Thomas Frank Explores Whether Clinton and the Democratic Party Will Address Inequality
Thomas Frank’s writing about electoral politics and its impact on American culture has been published for decades in such venues as Harper’s Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, and in his 2004 book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” In his latest book, “Listen Liberal: Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?,” the journalist and political analyst tackles the question of what changed within the Democratic Party to make it become a “liberalism of the rich.”
“The Democratic Party itself has changed,” Frank told Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer during an episode of “Scheer Intelligence” earlier this year. “What’s changed about them is the social class that they answer to, that they respect, that they come from.”
The trend has gotten worse.
“Democrats look at Wall Street, and they see people like themselves,” he said in an interview with Scheer during the Democratic National Convention in July.
On Tuesday night, Frank joined Scheer at the University of Southern California to discuss “Listen, Liberal” and his analysis of Hillary Clinton during this election cycle, from her public views on inequality in United States to her promises to tamp down greed on Wall Street.
Frank offered critiques of the Democratic Party’s abandonment of the average working-class American, the Clintons—who signed off on welfare reform that proved discriminatory—and the two-party system. He said:
Hillary has changed her position on issues many, many times over the years, and some of the things she’s done that her husband did that she had a hand in—she was a close adviser to her husband as president—have been disastrous, had catastrophic effects on people—welfare reform, for example. Every time Hillary says—and she says it a lot—that her whole life has been about protecting children, there’s an enormous counterexample, which is welfare reform, or what they called reform. They abolished the welfare system in this country, Hillary and her husband did. This is one of the cruelest things […] It was a New Deal program that they abolished. It was a cruel thing, it was more or less an overtly racist thing, and to do that to the poorest and weakest members of society—at the time, it just turned my stomach. And it’s a little creepy that Hillary sees fit to represent herself as the great defender of poor women and children because she manifestly is not. And that’s one of many contradictions in Hillary Clinton’s record.
If you read the biographies of Hillary Clinton, if you watch a speech by Hillary Clinton, if you watch the presentation of her life story that they had at the Democratic National Convention, Hillary’s story is all about virtue. She is good with a capital G. When she gave her acceptance speech at the convention, she was wearing all white. She likes to dress in all white; she is Joan of Arc. That is how she sees herself. Her favorite saying that she quoted at the convention, it’s this Methodist thing: Do all the good you can, all the ways you can, to all the people you can, for as long as ever you can. She’s good, she’s so good, she’s so virtuous, her heart’s in the right place, and every biography of her emphasizes this intense sense of her goodness, her virtues—her overpowering, 100-proof virtue. … She is intensely good. And yet, look at Libya, look at the welfare system in this country.
Frank admitted that, even after uncovering information about the Democratic Party and the Clintons for his book, he still voted Democratic. “After that talk, I went and voted for every single goddamn one of them,” he said.
He similarly expressed disagreement with Donald Trump. However, he said, he could not demonize the Republican presidential candidate’s supporters:
“I think a lot of his supporters are well-meaning people who are desperate. They are in deep trouble, and they are looking to someone who speaks to that. They wound up with a really crappy leader. Are you familiar with the term ‘demagogue’? That’s what he is; he is a fake savior, he’s a fake TV show man, and for whatever reason he has caught the temper of the times, but he’s a lousy leader. I don’t like Trump himself, but I think a lot of his followers are just desperate and looking for a way out.”
Watch the full conversation and Q&A with students below:
In March, Frank summarized his complex investigation of the Democratic Party:
And you know, we call it inequality; it is the one great problem that we have. And so my, the question in the book is […] the Democrats have been talking about inequality forever. This is why they exist as a party, is to take this on. Why haven’t they been able to do anything about it? And the answer isn’t what you think. You know, it’s not just because Republicans are so diabolically clever and stop them all the time. And it’s also not just because of the money that is sloshing around in politics, although that’s […] a huge part of the story. But the answer is because the Democrats aren’t who we think they are. You know, they talk about inequality, but their heart really isn’t in it. Income inequality is really not something that they have cared about for a very long time. You know, there are individuals here and there who do, but you talk about people like the Clintons—I mean, Hillary Clinton, her concern for inequality is, this is, I would say is almost completely feigned.
Frank also joined Scheer on Sunday to promote “Listen, Liberal.” Watch a portion of the discussion below:
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—Posted by KiMi Robinson
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