Let’s get the who-won-who-lost nonsense out of the way first. Smilin’ Hillary won. Snifflin’ Trump lost. And Hillary’s adroit, energetic – even powerful – performance must surely have laid to rest all those whispers about her health.
But Trump scored a point or two before he crumbled in a heap of pouting petulance.
How he scored those points is discouragingly ironic.
Trump swept through the Republican primaries on a wave of public frustration generated by a do-nothing Congress and the prevailing perception that America’s politicians are in it for themselves, not the people they are elected to serve.
He mobilized the Republican base by exposing the party brass as an entrenched elite who grind their axes at their country’s expense.
Yet in last night’s debate, he was able to make it sound as if Hillary and the Democrats were to blame for decades of government shortcomings.
He reiterated that Hillary has had a 30-year political career in which to make things better. He argued that her plans for economic and social reform now were “just words.”
Hillary could have explained that it was the Republican Party that has blocked attempts at progress for the past 30 years (and more).
President Obama has been trying for ages to get an infrastructure rebuilding bill through a Republican Congress, for example. And guess what. Both Trump and Hillary are proposing an infrastructure rebuilding program as a way to create jobs!
The blame for America’s disappointing trade deals – and the resulting loss of manufacturing jobs – is a little harder to pin down. What nobody observed last night is that while those global trade agreements shipped jobs abroad, they produced jobs at home. And American companies benefited from export opportunities created by the trade deals. Surely, Trump’s trickle-down party should be happy about that?
The real Gordian knot is the fact that the jobs produced by trade deals are seldom accessible to the workers who see their jobs vanish. A laid-off Michigan factory worker isn’t likely to get a job as a software developer in California or a shipping clerk in New Jersey.
In a global economy, the government has to step in to make sure those who lose their jobs get retrained for better jobs. And the government has to make sure the better jobs are there. If the private sector doesn’t generate them, then the government must provide them.
Hillary has programs on her web site to address this challenge – job retraining, free community college, public investment in alternative energy, and so on.
It’s the Republican Party that stands in the way of such programs. It’s the Republican Party that has resolutely blocked reforms proposed by people like Hillary for the past 30 years.
Somebody should have pointed that out last night. Maybe next time.