There were, in retrospect, clear signs of what was to come—signs that if Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders did not appear on the scene, someone else like them would have. We’ve had decades of forewarnings as the top income earners —the “one percent”—began taking bigger shares of our economy:
- The anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s.
- The rise of Ross “NAFTA-will-suck-our-jobs-away” Perot and Pat “Pitchforks” Buchanan against the GOP establishment.
- The brief but intense Occupy Wall Street movement.
- The adoration of Elizabeth Warren.
- The warnings from economists in recent years that the United States was suffering the worst income inequality in the developed world, worse than anything since the 1920s—and that it was not sustainable.
- Above all, there was the drip-drip-drip social acid of stagnating middle-class income, interrupted by the false dawn of the mid-2000s mortgage mania, when the poor felt rich but in truth were only more indebted—and the simultaneous self-isolation of our increasingly uber-wealthy class over three long decades.
All this and no effective policy response from Washington to redress the widening income gap led to this peculiar election cycle. From Washington there was only the all-too-self-confident movement of both political parties toward a globalized “New World Order.”
First, the Republicans became ardent free traders, then the Democrats under Clinton, with Obama following suit. And all the while the media listened—in hushed awe of their genius—to the economists who told us that of course there were inequities and a lot of people would be left behind, but globalization, open borders and laissez faire markets were still good for most of us, sort of, we think. And besides, what’s the alternative?
We can debate the causes of inequality; and certainly whether Sanders and Trump have any real solutions or are just making empty promises. What is not debatable is that growing inequality is a major, society-shaking problem—one that has actually made America less cohesive, and neither Democrats nor Republicans are doing much about it.
Here too we’ve had years of warning: Real wages for most U.S. workers have been relatively stagnant since the 1970s. This problem has been simmering for decades and finally has boiled over.
Last week, I wrote that Governor Huckabee believes we are witnessing a “Peaceful Overthrow of Government.” I believe we are seeing an overthrow of the “Washington Cartel” – the collusion of big corporations, big donors, big media and big government that has run our government for decades.
It seems that the Democratic Party will tamp down this rebellion because they held a tighter rein on the candidate selection process. However, the populism remains, promising future problems for Democrats.
On the Republican side, it appears that one or both of the revolutionaries (Cruz and Trump) will actually pull off a complete take over and the Republican Party will have a populist bent to their politics for quite some time.
If you studied politics of the 1850’s you may be having a spell of déjà vu. In this era, the Tories (on the right) were deadlocked with the Democrats and the people’s agenda went untended. In 1854, a third party (today’s Republican Party) put together a populist platform and invited anyone who supported their centrist agenda to join them. Many did: the adoption of their populist agenda was completed when Lincoln joined this movement and signed the final plank – the Tariff Act of 1861.
What followed was 50 years of prosperity unmatched in our history. Progress was made in virtually all aspects of life. Myriad inventions happened as innovation was unleashed. This continued until the early 1900’s when the Republican Party lost site of the public and slowly shifted their focus to the financial interests. Today, both parties swoon over Wall Street money.
For this reformation of the nation to move forward, the Republican Party elite must swallow the bitter pill that insures their demise. They must decide which candidate they hate the most – Cruz or Trump. I’m betting they get behind Cruz as they have some hope of gaining control over him.
The “Washington Cartel” already controls Hillary but they will not be able to control Trump because he doesn’t need their donations. Either way the donor class is losing its grip on the Republican Party. Soon, we will see what the whole nation wants – the status quo with the Cartel continuing to run the government (Hillary) or populist reform with the Republicans.
What about Bernie? He made a good effort but will have to leave it to someone else to throw out the donor class on the Democratic side.
Hang on to your hats, folks!!!
Frank Shannon served in the U.S. Army, was an engineering/operations manager for AT&T for 27 years, was the owner of a small manufacturing business for 23 years, served as Colorado Chair of the Coalition for a Prosperous America and moved to Mesquite in 2013.