Robert Reich: Are We Witnessing the Death of America’s Political Establishment?

Yves here. The elites in America are so cloistered that Robert Reich has to tell them why the natives are restless. By Robert Reich. Originally published at his website

Step back from the campaign fray for just a moment and consider the enormity of what’s already occurred.

A 74-year-old Jew from Vermont who describes himself as a democratic socialist, who wasn’t even a Democrat until recently, has come within a whisker of beating Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucus, routed her in the New Hampshire primary, and garnered over 47 percent of the caucus-goers in Nevada, of all places.

And a 69-year-old billionaire who has never held elective office or had anything to do with the Republican Party has taken a commanding lead in the Republican primaries.

Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likeability.

It’s a rebellion against the establishment.

The question is why the establishment has been so slow to see this. A year ago – which now seems like an eternity – it proclaimed Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush shoe-ins.

Both had all the advantages – deep bases of funders, well-established networks of political insiders, experienced political advisors, all the name recognition you could want.

But even now that Bush is out and Hillary is still leading but vulnerable, the establishment still doesn’t see what’s occurred. They explain everything by pointing to weaknesses: Bush, they now say, “never connected” and Hillary “has a trust problem.”

A respected political insider recently told me most Americans are largely content. “The economy is in good shape,” he said. “Most Americans are better off than they’ve been in years. The problem has been the major candidates themselves.”

I beg to differ.

Economic indicators may be up but they don’t reflect the economic insecurity most Americans still feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience.

Nor do the major indicators show the linkages Americans see between wealth and power, crony capitalism, declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and a billionaire class that’s turning our democracy into an oligarchy.

Median family income lower now than it was sixteen years ago, adjusted for inflation.

Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to top.

These gains have translated into political power to rig the system with bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, trade deals, and increasing market power – all of which have further pushed down wages pulled up profits.

Those at the very top of the top have rigged the system even more thoroughly. Since 1995, the average income tax rate for the 400 top-earning Americans has plummeted from 30 percent to 17 percent.

Wealth, power, and crony capitalism fit together. So far in the 2016 election, the richest 400 Americans have accounted for over a third of all campaign contributions.

Americans know a takeover has occurred and they blame the establishment for it.

There’s no official definition of the “establishment” but it presumably includes all of the people and institutions that have wielded significant power over the American political economy, and are therefore deemed complicit.

At its core are the major corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; the billionaires who invest directly in politics; and the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers.

Arrayed around this core are the deniers and apologists – those who attribute what’s happened to “neutral market forces,” or say the system can’t be changed, or who urge that any reform be small and incremental.

Some Americans are rebelling against all this by supporting an authoritarian demagogue who wants to fortify America against foreigners as well as foreign-made goods. Others are rebelling by joining a so-called “political revolution.”

The establishment is having conniptions. They call Trump whacky and Sanders irresponsible. They charge that Trump’s isolationism and Bernie’s ambitious government programs will stymie economic growth.

The establishment doesn’t get that most Americans couldn’t care less about economic growth because for years they’ve got few of its benefits, while suffering most of its burdens in the forms of lost jobs and lower wages.

Most people are more concerned about economic security and a fair chance to make it.

The establishment doesn’t see what’s happening because it has cut itself off from the lives of most Americans. It also doesn’t wish to understand, because that would mean acknowledging its role in bringing all this on.

Yet regardless of the political fates of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the rebellion against the establishment will continue.

Eventually, those with significant economic and political power in America will have to either commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


    1. Faye Carr

      Great link. I’ll be sharing it around. Thanks.

      I do wonder what response our establishment candidate campaign teams could possibly do to tap into this justifiable anger and harness it for themselves.

      And be believed.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I think the establishment,we are losing faith in, the established institutions, would include, among others, medicine and food science.

        How often do we see non-mainstream medical remedies, as alternatives to those offered by our doctors, to problems like, for example, high cholesterol levels?

        And the list of other established institutions we are losing our faith in would also inlude the media.

        1. different clue

          And the rebellion against corporate junk science and corporate junk medicine may be going even deeper. For example, there is a rising tide of scepticism that “high cholesterol” is even a problem, or ever even was.

          I have been several decapounds overfat for several decades. My “cholesterol” has been at or over 250 for a couple of decades at least. After my last physical ( the first in years), I was offered the chance of referral to cardiology. High blood pressure WAS a problem and that is being managed.

          But after a while of my cholesterol staying up even with halfhearted “dieting” and etc., cardiology tried pressuring me into eating the statins. My continued refusal got me authorised for cardio-cat-scan to search for visible calcium in my coronary arteries. At my own expense, which was fine. It revealed near-zero calcium anywhere, meaning near-zero cholesterol buildup anywhere.

          Mass statin dosing of decamillions of people over the next 2-4 decades will produce its own time-delayed epidemics of statinogenic diseases, including those caused by the bodies of millions of people stripping the cholesterol out of their own myelin sheaths to find the cholesterol to expel from the body under steady statin pressure. I would expect millions of cases of statinogenic “multiple sclerosis” and “alzheimers” and etc. Time will tell.

      2. Art Eclectic

        I don’t think they can. The average American is tired of being a profit center. The establishment is a large corporation at this point that lives in a bubble and can only see shareholder value.

        1. athena1

          Exactly, Art Eclectic.

          I think something like the Hundredth Monkey Effect has kicked in (or is very close to completion) regarding the electorate’s loyalty to the party and the establishment on both sides.

          Hillary’s performance in the Town Hall last night was really a case in point. A college student, a Bernie supporter, asked her “Why do you think there’s this big difference in age demographics between your supporters and Bernie’s?” and Hillary responded (and sounded honest) “I really don’t know! But whether or not you support me, I support you!” and then went on a long, rambling monologue about how she had to pay off her college loans, too, and she Gets It, and will lower the interest rate, etc and so on. COMPLETELY out of touch. The elites truly do live in a bubble.

          It’s the same bubble Bernie talked about in 2003, here:

        2. different clue

          Some average Americans might be able to separate small parts of their lives from Establishment Profit Centrism. Suburbanites with gardenable land could garden some of it to produce their own food outside the establishment profit extraction system. They could use any money saved to buy shinola food at shinola prices from shinola producers who direct less of their profit up the establishment ladder and who spend more of THEIR earned money with other shinola producers of shinola goods and/ or services. Enough people doing that would somewhat increase the size of the counter-mainstream shinolaconomy and reduce just a little bit the profit going into the mainstream shittyconomy.

          1. Waking Up

            I applaud people for trying to do their part on a local level. But, if someone believes it isolates them from the bigger picture, they are wrong. If you want just one example, ask some of the farmers who were sued by Monsanto. If government represents corporations instead of the people, politicians and courts might just make those “local” solutions illegal. My suggestion…keep doing things to improve at a “local” level, but, always look at the big picture.

            1. different clue

              That is certainly so. One should attend to the little picture and the big picture both.

              If 50 million suburbanites did what I suggest, how many little pictures might start shifting the big picture? If those 50 millions suburbanite gardeners also became gun owners and trained shootists and formed well regulated militias to defend their gardens against armed law enforcement, would government try to outlaw their gardens?

              1. HotFlash

                I do worry about my little garden, and my own 80-odd lbs of meat (estimated dressed weight). But it is hungry people from my own big city and the cities south of me that I am more worried about, should it all go pear-shaped inmy lifetime (which I figure is pretty likely). There may be enough guns, but there won’t ever be enough ammo.

                My ultimate plan is to be so tough and stringy that they will not be able to stomach me.

        3. Oak

          Some people call it “churning”- as real wealth creation vanishes, churners churn – people become problematic if they resist,

          Being tired of being a profit center ensures your being targeted for the worst kinds of profit centrism!

          We’re treating everybody the way we only used to treat indigenous peoples. The big fish eat the slightly smaller fish. Currently 62 people own half the wealth in the world, it was 150 just a few years ago. Automation is making business extremely productive even without people. But who will buy the useless stuff then? See the problem? We need a new model that doesn’t base everything on money.

          Its a “uniquely American” system we have now they claim, Greed is now “uniquely American” But the fact is, the people we see everywhere posting stuff like that are likely working to create an impression of power not backed up by numbers, just wealth. We’re being fooled by, or ruled by the people who finance the sock puppet army.

          1. different clue

            Or at least a new system that doesn’t base everything on having to “work” for money when there is no “paid work” for tens of millions of people to do.

      3. Doug Griffith

        They can’t. Every conversation I’ve had in the last 10 years included people asking why politicians don’t just state the obvious and demand the changes needed to right the ship. Trump & Sanders wouldn’t exist if any other politician had seized the opportunity. All had a chance to own the political position, none chose to do so. T&S have only echoed the conversations of most Americans over the last decade and they now control the debate.

  1. Carl

    Completely agree. Most entertaining election in years. Reich left out the MSM, though, in his description of the establishment, probably because in the case of Trump, the media essentially began by egging him on, and only lately has begun to realize that there are actual voters supporting him. Otherwise, this is dead on regarding the bewilderment and desperation of the establishment. Pass the popcorn!

    1. Praedor

      The MSM is part of the establishment via their corporate owners, via their sycophantic desire for “access” and selling a particular “narrative”. Anything that falls outside the corporate owner vision or outside the pre-selected narrative is to be ignored, ridiculed, or vociferously fought.

      1. Art Eclectic

        Exactly. The MSM is just another entity feeding on the money of the donor class. They’re as guilty as the establishment – the two have a host/parasite relationship. They’ll die without the other.

    2. washunate

      And two other glaring oversights are higher education and the legal system. I generally like Reich, but he seems to have a bit of a blind spot here on the degree to which public/nonprofit institutions have contributed to our mess.

      1. athena1

        Yes. And I don’t think it’s outlandish to suggest that Sanders probably would have won both Iowa and Nevada if the DNC hadn’t changed their rules three times to sabotage him, first limiting debates, then making a rule that candidates are disallowed from debating outside DNC-approved events, and then lifting the SuperPAC rule.

        1. thoughtful person

          If you are a billionaire, who do you think you’d be able to influence better – trump or sanders?

    3. myshkin

      “Reich left out the MSM…”
      Explicitly but implicitly and functionally I think they are included.
      At its core are the major corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; the billionaires who invest directly in politics; and the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers.

      Arrayed around this core are the deniers and apologists – those who attribute what’s happened to “neutral market forces,” or say the system can’t be changed, or who urge that any reform be small and incremental.

      Lackeys, political operatives, deniers and apologists, in other words the MSM.

  2. Peter DeBoer

    Jefferson had this right, too.

    I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

    1. Masonboro

      “God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.
      The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is
      wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts
      they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions,
      it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. …
      And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not
      warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
      resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as
      to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost
      in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
      time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
      It is its natural manure.”

      Thomas Jefferson

      1. 1 kings

        True, and true. But let’s not forget that while ol’ Thomas was sitting out the actual fighting of said revolution, either in Virginia or Paree, George W. and Alex Ham were risking their literal lives. So I guess Jefferson was a chicken-hawk, a ‘you go fight those wars I’ll stay back here and write'(and ‘play’ with my slaves)…
        And a no more perfect representation of the entire political class these last 40 years he is.

    2. RP

      It would be fitting if we watered the tree of liberty in 2016 with the (metaphorical) blood of the tyrants of two dynastic political families.

      Feel the Bern, baby

  3. voteforno6

    I think it may go beyond that. It seems to me that the entire political system is breaking down. At the very least, the political system is going through it’s most serious crisis since the 1930s, if not the 1850s. The difference now, though, is that there are no outlets, such as third party movements, to direct this pressure. It’s all being focused on the Republican and Democratic parties now, and we could very well be witnessing the crackup of both of them as a result.

    1. Dino Reno

      Roger that. The Republicans are now officially toast or as Napoleon called his foreign minister Talleyrand “shit in a silk stocking.” Democrats and the elites are hanging on to Hillary as their last hope to stop Trump who promises us the Empire we so richly deserve for procuring 50% of the world’s military hardware. Either she will self destruct or be taken down by the Strongman. Simple test: Who does America want to see on stage after a victory? Hillary, Bill and Chelsea or Trump’s magnificent family? Hard to overcome those optics.

      At that point, both parties are officially out of business. I hope Trump comes up with a good line of succession.
      Baron looks like he could become be a wise and benevolent ruler.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        H/T to Billmon, Democrats have lost 900 state legislative seats, 12 Governorships, 69 House seats, 13 and 13 Senate seats since the GOP was clearly reduced to a Southern rump party. The GOP at least knows how to beat Democrats who still have the same leadership through these epic defeats. I wouldn’t underestimate the GOP.

        McConnell is predicted to lose this supreme court battle or that battle every month, but he’s now Senate majority leader, Trump is beating Hillary in some polls, and the Democrats are desperate to offer the a slightly nicer Scalia. One can only have so many fights at a time, and Democratic energy is being spent of defending Hillary from the uppity kids under 40. Team Blue is going to have a difficult time whining and hoping people support the President in an active way.

        The GOP is a Southern rump party with a dying base, but they know how to win.

        1. david

          “the Democrats are desperate to offer the a slightly nicer Scalia.”

          The Puppet Obama is required to “only” take out the second amendment with this nomination – nothing more.

          other than the blacks – no one trusts this guy about anything – right or left – he will not be allowed to approve anything – if McConnell allows a vote he is gone as Leader of Republicans in the senate and probably be out as a senator.

          I don’t own a weapon nor ever used one – but I am convinced that the focus on the second amendment by the Establishment is for a purpose to disarm the populace.

            1. tegnost

              I’m going to don the tinfoil here for a moment and posit that rethuglican intransigence re SCOTUS is an eleventy dimensional move to get voters to abandon bernie,whom is their biggest fear, because bad rethuglicans! Hire Hillary for Wall St. and TPP because Hills is really a closet rethuglican, just more good cop/bad cop…(removes tin foil hat, sharpens the creases and puts it back up on the shelf)

              1. nowhere

                Adding to your Mad Hattering: Scalia was “offed” to put the whole thing in motion. His final, sacrificial, act of supporting the Establishment.

        2. thoughtful person

          The DLC and the blue dogs are the orginal DINOs.

          Same ones wanted McGovern to loose. See Lambert’s link to the iron law.

          At this point the parties are just words – with no more meaning than red or blue. Just labels. Politicians that think for themselves and are not beholden to the establishment are rare.

    2. Praedor

      The collapse/destruction of BOTH parties is my fondest desire. This is a case where it truly is necessary to burn down the village to save it. The Democrapic Party (and GOP) needs to be burned out from the core and burned down so both can be rebuilt from near-zero back into parties responsive to actual people/voters instead of big money.

      If burning them both down finds them both impossible to rebuild, so be it. Who needs actual parties? Let’s have 100% independents, both voter and candidates.

      1. Dino Reno

        We are on our way to getting our first Emperor to officially begin Post-Constitutional America. Unofficially, the post-constitutional phase began when Bush was selected over Gore. Both political parties have been electing the same establishment representatives. Two sides of the same coin. To say one is more successful than the other is meaningless. They are both the same and they are both bankrupt now that the revolution has begun. We are on the threshold of One Man Rule, not one party or another rule.
        Sure, there will be unattended consequences like a police state, but that’s OK as long as the privileged and connected are brought to heel by the our new Strongman who loves the people. They’ll survive, just like they do in the today Russia or China as long as they walk the line.

        1. Ulysses

          “Unofficially, the post-constitutional phase began when Bush was selected over Gore.”


          The Roman imperial system never completely abolished the old Republican forms and traditions, nor did it do away with “elections.”

          One of the key elements in the consolidation of the power of Augustus, the first emperor, was to combine powers that had formerly been distinct checks and balances in the old republican system. Thus he was both tribune of the plebs, and consul, at the same time. A major tell that we have already slipped under the yoke of a new, post-constitutional regime is the emergence of supra-legal, ad hoc bodies to accomplish specific tasks important to the kleptocracy. Remember how the “Gang of Six” was formed to ram through their version of the Simpson-Bowles “Grand Bargain?” As it turned out, the political moment wasn’t right to drown social security, yet hardly anyone seemed to care that a completely unaccountable, ad hoc “gang” was claiming the authority to bypass the usual legislative channels.

          We may see some strange contortions of our traditional constitutional structures in the not-too-distant future! Presidential veto power over Supreme Court decisions that the Commander-in-Chief finds unacceptable? Stay tuned!!

          1. Stephen Rhodes

            Speaking of the Roman Republic (as opposed to Caesarism)—it’s worth a look at its constitutional dictator, whose strictly defined powers were in stark contrast to Bush-Cheney acting in secret. . . or take the Boland amendment and the Reagan administration continuing to support war in central America—without political consequences.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            People talk about the government having been captured. A captured government is a post-Constitutional government.

            The last thing we want to say is it can spend as much as it wants.

            That will not address the problem; it most likely will exacerbate it.

            1. susan the other

              well, maybe specifying what it can spend money on would be OK, especially since it will want to get back in our good graces but really needs us to tell it how – our political establishment (corporatism) needs guidance… and, basically, money doesn’t matter at all. Only what we do with it matters.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                I am not sure it will listen to our guidance, unless the people capture it back.

                When we do, we should have enough to spend on things we really need. If not, we can always tax the rich more.

            2. bdy

              Worse to say the government can’t spend as much as it wants when it quite obviously can; and does so liberally on robots that burn up weddings and to line the pockets of publicly admitted felons.

        2. washunate

          I think it’s important to remember that the assault on the Constitution predates the 2000 election. A major part of the drug war specifically and other types of legislation more generally (like the I-9 verification system) in the 1980s and 1990s was intellectual justification and logistical preparation for growing the scope of government power while restricting the rights of individuals.

          Government today is much larger and claims much more power (both in terms of breadth and intensity) than in the New Deal era. Some of that growth is attributable to Bush and Obama, but a fair amount of it happened in the 20th century. In particular, free speech, free assembly, freedom from searches, right to an impartial jury trial, right to defense counsel, prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, prohibition on excessive fines, and reservation of rights to the people experienced tremendous pressure.

              1. susan the other

                conundrum. If the constitution is suspended, sovereignty is suspended. because if sovereignty is suspended without a referendum the social contract is suspended and there is no nation. In 1947 we were very hysterical. There is always a need for vigilance, but hysteria has definitely run its course.

        3. Blink 180

          The Bush/Obama period, with its total secrecy, black sites, no-fly lists, and conveniently timed anthrax scares, is something like the reign of Sulla–lawlessness intended to shore up the current crop of insiders. Caesar came along and used the lawless regime the insiders had created and used it to crush them under his sandal.

          Between Sulla’s purges and Caesar crossing the Rubicon only 40 years elapsed. Bush’s “election” was 15 years ago…

      2. jrs

        Who needs parties when they don’t stand for actual voting groups (the precariat, those still able to get blue collar work, the unemployed, the homeless, the professional middle class, small business). No one party doesn’t have to stand for all of those, they often have very divergent interests, we just need parties that represent those types of interests instead of two corporate parties.

  4. Paul Tioxon

    When the Amtrak train derailed inside Philadelphia, the cable TV reporters didn’t seem to have any idea where the train was, other than a really rough area of the city, as indicated by the graffiti scarred, older looking rust belt era industrial buildings. As people on the train made their way off the track areas, they found a residential neighborhood in close proximity to the railroad tracks. Again, the people from the crash heading North to NYC reported that they were in a tough neighborhood. But, to their surprise, as beat down as the rowhouses looked, the people inside welcomed them in, let them use their phones to make calls, recharged their smart phones, gave them food, coffee, water and a place on their living room couches to compose their rattled nerves. In the following days, stories of neighborhood men, a father and son who seeing the accident from the their home, rushed to the train and started evacuation and guiding people back to the safety of the neighborhood sidewalk, where other locals were rushing back from Walmart with cases of bottle water to hand out to all of the bewildered people who were just sitting on curbs completely out of it.

    And this is on top of the Philadelphia Police who descended upon the scene due to emergency civil disaster training, flooding the area with hand held flash lights as well as cop cars rolled over the track area with their headlights as make shift flood lights. Of course, many were taken to North Philadelphia’s Temple U hospital for trauma emergencies. And other as well, but the numbers from this wreck alone were at a civil disaster level not usually encountered.

    Other than the personal gratitude of the immediate victims of the wreck who were so glad that they received the over flow of kindness from everyday people not trained in emergencies, not much was written about the rough, tough neighborhood Amtrak passes by everyday. The local media covered this of course, but the national media was here as well, and with little of the usual human interest tid bits doled out for every fart from Hollywood celebrities famous for being famous.

    I am not sure exactly what people who roll through the old industrial corridor of Philadelphia think when they see really old, run down industrial properties. There is a reason trains run there. The one time Workshop Of The World was Philadelphia and the factories had rail road spurs into their properties for supplies and finished goods to ship back out onto the main line of the Pennsylvania and Reading Rail lines. And the workers before the auto and mass transit had rowhomes within walking distance to all of these run down old buildings. The jobs and paychecks from those old buildings may be gone, but plenty of people are still left, who make perfectly wonderful lives on a fraction of the salaries of campaign managers. And it shows in the kindness and concern they exhibited that night. It was not an austerity policy that said, gee, you’re bleeding all over your Prada and Coach accessories, I’d like to help, but that expenditure would have to be offset by my cutting back on my personal me time splurges, and that dog just won’t hunt. The people who are the last to know what is going on in the world in general were the first learn that a really rough looking neighborhood didn’t skin them alive, but helped them. And maybe they needed a fresh coat of paint or something nice from the Pottery Barn to make them socially more acceptable, but really, the kindness was more soothing that night than familiar name brands and a classy address. The first responders here turned out to be people who care, something we need in Washington DC.

    1. GlobalMisanthrope

      Your story is so heartening. Another instance in which, despite the savagery to which people have been subjected, they have not lost their humanity. Thank you.

    2. Shirley Ende-Saxe

      I saw the same thing happen in a sketchy neighborhood in Akron OH. Much smaller scale, a car turning left on yellow was pulverized by an SUV trying to beat the light. Almost instantly there were people in the streets directing traffic around the accident, calling for help on cell phones and guarding the car, upended and on it’s side until help arrived. The experience certainly made me more positive about my neighbors.

  5. FedupPleb

    I agree. It’s not the pull to Trump or Sanders per se. It’s the push away from the establishment candidates. The electorate, and $DEITY bless them for it, is in its own silent way finally rejecting the Standard Offer and is actively seeking a new politics and a new economy. They haven’t made up their minds yet, but you’d have to be living in a bubble not to get the message.

    1. crittermom

      Ah, but I think the point of the article is that the elite ARE living in a bubble–of their own strategic making.

  6. ng

    trump is an outlier for sure but still part of the establishment. some republicans in the house are already saying they can work with him. bernie is much more destabilizing and they’ll do anything to stop him. if bloomberg comes in it pulls from bernie and helps the republicans. egomaniac though he is, bloomberg knows this. he wants to win but he’d rather have a billionaire than a socialist if he can’t.

    1. voteforno6

      I’m not so sure that Bloomberg would pull many voters away from anyone. Who is his natural constituency? As far as I can tell, the only people that really think of him as a good candidate are Beltway pundits, and that’s not a very large group.

      Besides, running for President isn’t a simple matter of just deciding to do it. He’s got to qualify to get on the ballots in all 50 states, and that requires a campaign infrastructure which he doesn’t have. He could try to run as a write-in candidate, but that would make it even more unlikely that he could have any impact.

      1. Larry Headlund

        There is no requirement that a presidential candidate be on the ballot in 50 states. For example, in 1964 LBJ was not on the ballot in Alabama. As far as impact goes, Ralph Nader may have had an impact in 2000 with being on the ballot in 43 states and DC.
        A Bloomberg campaign that just flipped Florida (29 EV), Pennsylvania ( 20 EV) and Ohio (18 EV) from 2012 would mean a Republican victory. These were all relatively close Democratic victories (1%, 3% and 2% flips in each case would do it.). North Carolina (50.4%) was the only close (less than 5% margin) Republican victory in 2012.

        1. sd

          Seems to me Bloomberg would be more likely to pull votes from Trump or bring out voters who otherwise would have stayed home. I don’t see Sanders voters flocking to him.

          1. ng

            no one who even leans to trump or cruz or rubio will support anyone who backs abortion and gay rights and is a leader in the fight for gun control. but i already know some hillary democrats who are impressed by his “managerial” experience, even though he was a mediocre mayor.

            1. Romancing the Loan

              The Bloomberg thing is nonsensical – the only person he can possibly pull votes from is Hillary (maybe a grudging few from Cruz or Rubio).

              Nothing that appeals to voters about Trump or Sanders is present in Bloomberg.

              I think it’s more likely he’ll replace Hillary over Sanders after her FBI hearings finally finish her campaign.

              1. athena1

                I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I’m not sure genuinely investigating elites is in the FBI’s job description any longer.

    2. CS

      Trump is a billionaire and is definitely part of the establishment. I find it funny that anyone can think that a billionaire is not part of the establishment.

      If Trump becomes President he will do the establishment’s bidding just like any other member of the establishment. We can expect more foreign outsourcing of American jobs under Trump as well as more illegal and legal immigration and more visas (H1-B, etc.). Trump will also massively reduce taxes on the superrich which will lead to more massive deficits.

      What I don’t know about Trump is whether he will be dumb enough to appoint a hawk to lead the Federal Reserve which will definitely put us back into a recession. Of course, liberals thought they had a dove in Yellen, but even she turned out to be way too hawkish for our fragile economy.

      I agree that Bernie is the only candidate who is not part of the establishment.

    3. EoinW

      Sorry but the Democrats had their chance at reform 8 years ago and double crossed us. Why should they be given a second chance? There are limitations to what can be done through political revolution because the problem is the system and a revolution within the system will not change the system nor end it. However Americans – and all westerners – do not yet have the stomach for violent revolution. That leaves Trump as the best option – even if he does nothing more than ruffle a few oligarchic feathers.

      1. Massinissa

        Sometimes things need to get worse to get better. Trump would probably be better for the Democratic party than Hillary. If Hillary is elected she will vent off leftist revolt like Obama has done.

      2. Massinissa

        Sometimes things need to get worse to get better. Trump would probably be better for the Democratic party than Hillary. If Hillary is elected she will vent off leftist revolt like Obama has done.

      3. nowhere

        In regards to “…Americans – and all westerners – do not yet have the stomach for violent revolution.” As the economic decline continues, there is less and less to lose. That’s when desperation and violence begins. It wasn’t that long ago that Socialists and Union members were dying in the street for political reasons.

      4. MojaveWolf

        Obama didn’t exactly double cross anyone. He was pretty clearly signalling he was going to do in office exactly what he has done, all during the 2008 campaign. Bernie equally clearly signalling the exact opposite.

        Obama had a minimal & very sketchy track record; he was a great speaker with incredible charisma who was excellent at saying things in sufficiently vague fashion that people who wanted to project stuff could, & lots of people thought “black guy, democrat, must be progressive” without clearly seeing what he was. IF you paid attention and could get past the charisma, he was always very strongly pro-big business, pro-establishment, and more fond of conservatives than genuine leftists. He may not be anymore after getting hammered by them for 8 years while enacting policies they initially said they wanted until he adopted them, but he clearly used to have a lot of sympathy for Republicans, & strong dislike for the left.

        Bernie, clearly, to anyone paying any attention, is a genuine leftist. He is NOT on the side of the oligarchy, as should be obvious from their panic at the thought of him winning (this being the same people who gave to Obama far more than Hillary; I strongly suspect part of her defense of them since then is due to a “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality; or it could just be Bernie throws how awful all of the mainstream dems are into starker relief) You may not agree with him on everything, and I’m not about to suggest 100% trusting anyone I haven’t met in person, but this is as good as we are going to get.

      5. silat

        The Dems had their chance 8 years ago? Do tell.
        A supermajority is a filibuster-proof 60 or more Senate seats, allowing one party to pass legislation without votes from the other,

        Don’t forget: the president needed a supermajority because of the Republicans’ unprecedented use of the filibuster as an obstruction tactic — they’ve used it more than 400 times.

        But here’s the deal — the real deal — there actually wasn’t a two year supermajority.

        This timeline shows the facts.

        President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009 with just 58 Senators to support his agenda.

        He should have had 59, but Republicans contested Al Franken’s election in Minnesota and he didn’t get seated for seven months.

        The President’s cause was helped in April when Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Arlen Specter switched parties.

        That gave the President 59 votes — still a vote shy of the super majority.

        But one month later, Democratic Senator Byrd of West Virginia was hospitalized and was basically out of commission.

        So while the President’s number on paper was 59 Senators — he was really working with just 58 Senators.

        Then in July, Minnesota Senator Al Franken was finally sworn in, giving President Obama the magic 60 — but only in theory, because Senator Byrd was still out.

        In August, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died and the number went back down to 59 again until Paul Kirk temporarily filled Kennedy’s seat in September.

        Any pretense of a supermajority ended on February 4, 2010 when Republican Scott Brown was sworn into the seat Senator Kennedy once held.Do you see a two-year supermajority?

        I didn’t think so.

  7. pmorrisonfl

    I once spent three months working at Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond. I joked that it’s a cross between a college campus and a theme park. Everything is about 10% shinier than real life. If you spend most of your time in a gated community like that – or like the ones in Silicon Valley, or Wall Street, or DC, it’s easy to believe that life is the way you see it around you, and hard to believe that life could be difficult somewhere else.

  8. Keith

    If elites want to be respected and stay in office they need to be competent.

    Doh! We did it again.

    It is the desire of globalist elites to line their own pockets that brings an end to globalisation phases.

    1) The expansion, with globalist elites lining their own pockets:

    1920s/2000s – high inequality, high banker pay, low regulation, low taxes for the wealthy, robber barons
    (CEOs), reckless bankers, globalisation phase

    2) The discovery that globalist elites are not half as clever as they like to think they are:

    1929/2008 – Wall Street crash

    3) The disintegration

    1930s/2010s – Global recession, currency wars, rising nationalism and extremism

    Einstein’s definition of madness “Doing the same thing again and again and expecting to get a different result”

    Let’s get the lunatics out of the asylum, its time for new blood.

    1. RP

      In your model, Bernie is FDR (or even better, Henry Wallace had he still been VP in ’44!) and we’re about to turn it around.

      If Bernie gets the Dem nom & starts talking about the 4 Freedoms and the Worker’s Bill of Rights I might die of happiness

      1. Robert Coutinho

        Bernie or somebody with the same (or similar) message had better come. If not, Hitler’s heir will.

  9. diptherio

    There’s no official definition of the “establishment” but it presumably includes all of the people and institutions that have wielded significant power over the American political economy, and are therefore deemed complicit.

    That’s a definition which definitely includes Reich himself…has he ever apologized for his support of NAFTA? Has he ever explained his conversion away from the free-market liberalism he was so enamored with when he was one of those who “wielded significant power over the American political economy”?

    While I agree with Reich in this instance, I’m still unhappy with the fact that this guy has been a major part of the problem he now decries, but progressives love to fawn over him anyway, since he’s finally seen the light. And given his history, I wouldn’t trust him to not flip back to supporting the big money boys whenever that seems more politically expedient.

    I’m impressed by people who say the right thing when it’s difficult and unpopular to do so – Reich failed that test during the Clinton administration. Excuse me if I don’t put much credence in the man…

    1. WatchingEthosInFreefall

      Thanks for calling Reich out on his past support of all the policies that have destroyed American labor and consequently their political influence. I get angry when I see his recent articles and videos decrying the things he helped establish. He is, to me, no more than an opportunist book-seller hopping onto a target market of progressives and liberals. This article was extremely shallow and obvious. Chief Joseph said, “Good words don’t last long.” The same would apply to Bernie, who is herd dogging the far left so he can later tell them to support career criminal Hillary, who might as well be a Republican. This election is the most dismal choice between ‘the lesser of evils’ yet. Not one candidate has the demeanor of a statesman, nor the intellectual capacity. My prediction is that the Clinton machine will prevail, so that history will once again have a Democrat in office while social supports are further dismantled and the FIRE sector is further deregulated.

    2. Vatch

      has he ever apologized for his support of NAFTA?

      Yes, although it didn’t happen until he realized that the TPP might be passed. Here’s a Facebook post of his from January, 2014:

      STOP THE TPP. Congress is poised to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (that is, move it through both houses without opportunity for amendment). This massive trade pact with 11 Asian and Latin American nations, whose total population is almost 800 million and comprise 40 percent of the world’s GDP, is a high priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its corporate patrons because it would strengthen patent and copyright protections abroad, and encourage American corporations to make even more stuff overseas and ship it here. Americans benefit from cheaper goods from abroad only if Americans have the money to buy them. But this massive deal would further erode the jobs and wages of working and middle-class Americans while delivering its biggest gains to corporate executives and shareholders. Moreover, the deal’s environmental and labor safeguards are woefully inadequate, and it would give global corporations further rights to challenge American health and safety laws.

      I still regret not doing more to strengthen the North American Free Trade Act’s labor and environmental side-agreements when I was labor secretary under Bill Clinton. The TPP is NAFTA on steroids. Make a ruckus.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        I hated Reich for a long time but I actually do think that he has had a change of heart. And our side should be willing to accept those who have. But that is hardly an apology. (The notion that stronger side agreements would have made a fundamental difference is preposterous. The side agreements are pure kayfabe.) And Reich has always struck me as someone who likes the limelight, likes being the authority. I absolutely get the sense he is making a play for an important position in a Sanders administration. Maybe he could work for Bill Black?

        1. Vatch

          You’re right. It’s not much of an apology. But since there are people who still claim that NAFTA is a good thing, I think that Reich’s expression of regret is meaningful.

          1. GlobalMisanthrope

            I second that. I’ve learned a lot in my 55 years and have had many, many changes of heart, often due to learning from my mistakes. I think we should welcome this kind of change. I can’t understand why so many can’t distinguish learning from flip-flops. And, besides, glass houses and all that.

            1. diptherio

              I’m skeptical that people who play in the big leagues of politics actually learn much of anything. Generally speaking, from my experience, they’re just not the type. You don’t get very far swimming with the sharks if you aren’t one yourself.

              The reason it’s so hard to tell the difference between an honest change-of-heart and a cynically expedient flip-flop is because the former is so rare and the latter so common among our political overlords. I’m not one to give political elites a pass just because they happen to be making the right mouth noises right now. Guilty until proven innocent, as far as I’m concerned, for anyone who rose as high in the establishment as he did.

              36 years in our country has made me harsh.

              1. athena1

                I was super skeptical of Robert for a very, very long time, but I’m personally convinced his change of heart was genuine, even if his apology is weak. He’s all but formally endorsed Sanders in his facebook livestreams.

      2. diptherio

        That actually just reinforces my thought that he hasn’t learned a thing. Side-agreements would never be enforced, everybody knows that. He should have been opposed to NAFTA, but he just doesn’t seem to get that gutting the working class was the whole point. He stabbed the unions in the back, and now issues a halfway apology. Not good enough for me.

        He’s still obviously clueless…just slightly less so than the establishment types he’s trying to clue in here. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man in king – and by God, Robert Reich is that man!

        1. Andrew Watts

          The anger directly towards the political class should include folks like Reich. If we’re to judge him by the company he keeps, or through his works, than he is just another Establishment shill looking for a niche to fill. I’m personally inclined to think of Reich as just another political opportunist. As opposed to a lapsed ideologue with a shred of remorse.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          Endorsing Sanders now would be an act of courage, and would probably burn all future bridges to the Democratic Party status quo power brokers and their favors. People in Reich’s or Warren’s positions didn’t I assume get there by taking gambles like that lightly. If you see people like Warren or Reich ever explicitly endorsing Sanders, it will be because they see his vision as the future of the party (insiders necessarily included) as much as an ideological statement. It’s somewhat analogous to the watershed Iraq War vote: potential for future prospects vs. the likelihood of an immediate and significant loss of personal political capital. Whomever gets the Democratic Party nomination, there will be enormous consequences for having taken a side. The Sanders wing isn’t likely to be kind to the Hillary crowd, and the Clintons are reported to be vindictive as hell. The party is cleaving into two very different factions that are pretty incompatible with the other, if one side cannot clearly prevail the party itself will have no direction, perhaps no further purpose even.

          Trump, if he isn’t already secretly in total cahoots with the entrenched Republican cabal, exposes similar fault lines in the GOP. He’s discovered the angry white base who hear a mixture of taboo truth telling, racist dogwhistles that are more like train whistles, and authoritarian bombast that all appeal to them. They too, for the first time in forever may have a real, viable alternative choice in front of them.

          1. optimader

            He’s discovered the angry white base who hear a mixture of taboo truth telling, racist dogwhistles that are more like train whistles, and authoritarian bombast that all appeal to them.

            Demographically, fidelity to that shtick ultimately ends as political suicide. That is, if Trump actually wants to be elected POTUS vs just being a political anarchist who can later take pride in having pushed over the R applecart. Not that that is a bad thing.

      1. Gio Bruno

        Actually, I think it should be “shoe-in-air”. I believe that was the Secret Service description when that Iraqi gentlemen sent his foot slipper flying past GWB’s head while making a presentation in Iraq after the invasion. ;)

  10. fresno dan

    From the post:
    “Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likeability.

    It’s a rebellion against the establishment.”


    I have seen a number of post mortems on Jeb! saying what a kind, decent, intelligent fellow he was. NO, not from National Review and similar rags – – hold onto your hats – this is from Slate (well, I guess it is par for the course):

    “I never expected to like Jeb. Boarding school toff. Political scion. Staunch pro-lifer. NRA favorite. Oh, and ugh, the Terri Schiavo stuff.

    Still, I couldn’t help but warm to him as the campaign wore on. And then even pull for him, a little. It was partly the pathos. Jeb felt somehow more human than other candidates. Vulnerable, struggling, unable to conceal flashes of fear and melancholy.

    He also showed compassion on the trail. Take this, from a British journalist who, for unclear reasons, felt compelled to stand up at Jeb’s event in Greenville on Friday and say this: “My job as a columnist is to follow these rallies. I haven’t heard any other candidate give a long period in their speech to talking about people with learning disabilities, to talk about people at the bottom of the pack. And whatever happens to your campaign, sir, that heart you should be really proud of.” I concur, randomly effusive British journalist.

    But what sealed it for me was Jeb’s backbone. You heard me right: Poor, sweet, pitiful Jeb was the one guy with spine. The only GOP candidate who made it a point to denounce Trump’s worst barbarities.

    I have seen some similar articles from the establishment media – kind of along the lines of speak well of the dead. This is what the depth of punditocracy thinking is, and undoubtedly why most pundits are so clueless as to what is happening – most of these pundits can’t accurately perceive reality.

    It would take volumes to completely debunk the article, but I will note this: Jeb! would never, ever have denounced Trump, and would have cowered in the corner like every other candidate, except that Jeb! was the zebra in the maw of a lion which chose poor zebra Jeb! to cull from the herd as the weakest and most vulnerable, and Jeb! HAD to do SOMETHING to escape the powerful, ripping, tearing jaws of the lion if he wanted to survive – there was absolutely no honor or courage in Jeb! responding to Trump. Now, I don’t know if Trump is brilliant – I think any sentient being could understand that the country was in no mood for another Bush – Golly, his own mom thought two were enough….

    Now, I tie this to what Reich is saying by noting that the establishment/media is either clueless, produces blather not worth reading, or has an ideology of panglossian support of the mainstream, that completely divorces itself from the thinking of the average person. Repubs either can’t comprehend, or can’t accept that the whites at the bottom will not take it anymore.

    1. tim s

      But what sealed it for me was Jeb’s backbone. You heard me right: Poor, sweet, pitiful Jeb was the one guy with spine. The only GOP candidate who made it a point to denounce Trump’s worst barbarities.

      Compassion with a spine belongs to the one who has power and still denounce the western establishment if barbarity is the concern.

    2. optimader

      F Dan,
      I noticed that too. I have come to detest Slate.

      We’ll see how Slate reframes Jebs! political obituary if he is trotted out at the GOP convention as a compromise. What I thought pathetic self inflicted coup de gras was when Jeb! did his little religious incantation – trotted out his mom who obviously from her facial cues, subtle eye roll when siting down wanted to be anywhere else /at home.

      I imagine he had to fly her out in the Cessna Citation X and get her back for the nightcap before bed time.

      On R.R. “open letter” to the Mutual Admiration Society. Very succinctly written. One quibble expressed here is about the scope of it’s content. It bite size and short paragraphs for those still in a state of denial to digest piecemeal.. Reich can and I hope will, write a couple supplements to this and maybe send copies Certified Mail to the NY Times and Paul Krugman.

      1. Optimader

        I forgot to mention

        He did not include HRC’s age, if age is relevant to the other two contestants.

        As well IMO, the issue with HRC is more than ” trust”. I don’t “trust” any other candidate either. A major issue with HRC is also demonstrated incompetence. Sanders and Trump in their own historical disciplines IMO have been competent. Transferable to POTUS? Who knows?

    3. Ping

      Trying to rehabilitate his brother George Bush’s monumental hubris with preposterous revisionist history was pathetic.

      Micheal Moore’s new movie ‘Where to Invade Next’ profiled what a healthy society looks like in various countries. In Germany children are taught the horrors and causes of the Nazis and it was contrasted that it was not until 2015 that the US had an educational museum about slavery.

      We have become a sick society indoctrinated with ‘American Exceptionalism’ which does not allow us to reflect on the many horrible mistakes inflicted on others and so they are not repeated again.

      As a population we have been awash in Bread and Circus and some of the most sophistocated invisible persuasion the world has ever known.

      Now that we are down to crumbs, the population is angry and cynical.
      The political establishment has created their own monsters and are clearly, massively out of touch.

      The jobs report as a measure of the economy?? Give me a break. It is a bartender and waitress recovery.

    4. HotFlash

      “Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likeability.

      It’s a rebellion against the establishment.”

      Well, yeah, but this is the first time in my memory that there have been non-establishment candidates to vote for. Well, there those rouge mavericks, John and Sarah, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t real mavericks, just Sears mavericks.

      Years ago (on Firedoglake) a commenter, I forget who, exclaimed, “If you want us to vote, give us *candidates*!” First time I have seen any in decades.

  11. tim s

    Eventually, those with significant economic and political power in America will have to either commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power

    Robert forgot to add a third option, which is for them to take off the mask and bring down the iron fist of heightened economic repression and turn loose that militarized police force they’ve been building up. That’ll be short lived, but they don’t think in longer terms than that, nor do they see beyond the end of their nose.

    1. washunate

      Agreed. The use of force seems to be a topic a lot of intellectuals shy away from, as if what happened in [insert local police response here] was an isolated event.

      1. Ulysses

        I don’t think Cornel West has been shy about connecting the dots:

        “You’ve got a black president, a black attorney general, a black head of homeland security, cabinet secretary. Every 28 hours a black and brown person is shot by police or a security guard – not one federal prosecution of a policeman for those shootings. So those black faces in high places do not translate into justice for poor and working people who are black and brown and white and others… when you connect massive surveillance, big banks, big corporations [and] dominating big government, you’re on the way to US fascism.”

        1. RP

          I dislike all West’s pseudo-religious (redundant?) prophet-speak, but damn can he cut to the quick of it on some issues.

          1. participant-observer-observed

            You may not like it or agree with it, but he is foremost a theologian and speaks from his interpreted (Christian) faith tradition which holds social justice as a duty of prophetic voice.

    2. jrs

      backing a fascist is also always an option they have used. Is Trump that fascist? I don’t know, I don’t know if he’s currently backed now, things may not have gotten that desperate among the elite, but bear in mind they will definitely back fascism rather than see a real left movement if one actually threatened to appear. They always have.

      1. tims

        The economic elite’s aren’t backing Trump. They are more fascist inclined than Trump, regardless of the face they put on.

      2. HotFlash

        I am pretty sure that the real elites, old money and big money, consider Trump a vulgar nouveau-rich. He is neither a team player nor a ‘sound man’, and cannot be relied on to promote their interests.

  12. Ivy

    Beltway, Acela Corridor, Wall Street and similar types need to seek out some reality. When they talk only to each other, and pretend that they are the modern incarnation of Cabots and Lowells, it is no surprise that they are out of touch. Their amen chorus in the Lügenpresse (lying press) media has become even less independent than it was when Reich did his star turn in DC last millennium. Countervailing efforts such as through Naked Capitalism continue to pull back the curtain for citizens to see.

  13. Keith

    PR works until it doesn’t.

    PR is just manipulation and as any manipulator knows; once you are discovered no one will believe a single word you say.

    A controlled media and press put out all the right messages and while things were going well everyone went along with it.

    Once things started to go wrong (2008) the press and media carried on with their happy-clappy output and the recovery would be with us next year, but it was always next year.

    Eventually, the press and media told the masses the recovery was here but they could see no sign of it.

    Once the lie is seen, the manipulator is out-ed and the tide turns.

    The press and media carry an anti-Trump and anti-Sanders message but they are the voice of the establishment.

    If the establishment don’t like them they must be good for us.

    1. Keith

      Manipulated inflation and unemployment figures fool no one.

      The masses have to live with reality of the true situation day in and day out.

      The lies just out the manipulator.

    2. fresno dan

      I am pretty sure we are at the part of the Wizard of Oz where Toto pulls the curtain back and you see that the great and all powerful oz is a befuddled guy who doesn’t quite know how to work the gears of the machine.

  14. washunate

    Great read.

    I might add I think this touches upon two distinct components of social unrest, though, where the timing of the second one is not necessarily dictated by the existence of the first.

    1) Is there a rebellion? Yeah. People have been rebelling in various ways for much longer than this election cycle. The 2006 and 2008 election cycles were major rebellions, too. And more generally, there is widespread and growing disregard amongst the general public for traditional forms of authority, from law enforcement to academia to media. From speeding to drug use, Americans willfully and flagrantly violate the edicts of the authoritarians en masse. From the corporate media to econ PhDs, people openly mock and decry established voices. Other types of institutions – like marriage and kids and driving – have been steadily falling in usage.

    2) Is the political establishment near death? This I think gets into tricky areas of timing a prediction. From how out of touch the whole liberal intellectual and technocratic elite are, I don’t see any reason to think the political establishment is necessarily any closer to death now than it was in 2007 or 2000. Political establishments tend to change when the comfortable become afflicted, and even at this late hour, it’s still a pretty cushy life being in the top 20% or so of American households. Change will come as the moral weight of injustice builds, but I think fascism can hold out for quite some time more. Reich seems to presuppose that Sanders (or Trump) would materially change the system. But that’s what was said about Obama, too.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Is the political establishment near death?

      We won’t really know until the next economic downturn. Since it seems evident that we don’t have a real economy that can regrow real middle class jobs, the next economic downturn will be even more devastating than the last, absent New Deal-ish level economic intervention (or more). Will the political establishment be able or willing to deliver such? Seems unlikely to me but who knows for sure.

      If not, the issue is what then? The fear is that a fascistic turn, unlike a humanist and climate-sensitive one, doesn’t require that an extensive movement infrastructure be already in place.

      1. washunate

        Yeah, the historians have it easier in that regard getting to analyze events in hindsight. But that’s part of the fun of trying to observe processes as they happen.

        On the New Deal, what intrigues me about those kinds of comparisons is that government today is far more involved in society than during the New Deal era. And on fascism, I have a slightly different take personally. The way I see it, we’re already there. If the general two tiered justice system and DMCA and NAFTA and Iraq sanctions and CFMA wasn’t enough in the 1990s, surely Occupy and Ferguson and EESA and FISAAA and the rest more recently demonstrate beyond any doubt that we live in a system run by people who value order and centralization and bureaucracy and knowing your place. We don’t even justify our actions by saying we need breathing room. We simply expect vassalage as our due. What, I’m sorry, we killed some folks? Well, it was worth the price!

    2. Barry

      I’d go even further and say that we are seeing a general loss of investment in all institutions.

      Can anyone name an institution that is not generally viewed with cynicism? Organized religion? The media? Higher education? Silicon Valley technocrats? Banks? The UN? The police? The military? The intelligence community? Unions? Corporations? The courts? The Constitution? Billionaires? Non-profits? Communities? Your political party? Politicians?

      It seems to me that people in general now view all institutions through an assumption that their stated values and objectives are merely PR, and that their leaders are really seeking power and self-aggrandizement.

      Since Bernays, as we have become aware of the application of PR, we have tended to see it everywhere, and to engage in it for the supposed benefit of the groups or individuals we still believe in. Until no on believes in anything. We are all PR hacks now.

      If there is no group, organization, value system or institution that people can believe in, there is nothing to rally around. In such situations, I would expect people to fall back to lowest-common-denominator groupings: gangs following strongmen.

      So the problem facing us is how to restore credible integrity to some worthy institutions, and to get people to invest in making those institutions work. It is not impossible: clearly it has been done before, many times. I don’t know how it’s done, but I believe you have to start with not rewarding people who don’t act with integrity.

      The alternatives tend toward the nasty, brutish and short.

      1. fresno dan

        I think that is a very good point.
        Whether you call it PR, advertising, or propaganda, it is all over promise and under deliver, deny, lie, and misdirect, while the hyperbole about your opponents shortcomings is such obvious and inconsistent bullsh*t that it just makes me want to scream.

        The repubs sow anger, illogic, and a war against objective reason – – and it has come back to devour them. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

        I fervently hope Trump gets the number of delegates for the nomination so that the current incarnation of the repubs is destroyed…
        Let the repub establishment, that has funded and winked at the promotion of ignorance, explain why such a buffoon can’t hold the office of the presidency. I will enjoy the circular firing squad very, very much.

      2. RP


        “If there is no group, organization, value system or institution that people can believe in, there is nothing to rally around. In such situations, I would expect people to fall back to lowest-common-denominator groupings: gangs following strongmen.”

        Enter Trump.

  15. afisher

    So, to read the comments here – it is all about “disruption’. But what I don’t see /read / hear is any other political candidate for any office calling for this change- well other than the religious fundies that want to make the USA more restrictive than most countries in the Middle East.

    Isn’t it a bit of silliness to believe that a President has some magical power – when in fact, if the last 8 years are any example- that they have few choices: To fight against the political machine that sends Congress to make laws or to align with one side of that political machine or rely on the use Executive Orders to get stuff done and have the MSM paid pundits scream about constitutional over reach (while ignoring all that the last Republican President did under that cover).

    I get it, the public is angry – but to listen to DT followers- they don’t have an agenda per se, so why are they voting for someone without a plan. Saying stuff is not a plan and this far into this election cycle, the GOP doesn’t care? Replacing or change is “gonna be great or YUUUUGE” is not a plan.

    1. sd

      Eric Holder was appointed by Obama. He did zip for ordinary people while Attorney General. Imagine how different things would be today if prosecutions had lead to 5,000 people serving prison sentences for fraud that emanated out of the housing bubble.

      Obama saved the banks.

      1. LMS

        Obama saved the criminal bankers and institutionalized fraud. He paid back Wall St. by appointing Holder, Geitner, etc. A President Sanders could change that.

        Elizabeth Warren: “…weak enforcement by federal agencies is about the people at the top. Presidents don’t control most day-to-day enforcement decisions, but they do nominate the heads of all the agencies, and these choices make all the difference. Strong leaders at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Labor Department have pushed those agencies to forge ahead with powerful initiatives to protect the environment, consumers and workers. The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a tiny office charged with oversight of the post-crash bank bailout, has aggressive leaders — and a far better record of holding banks and executives accountable than its bigger counterparts.

        Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission, suffering under weak leadership, is far behind on issuing congressionally mandated rules to avoid the next financial crisis. It has repeatedly granted waivers so that lawbreaking companies can continue to enjoy special privileges, while the Justice Department has dodged one opportunity after another to impose meaningful accountability on big corporations and their executives.

        Each of these government divisions is headed by someone nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The lesson is clear: Personnel is policy.

        Legislative agendas matter, but voters should also ask which presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws. ”

        1. fresno dan

          February 24, 2016 at 11:56 am
          As you so ably prove, what they chose not to do is as important as what they do.
          Don’t prosecute even one fraudster, and corruption rules…

    2. GlobalMisanthrope

      February 24, 2016 at 10:33 am

      Saying stuff is not a plan and this far into this election cycle, the GOP doesn’t care?

      Authoritarianism has turned the GOP into a fratricidal-cum-patricidal cult. Trump personifies its id. The other candidates that are doing relatively well represent its superego. They’re trying to parent on behalf of those who are starting to panic. The dead candidates represent the Party’s ego. This GOP is not to be reasoned with.

    3. different clue

      Obama had lots of choices. He and the Pelosi-Reidocrats could have chosen to let the Bush Tax Cuts law die a natural sunset death. Instead he and they chose to conspire with Boehner and McConnell to re-pass the Bush Tax Cuts and make them permanent.
      He could have chosen to let prosecutions against previous administration war criminals go ahead. Instead he chose to prevent them. He could have chosen to let justice proceed against FIRE sector perpetrators. Instead he chose to imunize them and impunify them and run out the clock. He could have chosen to pre-reject Free Trade Agreements. Instead he chose to support them hard.

      “Presidents have little choice” is a retro-cover and a retro-excuse for Obama’s many freely chosen choices.

      1. participant-observer-observed

        Yes the Bush tax cuts affirmation by Dem leadership killed that party’s representative integrity for me, even I had been independent and disillusioned with them already.

        Of course, when your Dem leaders are all millionaires who personally benefit from these pro Republican policies and giveaways, it’s no surprise they cannot even fathom representation of the majority of citizens. They knew they were abandoning pretenses of popular representation and they didn’t care at all. Just another nail in the coffin of that party, hammered in with glee!

  16. JTMcPhee

    Seems to me from what I recall of history and anthropology and such that Imperial capitals and their inhabitants all move along the same track — the Main Line, as it were. Warlords, ambitious sneaks, self-seekers, bureaucrats, all feasting on the wealth that the apparently inevitable organizing principles written out on our limbic systems manifest themselves once again. Concentration, aggrandizement, dissipation, dissolution, futility.

    Not much chance of a different outcome this time around, either, given the raw materials and perversions that have gone into the mix. Especially since the substrate of lootable necessities, the air, soil, water, and the other stuff that cynically is referred to as ” extractable exploitable natural resources,” are largely exhausted, the number of demanding humans keeps growing, and there’s neither the widom, know-how or incentives to do anything different than everyone trying to personally profit from the looting. “More-ism” is the state religion…

  17. TedWa

    I’m glad someone is noticing that the people are sick of business as usual. Our politicians have been gutting America with trade deals that say Made In America isn’t allowed to be a selling point. They want to run a dirty oil pipeline across the largest aquifer in America, oil so heavy it can’t be cleaned up. And they need to push it through at high pressures using chemicals that are as bad as the oil itself. A spill occurs on average every 2 weeks and a spill of not much magnitude would destroy America breadbasket. America and Americans don’t matter to these bought politicians, pieces of America are being sold to whoever is the highest bidder to line their own pockets. And what’s being sold is the soul of America, manufacturing and good jobs, our laws and justice, people homes being foreclosed because of crimes the banks committed, monopolizing media propaganda, socialism for the rich and rugged individuality for the rest of us. I don’t like Australian lamb, I don’t like New Zealand beef, I don’t like Mexican avocados, I no longer eat corn because it’s GMO and on and on. Where is the American food I grew up on and loved? It’s being saved for the elites and their restaurants. America 1st !! means nothing nowadays. We have to fight almost every day against the bad for America choices our politicians are making ! It’s not supposed to be that way. That’s my rant for the day.
    But I state the obvious, as does Reich.

    I just have to say, thanks for that story Paul.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe death of the political establishment also means the death of the economic establishment.

      “Not the economy. It’s the people in it, smart guy.”

      Thus, it not the GDP.

      It’s GDP per capita and how it is distributed.

      It’s not the wage inflation as the core inflation. It’s the health care cost inflation.

      It’s not the unemployment number, dividing only those seeking work by the workforce. It’s how many have given up looking for work and thus are not counted as unemployed.

      But, hey, the original sin of economics as an inquiry field as it first was used to aid the barons and the lords. Thus, all numbers are based on looking at the world from their point of view. As long as it is cheaper, it is preferred over your or your neighor’s/friend’s job.

      1. susan the other

        I agree. that is my focal point. the economic establishment has run aground. it’s done. it has been done since WW1, the roaring 20s and the collapse of democratic thinking. Somehow the political establishment thought they could replace democracy with globalism run by corporations. That alone demonstrates how delusional they were/are. As Varoufakis now points out, the EU cannot survive without “demos”. Nor can we. Nor the planet.

  18. Chauncey Gardiner

    Interesting that denial is the first of five phases identified by Swiss psychiatrist Kubler-Ross in her model of those who have or who experience the loss of someone to terminal illness. The second phase is anger. Assuming her model also applies to a society and its institutions, both phases are counterproductive to comprehending and implementing the profound changes to the current system that are necessary.

    1. jrs

      No kidding, we have someone who is about as good as we are likely to see run for President in the duopoly but that is really way to old to be President, but we can’t find a single younger candidate who will run on anything decent apparently, even though it’s what the young people in this country support.

      We have a narcissistic reality t.v. show star that makes fascist noises and says ever more ridiculous and horrifying things and yet becomes more and more popular by doing so.

      We have a dynasty whose main absurd qualifications for being president seem to be being married to a President. As if that somehow made any sense.

      We have a ridiculous clown car full of near completely silly candidates. Rand Paul I thought was reasonable on some things but he dropped out and was never popular (not crazy enough I guess). Some people say Kachich is reasonable but every time I hear him he’s beating the war drums so he seemed rather repellant to me. Maybe Rubio is as good as it gets, another neo-con, 4 more wars. The rest of them are just completely clown cookoo.

      1. different clue

        If the Sanders movement can outlive Sanders and become a New Deal Restoration Party or some such thing, its membership may find and pick various young or youngish members to run for various offices at different levels and begin little takeovers and breakouts from all those beachheads.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          One man might have sparked it, but the people’s history is about teamwork.

          It takes a village…a village of idiots, maybe, but who cares. People are people. Everyone has a right to a life with dignity.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Interesting loss comparison.

      In one case, we lose some one we cared about.

      The other case, we lose faith in the establishment. It passes away.

      Do we react the same way?

      In Japan, there is a concept, mono no aware, もののあわれ, that means (according to Wiki),

      for the awareness of impermanence (無常 mujō?), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.

      We don’t often feel that way, in the West, for inanimate objects, like a slide rule or obsidian arrowhead for hunting mammoths.

      When the tool is no longer functional, we just discard it, especially for a consumer in a consumerist society.

      “Just get a new one.”

  19. vidimi

    i’m not yet willing to believe that reich had a damascene conversion since his clinton NAFTA days. i think he’s made the calculation that he can possibly score a top advisor role in a sanders administration whereas all the clinton roles have already been accounted for. like krugman, i would expect him to about face if the right command was given.

    nevertheless, can’t fault the substance of this essay. he captures what is going on in the real economy. people are smarter than the politicians gave them credit.

  20. John Tanker

    I admit to getting swept up in the anti-establishment fervor. Now? Not so much. Once the hangover and budding sobriety set in, I was jarred by the insurgent failures of McGovern and Jesse Jackson, Dean, and the betrayals of B. Clinton and Obama. I just don’t think it’s possible to reform from within the Democratic party. Too much corruption – super delegates, etc. Color me cynical, but I see the Sanders campaign going down in flames. A kind of historical inevitability played out in slo-mo. I truly hope I’m wrong, but . . .
    I was desperately hoping for Bernie to attack H Clinton. A very serious strategic mistake to play ‘Mr. Gentleman’. That might have done it. Now? Nope.

  21. Ignacio

    Great analysis. It seems to me that the emergence of outsiders like Trump and Sanders is the american political equivalent to the emergence of the UKIPs, FN, Sirizas or Podemos in Europe. It would be, at least interesting how this translates in governing actions if one of those are elected, and if as in the case of Syriza, the stablishment manages to control the policies of the “revolutionary” candidates.

    My guess is that we need more than revolutionary parties or revolutionary candidates to figth the stablishment. We need to change the stablishment. Thats what Reich writes, as “fundamental reform” and I agree

  22. Gil Gamseh

    “Eventually, those with significant economic and political power in America will have to either commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power.”

    Indeed, and we know fundamental reform is out-of-the question. A voluntary relinquishment of power as well. That leaves considerable force, to be applied ground up. Such will be justified, even violence, as it is an inherent right of the oppressed to rebel against their oppressors.

  23. Helmholtz Watson

    “Eventually, those with significant economic and political power in America will have to either commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power.”

    Ha, ha, that is funny…….and stunningly naive! That’s not how it works. Once the elites have their hands on all the levels of power they effectively control the system and are easily able to perpetuate the system. Granted the Trump/Sanders phenomena is interesting and represents a challenge to the system. Nevertheless, they will never voluntarily consent to “fundamental reform” or “relinquish their power.” Seriously, when has that ever happened? That’s what the well meaning idiots in Egypt thought and look where it go them. Or go study Mexico where 79 million peasants are ruled by a tiny elite. They get to vote down there as well and the elites don’t need electoral fraud to control the system; they just make there are no real electoral choices.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      Once the people have their will broken, as yours appears to be, those in control have nothing to fear.

      1. Helmholtz Watson

        My will’s not broken at all; just commenting on reality and not some naive optimism. History shows that those in control almost never willingly “commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power.” It usually takes some type of revolutionary movement to force real change. The chances of this system changing through electoral politics are very low.

        Go read Gene Sharp if you want to understand these issues.

  24. Waking Up

    We have a country in which 9, yes NINE people have a net worth over $370 BILLION: Bill Gates, Charles Koch, David Koch, Warren Buffet, Christy Walton, Larry Page, Jim Walton, Sheldon Adelson, and George Soros. That is more wealth than 258 MILLION citizens of the United States.

    Think about it… those NINE people can and certainly do a lot of damage for hundreds of millions of people. They throw money around for their personal pet projects and lobby our politicians for their personal benefit and to increase their personal wealth. And they are just part of the problem. So, understanding why there is so much anger among citizens shouldn’t be that difficult.

  25. susan the other

    I’d like to point out the following: Bernie has not backtracked one inch in his proposed social changes. Everyone loves him, we are witnessing political love! Like other forms of love, say a good joke, Bernie is guileless. Honest. Tough. Hillary is timid by comparison. I wouldn’t put it past her machine to shave of votes until she controls enough delegates to win. The Carl Rove model, all of her lies included. And the Donald is out of left field and refreshingly honest except that he has backtracked. He started out saying he would bring us Single Payer, now he says maybe health savings accounts. He first said that he would keep us out of any more wars and make our military even stronger – now he talks about more obscene uses of the military. He says he will bring jobs back, but now we learn how intwined his corporations are (and beholden) to the Chinese. Etc. Donald instinctively plays both sides. An “establishment” candidate has a set agenda that can’t be fudged, no matter how odious, but only propagandized. And we are so sick of the propaganda we no longer trust them. Let the chips fall. When trust is gone there is really nothing left.

  26. Soulipsis

    I think Reich unintentionally subscribes to a fallacy of the “elites” that conflates growth for them with national economic growth, whereas clearly the country as a whole is doomed to fail if the general welfare is not looked after better than it is now. The American “elites” have disidentified themselves with the American nation, and I think they are correct that they would survive the political demise of the country, but I think they are not correct that they would survive the political demise of the nation-based world order.

    Also I think they believe that the general population of the planet does not have the wherewithal to force them to “relinquish their power’, and this belief is a big part of the basis of their project to annihilate anyone who begs to differ.

    The establishment doesn’t get that most Americans couldn’t care less about economic growth because for years they’ve got few of its benefits, while suffering most of its burdens in the forms of lost jobs and lower wages. ….

    The establishment doesn’t see what’s happening because it has cut itself off from the lives of most Americans. It also doesn’t wish to understand, because that would mean acknowledging its role in bringing all this on. ….

    Eventually, those with significant economic and political power in America will have to either commit to fundamental reform, or relinquish their power.

    1. Paul

      You are absolutely correct.

      “Trickle down” first requires “hoover up.”

      The hoovering up is still running strong, but the small leak in the shower head responsible for the trickling down was “fixed” with the bail-outs and QE.

      Which is to say, the pirates (can we please find a better word to use than “elites” — it has too many positive connotations) are keeping all the wealth of the nation to themselves.

        1. cnchal

          The looting goes into outer space.

          From an article titled “Why we risk losing out on minerals in space” in last weekend’s Globe & Mail, the “we” refers to Canada.

          Three-quarters of the world’s mining companies are incorporated in Canada. But as the global industry prepares for it’s greatest leap since mechanization, Canada risks losing that leadership position – unless it takes sides in a debate over the private ownership of minerals found in space.

          The United States has already shown an interest in asteroids, some of which pass quite close to earth and might be exceedingly rich in heavy elements such as cobalt, gold, platinum rhodium and tungsten. Later this year, NASA will launch a spacecraft, the Osiris-Rex on a mission to retrieve a mineral sample from the near-earth asteroid Bennu.
          Although the primary mission of the Osiris-Rex is to collect data for scientific purposes,the project’s leader, Dante Lauretta, readily admits that it will also “develop important technologies for asteroid exploration that will benefit anyone interested in exploring or mining asteroids whether it’s NASA or a private company.
          . . . NASA and the Canadian Space Agency are unlikely to ever engage in actual mining. This will be left to the private sector, and the company leading the way is based in the United States.

          Planetary Resources Inc. was created in 2010 with backing from Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron. Bechtel Corp, the largest construction and engineering company in the United States has since joined them as a core investor.
          The Seattle based company lobbied strongly for the new U.S. Commercial Space Act which was sponsored by senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and signed into law by President Barack Obama in November. The act accords US citizens the right to own any asteroid resources they obtain in space, and thus provides much needed degree of legal certainty – at least in the United States

          There is much more to the article.

      1. Paul

        For myself, I like “pirates.”

        The first chartered global corporation was not the “Dutch West India Company,” as we were taught in school, but a corporation chartered in England with investor money (the name escapes me) to steal Spanish gold coming back to Europe on ships from South America.

        I learned this in the book “Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World.”

        Pirates. It fits.

        1. cnchal

          . . . (the name escapes me) . . .

          Queen Elizabeth?

          From Keynes

          For I trace the beginnings of British foreign investment to the treasure which Drake stole from Spain in 1580. In that year he returned to England bringing with him the prodigious spoils of the Golden Hind. Queen Elizabeth was a considerable shareholder in the syndicate which had financed the expedition. Out of her share she paid off the whole of England’s foreign debt, balanced her budget, and found herself with about £40,000 in hand.

          Shared the spoils. Not like today’s pirates.

  27. zedtivx

    If this is the unwinding of the current political establishment, than the failures of the Obama administration will be the primary proximate cause and, much like Buchanan, that is likely to be his lasting historical legacy. A cruel and appropriate irony for someone who’s reportedly so obsessed with his own “legacy”.

  28. Christopher Fay

    When I see “a 69-year-old billionaire” I immediately picture Hillary, then I have to read the rest of the sentence.

  29. kevinearick

    that tone-deaf gap just keeps growing…

    Quantum Mechanics, Neuroscience, & Artificial Intelligence

    The rat hole of recursion producing symptoms of symptoms is a waste of time. Plainly, quantum chemistry hasn’t got much further than the hydrogen and the rest is a short cut. You can study physics until the day you die and not find the last and greatest God particle, a wave at rest.

    In the mirror of mirrors, you have expectation, recognition and error control, largely the expectation you have of yourself, others, and the expectation of others have of you. Sooner or later, most accept the expectation of others. Those who don’t are ruled out.

    Pull back out of that rat hole, and look at it like a radio, tuning in frequencies. The area between frequencies is considered noise, to be filtered out. You have a broadband of broadbands.

    What most are studying and trying to exploit is efficiency of mirroring, monkey see monkey do, competing to bring bananas to the ape, which isn’t going to get you anywhere. You want to expand sensory perception, not make sensory perception more efficient. Who cares if Google is making robots for the Amazon assembly line?

    The brain is a tuner, a transmitter/receiver, like anything else, but if you want to think of it as another state of matter, that may be helpful, depending upon your development. Whether humans are the peak of complexity on this planet depends upon your perspective. They could just as easily be defined as biodome bacteria carriers for the planet.

    If you build something new, what is required for others to tune it in, how does that advance your development, and what happens to the brain?

    If you think about it, like all the rest of the witch doctors in History, the vast majority of the current crop begins by assuming a closed system, beginning with their own convenient assumptions, to get a grant, a stock option or some other such debt instrument nonsense. In short order this set of doctors will be perceived like the ones doing the blood-letting not that long ago. What is a threat or opportunity depends upon perspective.

    Look at what the University System has wrought. If it didn’t keep so many people busy with busy work, telling others how to do busy work, you would be better off burning the thing down to the ground. But, if you look at it as a NOT function…

    As provided several times, you do not need a dc back door into a dc chip, and neither does the military. What does the complex not have?

  30. MaroonBulldog

    “False consciousness”: the state of mind that identifies one’s own interests with the interests of a class to which one does not belong.

    The object of propaganda is to propagate false consciousness: teaching you to identify your interests with the interests of those persons who control either one of the two major large, private, voluntary, corrupt associations formed to sponsor candidates for election to public office, and to divide and share the spoils of victory among themselves–but not with you . Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter which, just pick one, and be sure register your identification with the county election board, so that you can vote in the primary elections! And be sure to contribute money for their campaigns, and help them get out the vote on election day.

    What we are witnessing in the anticipated death of the American political establishment is the triumph of cognitive dissonance–the cognitive dissonance that arises when words don’t match deeds–over false consciousness: the conversion we experience when we can no longer identify our own interests with the interests of political party leaders, whose every public act makes it so obviously clear that they do not identify their interests in any way with ours.

    Before I had my conversion experience, I was a useful idiot, too, or otherwise not so useful.

  31. tongorad

    If Trump didn’t exist, wouldn’t the Democrats have to invent him? A “crazy” from central casting to serve as a foil for the Very Serious People.
    Trump is merely a more amplified version of Sarah Palin.
    See you at Hillary’s inauguration.

  32. Dick Burkhart

    Well said. Bring on the political revolution! – In fact it’s already happening here in Seattle, where we’ve elected our first avowed city council person socialist in a very long time.

  33. ewmayer

    [@RR: Tiny quibble: It’s “shoo-in” – same root as shoo-fly pie]

    Regarding the article headline, to quote great English playwright Bill Wigglestick, ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

  34. jessica

    One area in which a President Sanders could have cooperation from the Republicans would be in prosecuting criminals from the the current administration. He would be doing it for principled reasons, they for partisan ones.
    And because their appeal is so much based on scapegoating, they might well go along even though obviously the moment we start prosecuting elite criminals, we will start turning up Republican ones too.

Comments are closed.