds of foreign bases from Korea and Japan to Germany and Central Asia.

Aside from all of their intrinsic evil, they are making us bankrupt, and they gall everyone with any desire for righteousness. The Democrats need to learn that war is in nobody's best interest.

DANH: Righteousness is not


Righteousness is not considered a viable policy in the West, though it seems to be popular with those Muslims who want to take over Europe and destroy the "Great Satan."

And please recall that the Democratic president didn't start the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one has been ended and the other is being wound down.

While I've had my disappointments with Obama, my expectations were not as high as those of others. Still, I see vital differences between Romney's approach to matters important to me, and Obama's efforts, and believe that no reasonable person would want to empower the former out of spite against the latter.

I would be glad to see other parties represented in the state legislatures and the US Congress. Then we might see some real movement, airing of different perspectives, and compromises that lead to progress. But these minority parties are cutting off their noses to spite their faces by just running a presidential candidate every 4 years. They have to build national party structures if they really hope to make a difference. Protest votes and statement votes seldom make things any better, and sometimes lead to the worst candidate of a major party getting elected.

That's not a prescription for change, the way I see it, nor do I think by empowering the greatest evil it will somehow lead to a purifying election of a righteous third-party candidate after 4 (or 8) years of social regression and growing wealth inequality. Empowering plutocrats may just strengthen them in their entrenched positions.

The party on the right gave

The party on the right gave in to their ideas and put the country in peril,by the right stoping any jobs bill or any thing that might make Obama look like a president that cares for the welfare of the country was turned upside down to make it look like Obama was doing bad for the people of america.His plans for bypartisnship was turned away by the party of no.He was voted in by a majortity of people but it was turned sour by the right wing media that filled the airwaves with lies.We need to come to grips with we are country of racists,wether you agree or not its true we have yet to understand that we still live in an era of hate when it comes to the color of a mans skin.

Are Dem legislators figuring

Are Dem legislators figuring out that when they pull to the right, they lose? As much as Clinton has been marketed in this election cycle, the record shows that he has been well to the right of such historic staunch conservatives as Eisenhower and Nixon. Clinton took a saw to the rungs on that proverbial ladder out of poverty, and it collapsed. When Clinton jumped into the campaign (to the joy of media liberals), President Obama's poll numbers began slipping. The post-middle class saw it as an indication that President Obama would embrace Clinton's punitive agenda toward those who become poor. But President Obama isn't a "Clinton Dem," and he has steadily been rebuilding that ladder. He recently did what had been "the unthinkable" for post-Reagan Dems: he noted poverty, not in the sense that we must "get tough" on those who have nothing left, but in the sense that the only way we can "rebuild the middle class" is by making it possible for the people to do so, ensuring that they have the tools needed. Once he indicated that this was on his agenda, the poll numbers began reflecting it.

We need to allow third

We need to allow third parties to enter the system. The 99% feel un- or under-represented in the system of two parties who are run by the rich and famous for themselves instead of the country as a whole....All the potential for better lives/world/planet is wasted on pitty arguments, monkey business commercialism, wars, bigotry; spiraling this country's education, work opportunities, ethics system, etc. to the abyss. No one seem to mind the philosophy or RULING, of the kids future. Everyone is encouraged to be for sale, especially the politicians.... No matter what is learned, under the two party system, the moneybags will always buy the elections, the decision makers and the government.

NORMAN123: Basically, I


Basically, I agree with everything you've said. I just have to wonder if any political party can make it in America without making some concessions to the rich. Not stating an ideological position, just wondering. Maybe I've lived too long, and voted too many years, to have realistic hopes for anything significantly better. We can only keep trying, and I hope I never stop doing that.

RON IN NM, I've given a lot

RON IN NM, I've given a lot of thought to yours and others posts. I've read about the inherent corruptness embedded in Romney and his prospective policies for months now. Living in California I could probably vote for Jill Stein (my long stated intention) and Obama will still win California. At age 55 and in declining health I wanted to actually vote for someone and their positions that I could believe in. The Green Party "does" embody what the Democratic party "should" be promoting. But, like you, the thought of a "President Romney" is giving me nightmares. In the end, I will swallow my convictions and my previously stated intentions and vote for Obama. I will say this: If renewable energy, women's reproductive rights, cuts in military spending, taxes on the wealthy, prison reform, medicare and social security taken off the chopping block, unions promoted as being the path to a decent life, and justice meted out to financial industry miscreants is given nothing but lip service then if I'm fortunate enough to live another four years I GUARANTEE that I won't be voting for the Democratic nominee...unless its somebody like Elizabeth Warren. It's "put up or shut up" time for the Democratic party and the millions of people it has carried on a duplicitous relationship with. That seems "more" than fair to me.

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