13 May 2016

We are the establishment

Donald Trump is against the establishment. Bernie Sanders is against the establishment. Hillary Clinton is against the establishment. Ted Cruz is against the establishment. Each looks at the other three and sees the establishment. Trump rails against politicians in general. Sanders rails against the plutocracy of fundraising. Cruz rails against gutless officeholders. Clinton rails against the enduring old-boy network. I don't recall anyone defending the establishment over the past year, and Michael Kazin has a point, writing in The Nation, that the concept of "the establishment" is so vague that, as noted, no two people mean the same thing when they attack it. What's to defend, in that case? Kazin finds all the railing against the "establishment" to be vapid. If we define "establishment" in the broadest possible terms as the inertial force that resists progress, Kazin finds its essence to be structural, rather than the will of some cabal. Worse, the will to resist structural change isn't conveniently concentrated in any elite. He writes:

Railing against the establishment also ignores the mass resistance to ways of thinking that would have to undergird a truly democratic and egalitarian society. The hope that we can bring about fundamental change by exposing an immoral cabal and crushing its power fails to confront the deeply held belief in the essential fairness of capitalist society. The tenacity of this conviction helps explain why Americans keep electing politicians who promise a good job to anyone willing to work hard and blame the breaking of promises on a mere failure of political will. There’s a feedback loop between the political and economic institutions that sustain inequality and an ideology that forecloses alternatives like the social democracy that exists, albeit under stress, in much of Western and Central Europe. 

Kazin could be more sweeping yet in his critique. While all four presidential candidates rail against the establishment, all arguably belong to it as wielders or wealth or power, yet each sees the others as the problem. This is no less true when people who have no apparent power rail against the establishment, when they also resist radical change. If they think that all that needs to happen is for "the establishment" to be brought down or replaced, without radical change on their own part, they contribute to that inertia that keeps an "establishment" in place -- that is, in effect, the establishment. There's more to this inertia than some faith in fairness; after all, "life's not fair" is practically an organizing principle for this inertial resistance to changes usually demanded for the sake of fairness. To make life more fair most likely requires a more "mobilized" citizenry than most of us want to be, because we no longer can imagine a middle ground between rugged individualism and the marching, chanting, uniformed hordes of the "totalitarian" nightmare. For too many of us, to move toward that middle ground is the first step down the slippery slope all the way to the other end. Ours is the political culture that results when we refuse to move. Despite all the protests about our powerlessness as ordinary citizens we remain a democratic republic, and if such a republic can't countenance radical change for the common good, whether out of complacency or fear of  Big Brother, then the masses are the establishment as much as the millionaires are. That goes as well for all the "populists" who say someone else has to change and not us. And that raises a troubling question: to be truly "anti-establishment" in this country -- to be truly committed to radical change --  do you have to be anti-democracy as well?


Anonymous said...

Well, it is quite simple to suss this out. The establishment is, pretty much, the status quo. On the legal end of things, it is upheld by the government, which has done little or nothing about changing the status quo. Since the government is run by two political parties, those parties are, logically speaking, part of the status quo.

If the two parties that control the government are working to uphold the status quo, why are anti-establishment candidates: 1) attempting to gain the nomination from one of those two parties, rather than truly BEING anti-establishment and running independently; 2) why are the majority of those candidates more than willing to accept donations (in cash or pac-funded attack ads) from the establishment? 3) why are they not directly attacking the establishment they all claim to disagree with, rather than one another?

I think it seems pretty odd, the number of foreign governments that donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and/or its subsidiaries, and how most, if not all, of those countries received not-quid pro quo in return from the State Department, which was run by Hillary Clinton. Now it comes to light that a Romanian hacker - among, possibly several others, was able to easily hack into Clinton's non-government, non-regulation email servers and the Russians claim to have upwards of 20,000 emails from those servers. Why has Clinton not been charged, at the very least, with complete incompetence? Why is the Democrat party still supporting such a blatant misuse of power and, what seems pretty much like corruption that is tied directly to the Clinton foundation.

Anonymous said...

To answer your final question, it depends on how much change is necessary and how quickly the public demands it. Hypothetically, one could create a near-utopian society in relatively little time by simply eliminating anyone who disagreed. Of course, the could be a sizable job, if you happen to be Stalin, living in the USSR. In terms of a democratic society, given the stupidity and gullibility of the average talking monkey, it is highly unlikely they will ever be able to agree what is fair.

There was once a saying...

Figure it out for yourself, or obey without question." Most people have already resigned themselves to begrudgingly obey without question.