28 Feb '16    home | previous

Political Comedy, 2016

Chris Christie two days ago announced that we don't need another Washington politician and therefore he was supporting Donald Trump for president. Also yesterday, Jerry Falwell Jr told Greta Susteren that evangelicals are supporting candidate Trump because they are "no longer gonna go with career politicians."

This anti-politician division within the Republican Party goes back to 2010 when Tea Party activists were taking a stand were anti-incumbents and saying they were going "to take our country back." In October 2010, according to the Washington Post, a canvass of local Tea Party organizers found 87 percent of them saying that dissatisfaction with mainstream Republican Party leaders was "an important factor" in the support they were receiving. The Tea Party was urging people who were not politicians to run for office – to become politicians themselves – to join a new breed of anti-establishment public servants. Rather than staking out a position on an issue like the economy or military intervention abroad, they were injecting into their Republican Party something that had no real substance, something that mislabelled what was wrong in the nation's politics.

Candidates supported by the Tea Party won 39 House seats in 2010, and 5 Senate seats. The latter includes Marco Rubio in Florida and Rand Paul in Kentucky. Another who won a Senate seat supported by the Tea Party was Ted Cruz, in Texas in 2012. Tea Party leaders went the way of exaggeration common to old-time politics: they claimed that the American people had spoken.

There was nothing close to unity behind the Tea Party within the Republican Party. Today, some Republicans are described as "establishment," and for some other Republicans "establishment" is a dirty word. The media as categorized Senator Rubio as the establishment's candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Radio talk-show host Mark Levin describes the "Republican establishment" says radio talk-show host Mark Levin, as hating Ted Cruz. Cruz describes himself as the true conservative and Rubio as a tool of the establishment. Both are bad mouthing the not-yet-an-office-holder (non-politician) Trump. Christie is being attacked by members of his party for being an opportunist and criticized for his anti-Trump statements just a few age. And today, many are describing the Republican as having come apart. Senator Lindsey Graham describes his party as having become bat---- crazy.

There is in all this the same righteousness and throw-the-bums-out sentiment that created the Tea Party's dichotomy between non-incumbents and incumbents in 2010, and later. As the columnist Ruth Marcus described it in 2010 the wild thinking ignored that one person's career politician was another person's devoted public servant. There was a lack of tolerance for opposing views within the Republican Party and among Tea Party people the dismissal that knowledge that comes with experience can be helpful in working through complicated issues.

The anti-establishment throw-the-bums-out sentiment this year is prevalent among frustrated voters of the middle-class and otherwise. Trump appears to be benefitting most from this and is leading his rivals in polls of Republican primary voters. The establishment / anti-establishment dichotomy has appeared also within the Democratic Party, in the race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Hillary has been described by Sanders supporters as having sold out to Wall Street. Perhaps younger people – supporting Sanders – are more idealistic and absolutistic than the older voters who are supporting Clinton. They are less inclined to accept the possibility of big corporations as capable contributors to a nation's economy – although big corporations do so in Sweden and Denmark, not to mention Germany. Division among the Democrats, however, remains miniscule compared to the shattered Republican Party. Democrats are more inclined toward cooperation and compromise. (Note that Senator Cruz announced his run for the presidency declaring that he was running on the side of "Truth.")

Purist individualism makes contentious politics. Societies are made up of people of different interests and philosophies. Establishments are formed by those who have built the best coalition. Anti-establishment politics is actually an attempt to create a new establishment. Sanders can hope that an establishment is formed around what he calls a political revolution. But whatever happens, I submit, will not be the result of anyone's view of purity or what people think regarding establishment versus anti-establishment. We will find history of the United States turning on issues related to changes in social circumstances and perceptions of feasibility.

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