Will Democrats Be Democrats or Fraidy-Cats?

Rather than respond to the grassroots will for real change, weak-kneed forces are opposing strong advocates like Warren and Bernie Sanders.

“Trust me!” bellowed the billionaire Donald Trump to working-class voters in 2016, promising he’d be the champion of what he called “the forgotten Americans.”

Trust him? He’s a lifetime real estate huckster infamous for ripping off workers and opposing union labor. You’d have better odds trusting a coyote to guard your last lamb chop!

Nonetheless, many working stiffs did buy his promises to stand up for them against corporate and political elites. But he quickly proved that, true to form, his promises had been just another Trump scam. Again and again, he has carelessly stiffed working stiffs, consistently siding with corporate powers to transfer more money and power from workers to corporations.

For example, candidate Trump pledged to hike the minimum wage to $10 an hour, but once in office, President Trump coldly turned his back on underpaid workers, never mentioning — much less fighting for — any increase in our nation’s shameful, poverty-level wage floor of $7.25 an hour.

Also, Trump’s Labor Department — headed by anti-labor corporate executives he intentionally appointed — ruled that millions of service workers are “independent contractors” rather than company employees. Thus, he decreed, they’re not entitled to any minimum wage, overtime pay or other labor protections. Then, last year, this “worker’s champion” mandated that, instead of monitoring corporate violations of wage laws, his administration would trust top executives to monitor themselves and self-report any violations. Plus, he grants them clemency if they do cheat workers.

Moreover, the Trumpsters have gutted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, cutting the numbers of job safety inspectors to the lowest level in the agency’s history. As a result, it’s open season on maiming workers. For example, when an assembly line worker at an Arkansas chicken processing plant had a finger cut off last September, OSHA didn’t even send an investigator. The next month, Trump’s OSHA “regulators” let the plant’s owners speed up their assembly line. Then, two months later, another worker lost a finger. Again, Trump’s job safety officials didn’t inconvenience the corporation by sending an inspector to question its practices.

It’s true that Trump has not “forgotten” the forgotten working class. Indeed, the pampered son of privilege remembers to slap them with plutocratic policies every chance he gets.

As an old saying puts it, “Where there’s a will, there are a thousand won’ts.”

Sure enough, while there’s a large and steadily growing public will across our country to take bold steps to battle the plague of inequality ripping America apart, here come the won’ts: The corporate powers, plutocratic elites and their political hirelings hate the very idea of public action to restore economic fairness and equal opportunity for all people. So they’re frantically trying to scare the public away from big ideas like Medicare for All, free college tuition and a wealth tax by branding them with the hoary old right-wing bugaboo: “Socialism!”

However, they have three major problems in selling this scare tactic:

  1. Such progressive ideas are quite popular.
  2. The greedy rich are quite unpopular.
  3. The cry of “socialism” has lost its sting.

A July poll shows that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s idea of a new tax on fortunes greater than $50 million is favored by two-thirds of Americans, including 55% of Republicans. Nearly 6 out of 10 people favor Medicare for All, including a majority of high-income Americans. And nearly 60% of us — including 72% of independent voters — favor free tuition.

Ironically, the major barrier to passing such changes is not the one thrown up by big money lobbyists and Republican congress critters. Rather, it’s the meekness of establishment Democrats — including many elected officials and operatives — who don’t have the courage of their party’s democratic convictions. They whimper that it will be hard to pass the sweeping changes Americans need and want, that those ideas might offend some of the party’s big donors and scare off some crossover Republicans in 2020. So rather than respond to the grassroots will for real change, those weak-kneed forces are opposing strong advocates like Warren and Bernie Sanders. They’re urging the party to back off from its core values and fighting spirit and instead seek small incremental adjustments in the status quo that might win support from Republicans and corporate chieftains.

If the meek ever inherit the earth, these timid do-nothings will be land barons! If Democrats don’t stand for the people, why should people stand for them?

Jim Hightower