If we look at US politics today, I think the underlying sentiment for many Americans is disillusionment. They no longer trust their political leaders. They realize they've been lied to for decades, treated like idiots, taken for suckers. They're no longer willing to accept or put up with that. Examples are legion.
- The 'official' rate of inflation has nothing whatsoever to do with Americans' day-by-day experience of the real cost of living (as we discussed on Friday). The government's economic statisticians are not just inaccurate; they're deliberately lying to us. They try to excuse this by citing 'hedonic quality adjustments' and other statistical intricacies that are little more than academic constructs. They make no sense whatsoever in the lived experience of ordinary people. This began under Reagan and continued under Clinton. Both parties are equally complicit in this lie, and both are (rightly) blamed by voters.
- We've been told for years that globalization is good for the economy, and good for us. However, lived reality doesn't correspond to that propaganda. US jobs have flooded abroad to countries with lower employment costs, leaving millions of American workers jobless and dependent on Government handouts to survive (handouts that are increased only by the 'official' rate of inflation each year, which is far below the real rate of inflation, and which therefore buy less and less for those who have nothing else to live on). All the agreements that have underpinned globalization (the WTO, NAFTA, the proposed TPP and TTIP, etc.) are now widely perceived among the working and middle class as benefiting the establishment while harming everyone else.
- The unemployment rate is another example of political manipulation. The only reason it's officially so low is that government statisticians arbitrarily remove from their calculations everyone who's been out of work for a certain period. They classify them as 'not in the labor force'. That excludes them from the statistics, because only those in the labor force can be employed or not. As of June 2016 there were over ninety-three million Americans classified as 'not in the labor force'; almost a third of the national population. A large proportion of them desperately want to be in the labor force, and want a job. Statistical gerrymandering can't alter that reality. When those people hear politicians and their 'tame' statisticians proclaiming that unemployment is low and the economy is doing well, they know from their own bitter experience that those politicians and statisticians are lying.
- There's a growing disconnect between large urban areas on the one hand, and smaller urban areas and rural areas on the other. Increasingly, population is concentrated in the former and draining out of the latter. This means that political parties are focusing their efforts on the largest concentrations of voters - but in doing so, they're increasingly ignoring the needs, aspirations and views of the rest of the electorate. One article even asked, 'Will Liberal Cities Leave the Rest of America Behind?' It notably failed to ask another question. Will the rest of America be willing to be left behind? America's food supply and most of its raw materials don't come from the cities . . . but the urban 'elite' have largely forgotten that, and the voters who produce them. I think that's a very serious mistake. (See the foot of this article for another comment on this subject.)
- The mainstream news media, with few exceptions, are the tame servants of the establishment that owns them. With few exceptions, they parrot the official line of propaganda. Listen to the average financial news broadcast. How many will tell you that government figures for inflation, unemployment, etc. are statistically 'massaged' until they bear little or no relationship to reality? Short answer - almost none of them. Add to that the blatant bias and partisanship of most mainstream news media (repeatedly displayed during the recent Republican national convention), and their studied contempt for 'flyover country' and those living there, and you realize why so few Americans outside the establishment and the 'urban elite' are willing to trust anything the media says.
I could provide many more examples, but those will do for now. The picture they paint is broadly similar. Those who hold the reins of power, and those who serve at their whim and pleasure or because they 'toe the party line', have lost touch with the ordinary people of this country. They think that what's good for them is automatically good for the rest of us, whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not. For that matter, some question whether the rich (who are, after all, the establishment in this country) even need the rest of America any more.
The ordinary people of America don't agree, and increasingly they're no longer willing to put up with it. That applies on both sides of the aisle. It's led to Donald Trump's nomination as the Republican Party candidate for president, and almost led to Bernie Sanders earning the same nomination for the Democratic Party. (It's now becoming clear why Sanders didn't succeed: his own party was actively working against him, making the contest entirely uneven - not to mention, in a supreme irony given the party's name, undemocratic. Trump faced the same opposition from the Republican establishment, but was able to generate sufficient support to overcome it.)
The question is: where will this lead us in the next Presidential term of office? Let's say Donald Trump wins the election and becomes President. He'll have to work with a Congress and Senate whose members are largely opposed to his view of America's needs and priorities. They are, in the main, representatives of the establishment. For all that they talk a good fight back home in their constituencies, when they return to Washington they revert to the 'same old, same old' of expensive dinners with 'consultants' and 'lobbyists' who are lavish with their donations to 're-election funds' and 'campaign expenses' . . . provided that the politicians support the measures they're proposing. Those same lobbyists and consultants are all in favor of the establishment point of view. They're going to work with might and main to block any and every measure that departs from the establishment line.
The only way we're going to achieve meaningful reform in this country is to elect a set of politicians that will work together to resolve the issues described above, and many others. The President alone can't do it. Congress alone can't do it. The Senate alone can't do it. It'll take all three institutions, working together, to fix things. That's why it's time to begin asking ourselves about the incumbent politicians in our states and constituencies. Has our Congressional representative, and have our Senators, voted in support of the real needs of America? Or have they supported the establishment and the party line? If the former, well and good. If the latter, we need to replace them.
This brings me back to a point I've made many times before. It's no good voting for a political party, or its representative. The parties and most of their 'insiders' are part of the so-called 'ruling class', which is notorious for its insularity and studied contempt for 'outsiders'. Therefore, don't waste time on them. Instead, vote for the individual.
- Vote for the person who best represents what you believe in, and will work to achieve it, irrespective of his or her political party.
- If there isn't a candidate who exactly embodies your point of view, vote for the one who comes closest.
- If no candidate comes close, vote against the candidate who least embodies your point of view. Vote his or her opponent into office. You still won't like the taste, but at least the meal is less likely to choke you!
- If the above three points don't work - if no candidate is satisfactory, and you don't trust any of them - then I suggest you vote the incumbent out of office as a general principle. If he or she has done nothing to earn your vote during their previous term, why allow them another one? Their opponent is at least unlikely to be any worse! If you can't reward action, punish inaction.
- Make sure that the candidates and their parties know how you voted, and why. Make sure they understand that you intend to hold both candidates and parties accountable. They've grown used to a free ride. Make them stop that right now. Make them pay their freight!
Pragmatism is a useful tool in politics. If ever there was a time for pragmatism among the voters, it's now. We can't afford to waste time on party loyalties. Both mainstream parties have failed us miserably over the decades. If they aren't prepared to get back to reality and do what's necessary, we need to punish them by switching our loyalties to individuals who will be accountable to us.
If we don't do that . . . we deserve all that's happened to us, and all that's yet to come.
EDITED TO ADD: A telling quotation from Bloomberg on the subject of cities versus rural areas:
“Most people in cities are now several generations away from life on the farm, and some even think of rural areas as our dumping ground,” said Daniel Lichter, a sociologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “It’s where we send our prisoners, our garbage and our toxic waste.”Oh, really? I'm sure rural voters will be delighted to hear that!