What About the People Who Don’t “Make It”?

Chris Hayes on the People Who Don't Make ItAfter the election, I conducted a kind of exit interview with retiring Senate minority leader Harry Reid. I asked him what the Democratic Party stands for, and after speaking of his own upbringing in deep poverty in the rural town of Searchlight, Nevada, he said: “People have asked me the last year, ‘What message do you want to leave with people?’ And here’s the message: I want everyone in America to understand, if Harry Reid can make it in America, anyone can. And I want those young men and women out there who are looking for a way out to realize, if Harry Reid can make it, anybody can. That’s what America is all about.”

This is, in some ways, a perfect summation of the Democratic Party’s message in the Obama era: in America, anyone can make it out, anyone can rise to the highest heights. Immigrant, native-born, black, white, disabled, gay, straight, male, or female — no matter your background, there’s a place at the top for you. Even if this were perfectly true (and it’s not), we’re now seeing what happens when the Democratic Party is perceived, by white working-class people at least, as the party for those who make it out. But millions didn’t make it out — so who champions them?

The answer is that someone came along and more or less said, “Fuck all that. You won’t have to go to college to live your dreams; I’ll deliver them to you myself. I’ll reopen the coal mines. I’ll wave a magic wand, and this place that’s been pummeled will be restored. You can stay here and live your dreams. Your town can be great again.”

I think Obama recognized the need to speak to the dislocation and alienation of the Americans who didn’t make it out as well as anyone. There’s a reason he won all those counties that Trump flipped: it was Obama’s extraordinary political talent to connect with citizens from all walks of life that made him one of the greatest figures in American history. A century from now, schoolchildren will be celebrating his birthday.

But I’m left to wonder what it must be like inside his head now. Does he have a blissful moment every morning where he wakes up with no memory of what happened in November, a sweet morning calm before remembering the catastrophe? And I also wonder if that blissful moment before reality sets in is how we’ll remember his presidency.

–Chris Hayes
How Will History Judge Barack Obama?

4 thoughts on “What About the People Who Don’t “Make It”?

  1. I love Chris Hayes and he articulated what I have been trying to say. Any fair observer knows that most of Trump’s appeal is old fashioned racism and sexism but there is something else in his appeal.

    The breezy, up beat tone of the center left, in general, and the Obama campaigns, in particular, always struck me as a kinder, gentler variant of the the bootstraps philosophy. Not only that, the center left belief that everyone should just go and get a cool job in New York is worse than the Republican boot strap narrative.

    The center left demands that not only you work hard but you go to a top shelf college and then a blue chip graduate program (and pay a quarter million dollars for the privilege) and then you take a bunch of unpaid internships in high rent cities and then you can bunk up with a trans gendered black person in order to afford a $10,000 a month rented room and then after 20 years and “networking” with the right people you can finally make partner at the law firm.

    If I’m an 18 year old from some small rural town, let alone a 60 year old, I’m going to say “screw that, Donald Trump offers up at least plausible economic delusion.” If you think that you have no chance of running the cultural and economic blockades that keep you out of the university and the big city, I can understand why folks will play sour grapes, call the other “libtards,” “cucks,” “snowflakes” and “thugs” and hope for the best in your own town.

    • I have a quote about Cory Booker coming up that illustrates this. I had thought that the Democratic Party had begun to see the light. But now, they seem more interested in bashing Sanders and anyone he supports than actually uniting for the good the typical American. I’ve long known that the Republicans hate the typical American. The Democrats are better, but not by that much. And I would say that half of them have bought all the happy BS that came out Reagan. Who is it over the last 50 years who really screwed the poor in this country? It wasn’t a Republican. It was Bill Clinton.

      • If it is to complain about the voting against the Klobuchar/Sanders amendment, you might want to reconsider getting mad at Cory Booker.

        There were roughly six or so amendments that dealt with drug importation and pricing. The Klobuchar/Sanders one that Booker voted against was 178 and was limited in scope. Booker voted for the one Wyden amendment (188) that was more extensive and had better protections for consumers.

        His office gave a stupid reason for voting against the Klobuchar/Sanders amendment but he voted the right way on the one that actually had teeth to it. Why the progressive left went ballistic after Booker (and not say Heitkamp) doesn’t make sense in light of this other amendment that was better. I read both amendments and I would have voted for the 188 over 178 if I had no choice to vote for both.

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