The culture wars have been at the center stage of our political discourse for some time now, and it’s about time we contextualize them. While it is true that people voted for Trump due to cultural anxiety, they also did so out of a deep dissatisfaction with the so-called “establishment”.
Their political choices may be misplaced, but the anger of these voters is not unfounded—the system has failed them. The U.S. has the highest inequality of any developed country and a staggering lack of economic mobility. Despite what some may assert, our politicians are largely to blame for these characteristics of our neoliberal state. As a liberal on campus, I believe that to solely focus on the social issues and identity politics that brought Trump to power is misguided, to say the least.
The most visible priority for Democrats for the past two decades has been the defense of minorities and women. While commendable change has been achieved on this front–from the election of the first black president to the attainment of marriage equality–it is not the only one that should matter. Liberal politicians have used identity politics disingenuously to highlight the otherwise vague line between them and their Republican counterparts.
Trump’s actions are despicable, but us liberals helped create this monster
For instance, billionaire plutocrats supported Barack Obama, and Obama repeatedly served their interests. He bailed out Wall Street and allowed bankers to have the biggest bonuses in history in the middle of the Great Recession. He promised to end the wars that fed the military industrial complex, but he expanded them instead. Moreover, he aggressively pushed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, who are both Nobel Prize recipients in economics, criticized for serving the rich and hurting consumers. However, Obama was able to retain the support of his liberal base with socially progressive policies like the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the signing of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the Democratic establishment are equally–or perhaps even more–guilty, but we give them a break because they make a big show out of championing diversity and protecting minorities. In reality, their economic policies hurt everyone, including women, African Americans, Asian Americans, religious minorities, Latinx, the LGBT community, immigrants, and yes, the white working class, too.
Trump’s actions are despicable, but us liberals helped create this monster and enabled the economic injustice that exists today in the United States by excusing unacceptable economic policies because of favorable stances on high profile social justice issues. We ought to remember that Vanderbilt is part of this national conversation. Politics matter to students on our campus, and this involvement alone is commendable. However, our political discourse must be expanded. Though we should march on campus and denounce Trump’s stances on immigration and LGBT rights (among many others), we need to consider a lot more when evaluating candidates. We ought to acknowledge that the Democratic party is broken, and that us, Vanderbilt students, from our position of privilege, can and must do something to help fix it.
Jorge Salles Diaz is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.