By Beatrice E. Rangel
There are developments that are glued to our memory like a film and that we usually rerun when faced with great societal or personal challenges.
Two of these incidents have accompanied my life journey so far. These were President Kennedy's assassination, which I watched from the rec room of a boarding school and the sacking of President Carlos Andres Perez by the Venezuelan elites that refused to leave behind their rent seeking habits.
A third one has recently joined this collection of political fatalities: the storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Trump.
As I watched the wave of fury and resentment ,my mind flew to 1789 the year that the Bastille was taken over by angry mobs. The attackers were hungry and sick people who were tired of being the left behinds in a system that condemned them to poverty and solitude. They and President Trump's followers share the same plight. Technology induced change has imprisoned them into irrelevance. And they are fighting back against the system.
In France there was no visible leader at the Bastille takeover. In America the left behinds went to seek redressing of what they believed had been the greatest election fraud in history at the behest of the self-designated victim of the fraud: President Trump.
The incident brought to the forefront a segment of American citizens who once mobilized under the battle cry of "Make America Great Again" will not cease to participate in political developments; because like those that stormed the Bastille, the forgotten in America have discovered that they have the power to shake institutions and that they can make their voices be heard.
This means they are not going to go away but that they are poised to become a fixture of the political play in America. It is thus worthwhile to identify them, understand their grievances and address them so that they do not fall prey to populist leaders who use them to achieve political status without really caring about them as human beings.
This population segment described by Hillary Clinton as deplorables are people who to put it in Mrs Clinton own words "feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them ... and they're just desperate for change."
They represent about 23% of the U.S. population and share the traces of being functional illiterates; have completed middle school; live on occasional employments, or as millennials put it, on gigs. They deliver services, clean premises, stack shelfs, are call center agents, clerks, or cashiers. These menial jobs have low pay and demand long hours of work. According to Brookings Institute research "Most of the 53 million Americans working in low-wage jobs are adults in their prime working years," or between about 25 to 54, they noted. Their median hourly wage is $10.22 per hour -- that's above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour but well below what's considered the living wage for many regions. This represents 44% of the U.S. work force and means that these people live on an average annual income of $18,000.
Contrary to their parents and grandparents who earned good salaries for similar jobs, they are roughly able to survive. Under such conditions many have taken refuge in opioids consumption.
But that was up and until Trump entered the political stage. He convinced them that those to be blamed where everyone in government before him, in addition to Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the Deep State.
Trump further blamed immigrants and minorities.
Given that among developed countries, the U.S. ranks low in terms of literacy, general knowledge, and science, this segment of the population flocked to President Trump like flies to a light.
And his narrative reinforced their belief that punishment had to be exacted on politicians, corporate leaders and think tanks alike for their participation in the unfolding of their predicament.
These people are now mobilized and will not just vanish. The storming of the Capitol should thus serve as a call to action to leaders of both parties. A program to recue the deplorables from their current predicament is as pungently urgent as tackling the reactivation of the U.S. economy.
And this should drive attention to infusing in this segment of the population with digital skills. Together with a stimulus check, they should soon receive a tablet and a training course in coding and software writing. This will enhance the likelihood that they enter the new economy and its higher wages .As if this takes place they will be busy enough and economically stable enough to be immune to populism.Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of José Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.