Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Establishment

The latest favorite phrase of the political class and the media that promotes it is The Establishment.

As a notion, being an outsider is always a popular and nominally effective way for a would-be member of The Establishment to gain entry to it. Promising angry voters that they have a chance to support someone who can act against The Establishment, but only if they are made an important part of The Establishment, despite the twisted logic, gains much coverage. That notion is especially true at the end of a two term presidency when no one wants what they see as the "same old".

Usually we are presented with candidates among whom will be a selection of claimants to title of outsider. This time around we have the benefit of more than the usual number who have audacity to make such statements about themselves. Let’s look at a few of them:

Hillary Clinton: She's the same old. She makes absurd claims to outsider, non-establishment status because she’s a woman and Republicans hate her with the white hot passion of ten billion suns. Of course, she is the MOST establishment candidate this side of JEB! Bush only with a much deeper establishment record than he does. My neck practically breaks from the cringe-induced recoil when she gets up on this line of talk. It was most prominent earlier this week when she was criticizing Bernie Sanders because he stated quite correctly that she had received the endorsements of Planned Parenthood and Human Rights Council because they were establishment just like her. Those organizations do excellent and necessary work and deserve to be respected but let’s not deny that they are part of the LIBERAL establishment. Getting hated by the right does not make one non-establishment. The right is not the only game in town as the Clinton machine has been demonstrating for 25 years.

Marco Rubio: Claims outsider status I guess by virtue of his refusal to do his job as a Senator. While a member of the Florida state legislature though, he was indeed part of the Republican party hierarchy and was its golden boy as Jeb!’s protégé. But since he’s crushing Jeb!, now, he’s really more like the Kylo Ren of modern politics (though it would be deeply inappropriate to compare Jeb! to Han Solo – and by the way, is it now ok to dispense with the Star Wars spoiler alerts already?).

Ted Cruz: Might actually be able to claim outsider status because he's such an abhorrent man that everyone and I do mean EVERYONE in politics hates him, especially those of his own party. He's the only character in this contest who can make Trump look like a good idea.

Trump: Technically an outsider because he’s never run for office. But as a land developer as he’s often mentioned, he has greased the wheels of politics as needed on every side of the machine when business required it. Not only does this define the corruption at the heart of The Establishment, it makes him more of an inside operator, and thus Establishment, than any elected official could ever be. The one claim he can make, and a legitimate one, is that he is his own cash backer so he is truly beholden to nobody and therefore is free to deal with everybody. And that would be great if he wasn’t a crass, narrow-minded, racist, xenophobe, asshole who doesn’t give a damn about anyone without gold-plated toilets to flush away their waste. Trump is a businessman who has always overstepped his actual abilities, then got out from under his huge mistakes by taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws to avoid being wiped out. He is like a billionaire welfare cheat. Except when he does it, it costs millions to billions in losses to others while he walks away free to build and destroy again. As a self-proclaimed successful businessman, he looks good to undereducated voters who want to be brash and rich like him but didn’t have wealthy daddies and great bankruptcy lawyers to get him through the hard times when he could only fly first class instead of on his own 747. But the eternal fallacy is that a good businessman does not have the same skill set as a good politician. Politics is an infinitely harder job than being a businessman. Politicians are constricted in ways that a businessman is never held back, plus a lot of the work has to be done more or less out in the open instead of always behind closed doors and held in private. To be sure, a lot of deal making happens in the dark in politics, but in business, that’s in the design of the deal. The goals of business are easy – make the money. That is NOT the goal of politics. The amorphous “public good” is the goal. The act of politics is working around every different definition of that to benefit people whether they voted for you or not. Trump does not care about any of this. He’s a shameless self-promoter who has no problem walking away from his many failures. That is not the job of president of the United States.

Bernie Sanders: a unique combination of long-time insider by virtue of being in or almost in elective office for much of his adult life, and outsider by being the only real independent politician. He is unconnected to money obligations of big donors, and has a consistent record and core set of beliefs since long before his first public office. He has been part of the political machinery at almost every level of American politics and he currently seeks to be at the top of the executive level. Being unconnected, he can honestly claim he is not part of the Establishment because they won’t let him in since he is something The Establishment ceased to be long ago: a genuine Public Servant. Having him as president will be interesting on many fronts. Of course he will get zero support from the republicans. No one except a republican will ever get their support and any but the most outrageous radical will get a consistent majority even of THEIR support because of the tea party morons. The Democrats will fall in line because they’ll have to. But it might and probably would spark a revival of that party’s backbone for the first time since a Kennedy ran for office. Should that happen, the nature of congress would probably change fairly quickly with a number of the few remaining moderate Republicans falling in line as well. Perhaps some tea partiers in name only would revive their moderation and behave like a loyal opposition again. Regardless, no matter how you quantify it, Bernie is no establishment politician while he knows everyone, is respected by everyone, is considered honest by everyone, and has the public good at heart even if you don’t agree with his policies and methods. He’ll never be accused of being in it for himself and certainly not for any Establishment cronies. 

The way Bernie is doing it is the only way in a democracy to take down The Establishment. You have to be the ghost in the machine come to life.