By Jim Jensen/Chewelah Resident
Probably the upcoming presidential election is the most remarkable in a generation. Never before have the Democratic and Republican Parties been in such disarray, nor have they each presented such controversial presidential candidates.
This disarray is evidenced by Trump’s success in a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, and by the disclosure of hacked Democratic National Committee emails revealing the DNC’s attempts to derail Bernie Sanders’ campaign and other indiscretions, by revelations regarding Hillary’s handling of official correspondence using her private email server, by her trading contributions to the Clinton Foundation for face-time at the State Department and by the recent WikiLeaks disclosure of her private cozying up to Wall Street. Hillary also, in a classic display of arrogance and condescension, has deprecated nearly half of voting citizens (i.e. those supporting Trump) as a “basket of deplorables” — whom she proposes to govern by their consent.
According to a joint study by Princeton and Northwestern Universities, the US arguably is no longer a democratic republic, but is instead an oligarchy — that is, government is no longer controlled by nor serves ordinary citizens, but rather is controlled by and serves a powerful ultra-wealthy elite. One of the study’s investigators, Martin Gilens of Princeton, concluded that “… ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups — of economic elites and of organized interests.”
This oligarchy operates substantially through elected officials, who are its clients and proxies, by applying bribery (aka “campaign contributions”) on a massive scale. As pointed out in his book, Oligarchy (2011, Cambridge University Press), Northwestern University professor Jeffrey A. Winters observes that this is a characteristic oligarchic pattern, in which oligarchs do not typically rule directly but instead maintain a large stable of paid servants to exercise power in the oligarchs’ interests. The oligarchs rule without any political philosophy or purpose other than to protect and increase their wealth.
Whether one argues that the linkage among the US wealthy elite, government and economy more closely resembles Chinese state capitalism, Russian kleptocracy, old-fashioned Fascism or a colossal Mafia crime family, it is clear that the US government and economy are no longer operating to support ordinary US citizens.
Although many see the election as a contest between individual parties and their candidates, I believe what instead is at issue is a popular revolt by the dwindling and neglected middle class, led by a political outsider, versus the ruling big-money oligarchy and its clients and proxies, who include senior political insiders in both the Democratic and Republican Parties, include most current holders of elected office, and who evidently also include (since Citizens United) justices in the US Supreme Court. According to a persuasive article in Salon Magazine (salonmag.com, 7/25/2016), the Trump campaign is fueled by growing impoverishment of the middle class, which impoverishment has been created by federal government economic and trade policy under both Democrats and Republicans over a period of some years. As I see it, Clinton and Trump are merely placeholders in these competing political undercurrents.
I believe that being progressive at this time means supporting any revolt against the oligarchy and its clients and proxies. I’m particularly disappointed in my liberal acquaintances who conflate being progressive with accepting whatever the Democratic Party throws over the fence.
My own political preferences are neither conservative nor liberal: instead I simply favor a democracy in which all citizens, equal under the Constitution and before the law, can inform themselves, debate and choose. I’d much prefer as leader of the populist revolt a figurehead more attractive than Trump. Nevertheless, for me, the important issue is to support the revolt, and its leadership, for now, is what it is. Therefore I will vote for Trump. Trump may well lose, but potential political-outsider candidates in the near future will look at the upcoming election results, and from these results weigh their chances of running independently and against oligarchic interests. I wish to encourage such future independent candidates. I will vote and work at every opportunity to support current and future efforts to defeat the oligarchy and restore our democracy.