I don’t think it’s very useful anymore to merely proclaim
how unprecedented the 2016 presidential election seems to be,
and simply to lament that the two major party nominees are
so flawed. Those two circumstances might have much truth in
them, but just to complain and not probe further does not
seem to me very illuminating about what is happening in the
nation, and what we might do next November.
The first complaint states that there seem to be few historical
precedents, and contends that current political conditions have
come about because the U.S. presidential nominating process is
hopelessly archaic and unworkable. But is the problem the
political process itself, a process which has evolved much in the
past century as it fits into our contemporary technological world?
The anti-establishment nature of what I call the “mutiny of the
masses” has been mostly treated in the media and (understandably)
by the various political establishments on the left, right and center
in a defensive manner. By that I mean that the media and the
establishments have taken up the popular mantra of being victims
of rude and disruptive forces. Many go even further, stating or
implying that the mutinous masses are uninformed, unappreciative
and gullible. In short, it is all the fault of the masses (sometimes
labeled in certain academic circles as the “rabble”).
Although disdain for the electoral grass roots has historically been
ascribed to the political right, we have now had almost eight years
of an administration in Washington, DC which thinks it knows
best what public policy should be. This administration has
unmistakably moved government policy to the left and to a much
more centralized role, and yet a liberal mutiny has come from the
left. On the right, the conservative establishment has done a lot of
talking and theorizing, but has proven to be a relatively weak in
domestic policies in practice.
The bottom line, of course, is economic well-being --- improving
prosperity and confidence in the future in domestic policy; and a
sense of hope and security about our role in the world.
The mutinous masses, it would seem, found little to like with
16 serious Republican candidates for president, most of whom
had a long and impressive resumes. Those on the Democratic
side were so unsatisfied with their prohibitive favorite that
they voted in great numbers for a hitherto fringe figure who
repeatedly proclaimed himself a “socialist” and only offered
unsupportable programs and plans that have not ever before
been taken seriously in U.S. politics. The few other liberal
candidates attracted almost zero attention.
Nevertheless, we are told that the villain in this piece is the
process itself, a process which nonetheless has enabled
candidates for president to compete openly and freely for the
support of voters.
It’s the fault of the media, we are further told. The media enabled
Donald Trump to emerge from obscurity by giving him so much
attention at no cost during the nominating process. Does that
argument suggest that such opportunity was not available to any
of the other candidates? Does anyone today suggest that the media,
left or right, now favors Donald Trump? Or that it takes Bernie
I suggest that conventional wisdom continues to search for
explanations for 2016 with just more conventional presumptions.
Everyone is at fault, this thinking goes, except those in both parties
who have been in charge over the past two decades.
Lest I be considered vague and non-specific in challenging the
leadership performance of the past quarter century, let me name
names, that is, specify festering unresolved issues facing most
Since the 1970s, I have been writing about looming problems with
private and public sector pension funds. The political leadership
in both parties, and in both the Congress and the White House,
have kicked this ball chronically down the road, applying band aids
and not cures. Today, many corporate and public sector pension
funds are imminently out of resources. The box of band aids is
empty. This affects millions of senior Americans.
Public school education, K-12, is imploding all across the nation,
especially in inner cities. Millions of working parents with young
children cannot afford to send their boys and girls to private
schools. As for higher education, some of our most prestigious
and expensive colleges and universities have become caricatures
of their former reputations, spending more public time on political
correctness than on providing adequate preparation, especially
at the undergraduate level, for working in the adult world.
Millions of parents face enormous costs, and millions of students
and recent graduates face costly loans to pay back.
The issue of legal immigration, long a positive staple of the
American “melting pot” culture, has become controversial to
many in the U.S., especially in the past seven years, as tens of
thousands of refugees have entered the U.S. during a period of
national alarm and concern about terrorism.The Obama
administration has appeared to relax border controls, and
increased refugee admissions in the face of the anxieties and
concerns of many Americans.
American foreign policy under President Obama has reversed
the direction of several previous administrations of both parties.
U.S. military withdrawal, originally welcomed by most Americans,
has been combined with severe cutbacks in U.S. forces, and many
U.S. voters have now become increasingly concerned that U.S.
withdrawal is emboldening terrorist and other potentially hostile
forces and nations to take advantage of this policy which might
be judged not to be in U.S. best long-term interests.
The 5% official unemployment level is much better than it was in
2009, but it does not include those unemployed who are not
currently actively seeking jobs, and thus disguises the fact that
the real unemployment figure is probably more than double the
official rate. Even more concerning is the extraordinary high rate
of unemployment among young black Americans. Both major
parties have been complicit in this public policy failure for years.
No political candidate of either party, furthermore, is talking
about solutions to the long-term permanent loss of millions of
U.S. jobs to automation, a crisis which is coming nearer and nearer.
These are only some of the major areas of U.S. public policy
which are chronically not working well, and which directly and
negatively affect millions of voters and their families.
Meanwhile, elected officials at all levels of government, and
many more bureaucrats in these levels, have seemingly taken
great care to protect their own incomes, increased their security
and benefits, and fastidiously paid attention to the entitlements
which affect not only them but the “special interests” which
support them politically.
Is there thus any surprise that large numbers of unspecified
voters, considering themselves voiceless, ignored and scorned
by the nation’s elites, would at some moment stage a grass roots
mutiny against the establishments of both parties?
Perhaps it’s time for all of us to take a good look in the mirror
of our daily life.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.