Clinton, Sanders and Trump: On to Wisconsin

By Bill Kaplan

The upset win in Michigan by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders keeps the race tied to the misery in the heartland. The industrial Midwest, including Wisconsin, has been hard-hit by catastrophic deindustrialization and loss of well-paying jobs. Many factors have contributed: automation, capital flight (Johnson Controls), corporate predators (Amazon and Wal-Mart) and most of all, globalization and trade pacts: 

• The Economic Policy Institute makes the case: "The United States lost 5.7 million manufacturing jobs between March 1998 and 2013 (Wisconsin lost 133,100). The principal causes of manufacturing job losses were growing trade deficits, especially with China, Mexico, and other low wage nations, and the weak recovery from the Great Recession since 2009";
• The Washington Post reports some positive news under President Obama: "The low point for manufacturing jobs was reached in February 2010, and there has been a gain of 878,000 (including thousands in Wisconsin) jobs since then"....But still "1.4 million fewer than when the recession began in December 2007"; 

• Progressive Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne summed it up brilliantly: "Tuesday in Michigan was brought to you by white working-class men and the people from small towns and small cities. The outcome of a primary that shook the certainties in the Democratic presidential race while also ratifying the ongoing power of Donald Trump's coalition of discontent was determined by voters who don't trust trade deals and don't believe in the promises of the new economy. Trump and Bernie Sanders are as different as two politicians can be, yet both served as megaphones for a loud cry of protest from the long-suffering and ignored". 

The Wisconsin April 5th presidential primary is not an afterthought. The Marquette poll shows Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton tied in the Democratic race, while Donald Trump has a clear lead in the GOP contest. All three will be competing for working class voters. Clinton is a quick study. Politico opines: "Hillary Clinton hardened her stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement Saturday in a last-ditch effort to prevent Democratic rival Bernie Sanders from riding a wave of populist anger to another victory Tuesday in a key industrial state (Ohio)." 

A revitalized Sanders will keep hammering away at unfair trade deals, deindustrialization, soaring income inequality and corporate attacks against unions (Clinton largely concurs with Sanders). And, unions will remind voters that Trump says American "wages are too high" and supports so-called right-to-work laws. Bottom line: Wisconsin voters have the future in their hands. Dean Baker, a liberal economist, said: "The big question is whether such a (populist) politics will be a dead end that tries to set the clock back by being a white people's populism (Trump) - treating African Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic / racial groups as the enemy. Or whether it will be a forward thinking approach that formulates an economic policy designed to reverse the enormous upward redistribution that has been engineered by the leadership of both political parties over the last three and half decades." On Wisconsin! 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009

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