I was at my weekly watercolor class when, across the table, a woman said, “I don’t even know anyone who voted for Trump.”
“I do,” I replied.
I wasn’t kidding. My Chinese Dietician, an educated woman, voted for Trump. Many Filipinos I know also did. Some friends of friends in Nevada are ardent Trump supporters.
Why? Because Democrats are failing to speak to them in a nuanced way about complex issues. Take immigration for example. Many citizens, including Democrats, have complicated feelings about the topic. Immigration should be managed, they believe. To have completely open borders is just not realistic. They want to be compassionate and humane, but they also want to be rational.
Yet, after suffering a humiliating defeat in the general election, what was the Democrats’ first instinct? To double down on sanctuary cities.
This kind of bunker mentality does not serve as a substitute for policy, particularly in Middle America. No wonder the Democrats lost!
And don’t tell me that Hillary won the popular vote, that without the interference of James Comey, Vladimir Putin, and Julian Assange, she would have pulled through, that sexism was to blame.
The truth is, beating Trump should have been a cakewalk.
Don’t also tell me that Republicans blocked immigration overhaul; Obama could have pushed his agenda through during the first two years when he had a Congressional majority.
If Democrats don’t stop making excuses, they will lose the next election, and the next election, and the election after that.
The trouble is, Democrats joined the Republicans long ago in handing over the country to Wall Street and industry. I was aghast recently when a friend told me of a sweetheart deal a well-known high tech giant had offered a twenty-something from India. Details escape me, but the starting pay was way higher than salaries at which most professionals retire.
If the industry had that kind of money to throw around, I wondered, why did it not do more to help America’s youth train for jobs of the future? Why was it that, after enjoying the infrastructure provided by Silicon Valley taxpayers, the company was not giving more back to the community?
Why were Democratic politicians not demanding more from the industry? Why were liberals not pushing for reforms in our education system, which failed to produce the kind of workers that the industry of tomorrow needed, while half way across the world, Indian tech institutes were fine-tuning their graduates to a ‘t’? Why was American K-12 education run by a low-paid workforce and consisted of a hodgepodge of liberal arts information? Why could a few “symbol manipulators” become millionaires and billionaires while the rest of us could not even earn a living wage?
I posted something along these lines on Facebook during my post-election despondency. The vitriol I received was unbelievable. I was labeled a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and a Trumpian. I had to get off social media.
Yet, just the other day, an Indian-American friend, a staunch liberal, voiced similar sentiments, perhaps because her own child is struggling. “I am afraid of talking about this; people will think I am a right wing reactionary,” she added.
And that is the crux of the problem. People cannot even talk about their feelings of resentment and unfairness, let alone explore social and political remedies. What’s worse, Democratic politicians like Pelosi and Clinton don’t see the angst, perhaps because they are the elite whose children haven’t experienced it.
I realize I am treading on thin ground as I write these words, that I am in danger of being misunderstood.
But I do believe that young people who were born here, who have nowhere else to go, who are living with their parents because their jobs don’t pay them enough to cover the rent, should be a priority over people who want to come here. Only in a terribly lopsided world would we allow our industry to be so lazy as to do otherwise.
Does saying so make me a xenophobe? Or does it make me a patriot and a realist?
Even Bernie Sanders acknowledges that immigrant workers depress local wages. Right in our backyard, the University of California at San Francisco just announced a move of its information technology work to India, for example. Even as we hear stories of the displacement of American workers, we hear about high tech immigrants being underpaid. And all the while, a few others build mansions.
So, I want to ask Democratic politicians a question that has been roiling around in my head since November 8. How did Trump know what plagued the American working class? Sitting in his golden tower on Fifth Avenue, how did he feel the pulse of America? And why and how did the Democrats fail to sense it?
Don’t get me wrong. I think Trump is a narcissistic power monger who is about to curb our civil rights, our press, and our judiciary. What’s worse, without regard to morality or the future of the planet, Republicans are abetting him for their own selfish gains.
This is why Democrats need to talk to middle America right now about these complex issues. They need to stop viewing the Midwestern voters through the prism of their old ideas and listen and see what is really plaguing them. They need to distinguish themselves from the Republicans by showing that they really do stand for the little guy.
Sarita Sarvate (www.saritasarvate.com) has published commentaries for New America Media, KQED FM, San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and many nationwide publications.