Everyone's looking for what Winston Churchill called a pudding with a theme. How did the likes of Donald Trump make it to the forefront of American politics? How did the British break their strong link with the Europeans just across the channel? The common denominators, so we're told, are "revolution," "down with the elites" and "power to the people."
Or, as Che Guevara put it: "The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall."
The idea of revolution, of course, does not apply to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, because she's the apple clinging to a tree that has survived a lot of shaking and hasn't fallen. She has a native tenacity that gives her staying power, despite being a little too ripe.
Bernie Sanders is too old to play Guevara, and he was never serious enough as a candidate to actually make it to the Oval Office. But he put together a mini-revolution big enough to force Clinton to tack left, despite her sympathies and associations with the superrich who seek access through their big donations to The Clinton Foundation, her favorite charity. She collects millions from Wall Street in over-the-top speaking fees. Ever canny and cynical, she now campaigns with Elizabeth Warren beneath a banner celebrating the convenience of a shotgun wedding: "Stronger Together."
The Democrats are better than the Republicans at protecting their own. They long ago shunned President Ronald Reagan's famous 11th Commandment, "Thou shall speak no ill of another Republican." The Republican party has perfected the circular firing squad, this year with 17 candidates banging away at one other, leaving the loudest, richest, most uncouth and most inexperienced politician as the last man standing.
But the Donald leads an authentic revolution. Many of his followers are perceived by the elites to be vulgar, rough and raw at the edges, untutored in political niceties and underrated by the vain and foolish. When Warren mocks the Trump slogan, "Make America Great Again," as goofy, they retort that she's the goofy one. They answer with the moral clarity of those hurt most by the corrupting spirit of the Clinton mindset. They're demeaned by the emphasis on the ethnic identity of fashionable others, and they laugh out loud at the joke when he calls Warren "Pocahontas," a dig at her claim of Cherokee ancestry. The Trump people have had it with the self-serving self-righteousness of the politically correct.
The Donald's biggest supporters are found in the white working class. Their much-derided way of life, together with their livelihoods, has been destroyed in the new global economy. They think he's got their back. They live in neighborhoods below the shining city on the hill, where the weaker sunlight puts their modest houses and declining businesses in harsh relief. Many of them live depressed in the dark shadows of decay, where working-class white lives should matter, but are sneered at in the cultural salons because they lack what Leon Wieseltier, critic of culture and policy at the Brookings Institution, calls "moral glamour." He describes the scattershot nature of American compassion, the "soft betrayals" where sympathy for what matters is highly selective.
"Since much of the white working class lives in states with large rewards in electoral votes, it had been the national custom to pause and remark upon their misery only every four years," he writes in the Washington Post. "And in the years between general elections, when the course of American history, or rather the interest of American politicians, did not run through Ohio and Pennsylvania, they had generally been met with indifference and even contempt." These voters especially resent the chic Democratic "bi-coastals" to whom the farms and small towns of flyover country are "culturally embarrassing."
The white working class delivered strong victories for Trump in the primaries, and they believed him when he told them "I'll be back often." They don't feel patronized when he says, "I love the poorly educated." The Democrats who preen their faked affection for the white working class and say they're for Sanders are ripe for Trump in November because he speaks their language.
"I want you to imagine how much better our future can be if we declare independence from the elites who've led us to one financial and foreign policy disaster to another," Trump told a Pennsylvania audience this week. He urges them to follow the British who voted for Brexit to take back their future, too.The Donald is ridiculed for his undisciplined, spontaneous rhetoric, but polls show he wins on economic issues, as the candidate who would know how to create jobs. It's the economy, Stupid. And Stupid must understand that the future depends on who can put the right theme in the pudding.