By Bill Densmore
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Former Vermont governor and national Democratic leader Howard Dean labeled America media as a failure for elevating the campaign of Donald Trump, even as he delivered a generally inspiring lecture to students at Williams College on Thursday night. He rallied students to join government institutions and change them.
Dean criticized the media for not “calling out” Trump for telling untruths and he said some media organizations were influenced by the fact that they could make more money by featuring the now president elect and spiking ratings. “The press is a failed institution in this country,” he said. “But the media are [now] learning. They know what they did.”
Most of his talk, however, was aimed at inspiring students. Trump’s election was not a repudiation of youth values, he says, it was a demonstration that millions of Americans feel economically left behind and wanted change. There are a lot of middle-aged Americans who had well-paying jobs and lost them, and haven’t gotten another, he said. ““What I have to do is try to convince you to stay in the system regardless of its extraordinary imperfections,” he said.
Listen to the audio here: http://newshare.com/greylockindependent/howard-dean-williams-college-01-12-17.m4a
Dean said the United States had just completed the “most unusual election in my lifetime,” adding: “I have no predictions about what Donald Trump is going to do in the White House.” He said that while it is easy to feel disillusioned, and shocked, “I consider myself to be an optimist about the country – although we are going to have a really unusual and interesting period.”
The MSNBC commentator said he knows young people felt a repudiation of their core values — diversity, respecting others, a sense of community — with Trump’s election. “I actually don’t think that is what really happened,” he said. “What drove Donald Trump into the White House was not a rejection of youth values,” he said. Rather, he said he believes enough Americans wanted a change and they expect Trump to deliver it. “Hillary Clinton clear wasn’t the change agent,” said the former Democratic National Committee chairman. “I think our message was we can keep doing the same thing and that is not what people wanted to hear.”
There are a lot of middle-aged Americans who had well paying jobs and lost them, and haven’t gotten another one.
Dean said it is easy to blame foreign trade — as Trump does — for the woes of the left-behind American workers. But he said that everywhere in the nation except the Midwest, international trade is a net creator of jobs — both overseas and in the United States. Further, he said, “globalization has taken one billion people out of poverty over the last 10 years.” It is not trade that cost American jobs, it is the effects of the internet and automation, Dean said. He said the Ford Motor Co. River Rouge plant near Detroit that once employed 6,000 people now employs one third of that number — and turns out as many or more cars.
In addition, he said, globalization “is incredible good for world peace” because as international businesses trade with each other they are more inclined to resolve disputes amicable than with wars. In fact, he said, that is the whole point of politics — figuring out how to constrain human behavior and to allocate human and natural resources equitably without resorting to wars. A tendency to violence is part of the human condition, he said, and a goal of politics is to reduce violence.
Dean said the arch of history shows that is generally working — we are a less violent species than we once were. But Americans themselves are not what is exceptional in this regard, he said, it is our founding documents that are exceptional, “because they elevate what we expect of each other.” He said the European Union is also designed to reduce violence in what has been, over history, the most violent-prone part of the world because of eruptions of nationalist and religious fervor.
“The EU is another clunky institution . . . a big bureaucracy, out of touch, but it exists to circumscribe violence,” he said. Nationalism and religions are based upon tribalism the desire to form groups and then defend those groups, he argued. When people are afraid, they fight, said Dean, adding that aspects of the internet feed such notions. Talking about “isms” is the way people who are “weak and small stay in power,” he added.
Wrapping up his talk with a Q-and-A session, Dean defended the use of tax-code policy to create financial incentives for such things as infrastructure rebuilding rather than the reward non-productive financial manipulation.
ADVICE TO MILLENNIALS
Dean, who graduated from Yale University in 1971, had considered running for DNC chairman again but withdrew. He said the role of his generation “is to get the hell out of politics and let you take over.” He urged millennials to be willing to step into roles inside organizations — especially democratic and governmental institutions — and accept a responsibility and a patient willingness to change them. Institutions often favor their own survival over their mission, he said. “You will change the institutions, rather than the institutions changing you,” he predicted. “These institutions need to be reformed . . . there is going to be a huge culture clash.”
One thing he cited that needs to change — the way our system values human labor (too low) vs. capital (too high). “As great as capitalism is right now it is out of wack,” he said. “And those who invest capital get a greater reward proportionately than they deserve compared to those who invest labor.”
He described millennials as being more willing to collaborate and to use the tools of the internet age to influence change quickly. Of his generation, he observed: “We’ve spent our whole lives fighting in the trenches over things that we really care about and that’s not always been good for the country . . . unlike Bernie [Sanders] I’m not a socialist but I think it’s out of wack.”
A mistake made by his generation, Dean said, might have been lecturing millennials too much about rights and not enough about responsibilities. “It is also about what you owe,” he told the students at Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall at Williams College. “And you can’t afford to stay out of the system anymore, because if you do, there will be a lot more Donald Trumps in your future,” said Dean. “He is really just a reality TV show host who ended up in the White House.” The millennial generation must build the democracy — it won’t build itself — said Dean. “If you don’t nourish it, it will die.”