28 Aug '16     home | previous

Anti-Establishment Politics

We have in 2016 a theory of political conflict that separates the opposing forces as "the establishment" versus the rest of us. Donald Trump, in addition to describing his opponent as "crooked Hillary," has put his candidacy on the side against the establishment. He has, in the words of a traditionally conservative columnist Michael Gerson, described the people as infallible but needing someone "who embodies their collective wisdom." Trump claims that the US is in "need of more than policy papers. It needs a savior."

Trump's supporters can rest easy in their belief that he is not Marxist. He doesn't see politics as anything like a class struggle.

In 1936, Franklin Roosevelt running for re-election called his opponents "economic royalists." Marxists were not with Roosevelt ideologically and called their opponents the "ruling class" (those who owned the means of production). In 2004, the Democratic Party's vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards, described politics as a struggle between the haves and the have-nots. In 2009 a conservative Tea Party movement described its opponents as establishment incumbents and crony capitalists. In 2016, Bernie Sanders described our nation's politics as between the billionaire class "and everyone else" – not quite Marxists but almost. And there is candidate Hillary Clinton who, like Roosevelt, is for keeping capitalism but she favors reforms.

Allied with Sanders and Clinton is Robert Reich, a Berkeley Professor who describes his opponents as big corporations and Wall Street banks, entities that have the power to redistribute "much of the nation's income upward to themselves." The rest of us, he says, must gain political power to put an end to the "rigging of the American market."

A Trump surrogate, Rudi Giuliani, explains his view of the political divide. He describes all those who ran for president in the Republican primaries, except Trump, as members of The Club. He says Republican Party's presidential candidate in 2012, Mitt Romney, was a member of The Club, that John McCain was a member of The Club. That Democratic Party's nominees for president, John Kerry and Al Gore were members of The Club. "Trump," says Giuliani, "is not part of The Club. Thank God. He's not part of the Washington Insiders." Trump, says Giuliani, "is the outsider representing everybody else who doesn't have a lobbyist in Washington." (Fox News, 9 Aug)

The Club, says Giuliani, has been taking our country in the wrong direction. "The American people," he says, "have made a judgment on that. They say that American is headed in the wrong direction."

Two recently published books are close to what Giuliani is talking about. One is The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About it. The other is Conspiracies of the Ruling Class: How to Break Their Grip Forever. The first of these books, by Angelo Codevilla, with an introduction by Rush Limbaugh, describes bad guys as those who control government and belong to the right circles. Codevilla puts into the Ruling Class both Democrats and Republicans. He describes the ruling class as those with their hands in the till and in control of where the money comes from that goes into the till.

The second book just mentioned here is by Lawrence Lindsey. He played a leading role in formulating President Bush's 1.35 trillion dollar tax cut before he left the White House in 2002. In his book he too describes his enemy as the "Ruling Class," and he describes the Ruling Class as "progressive elitists." He writes:

Today it is widely believed among Ruling Class members that they occupy an intellectually superior upper echelon of society and that this entitles them to the lofty positions they claim at the helm of our government.

Lindsey's Ruling Class includes liberals who control the media, show business, academia and other institutions. He rails against those in academia who view the world differently than does he:

As any non-liberal who has spent time at a college campus will tell you, the Ruling Class make it quite clear that anyone not on their team is unwelcome.

These are views that blur over the issue of wealth distribution. Trump tries to appeal to Sander's supporters without addressing that issue. Trump's appeal is vague enough to fit Giuliani's political philosophy connected to "The Club." Trump sticks with an old Republican position that we have no wealth distribution or political power conflict, that we are one big happy family that should be united behind his effort to make this country great again. Clinton, on the other hand, describes her political opponents as congressional Republicans "in the grips of a failed economic theory called trickle-down economics."

On his campaign website he declares for everybody. He declares for "Dramatically reducing taxes for everyone" and "Replacing Washington insiders with experts who know how to create jobs."

With Trump's surrogate Giuliani describing Trump as anti-establishment, one might wonder who is economic advisors are. The press describes Trump's economic advisors as largely the same men who are his donors. Politico described them on August 7. Below the article someone commented void of Trump's anti-establishment ideology:

Great big money donors are telling him how to run the country so they can make even more of it. I wonder if they are concerned about labor and other economic issues no related to making profits?

Another non-member of The Club commented:

Talk about "Pay to Play".

Another asked:

How will Trump supporters justify their 'anti-establishment' candidate making one of the most establishment moves in the play good with a bunch of guys from the establishment?

If Trump loses the election the theory will be floated that the establishment won, that it conspired or rigged the election against him – never mind all the non-establishment people who voted for his opponent. If Trump wins, those clinging to his view will need to adjust what they mean by establishment. Whoever wins, the new theory of politics that puts a depraved and unaccountable establishment on one side and the rest of us on the other may remain with a least a few outsider intellectuals. But still with us will be socio-economic views that belong to the political science that has been with us for more than a century.

(This – like politics through the ages – is largely about wealth distribution. Trump supporters connect Immigration as an issue to wealth (jobs) and well-being, and it should be the subject of another article.)

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Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.