This blog is an adaption and translation from a blog originally published on the Ad Valvas website: : http://www.advalvas.vu.nl/blog-item/de-revolte-tegen-de-elite-nu-officieel (2/2/2016)
The nice thing about elections is that polls can get it pretty wrong and that results are always decided on the day itself. So it has also been with the kick-off of the thus far most unprecedented and remarkable run-up to the US primary season we have seen in a long time. That Tea-party favorite Ted Cruz has won the Iowa caucus is actually not that surprising, or would not have been if we had not all been so much affected by the media hype surrounding Donald Trump, who in recent weeks was leading the polls in Iowa. But while leading the national polls for much longer, the general expectation until recently was that conservative Iowa, with many evangelicals, would, as usually, pick the leading conservative-Christian candidate. The hardcore ideologue above the opportunistic bombast of TheDonald from “liberal” Manhattan who, while getting more support and endorsements from the Christian Right in the run-up to the caucus has not succeeded – relying almost solely on a (social) media campaign – to actually get enough of his supporters out to the public libraries and schools of the Corn State and vote for him.
More important than that Trump did not win is that establishment-candidate Marco Rubio did much better than expected, finishing with just one percentage point behind Trump. Before Iowa there was much speculation that if Trump would, against the historical pattern, come out on top among the conservative Iowan Republican caucus-goers, he might become unstoppable. Now it has turned into fully open race again with Rubio presenting himself as a serious contender on behalf of the GOP-elite, though he will have a long way to go to mobilize the huge voter discontent among the conservative part of the US middle class.
The really remarkable result of last week, however, is that Senator Bernie Senators ended in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, the absolute frontrunner from the start who until recently had also a wide lead in the Iowa polls. While for months all media attention went to the xenophobic shouting of Trump, the real political revolution might be taking place on the Democratic side. While Clinton, with her powerful party machine and extensive corporate support still has the best chances for winning the nomination, the sheer fact that someone who calls himself a socialist is doing so well against the mainstream candidate, the queen of the Democratic Party, is unprecedented.
From democracy to oligarchy?
With the results of the opening of the primary season, the revolt against the US power elite, against the party establishment, but also against Wall Street and the “billionaire class”, as Sanders likes to call them, has become official. We find elites everywhere and throughout history, yet American democracy stands out with respect to how much politics is dominated by big money and by the absence of any counterweight to the interests and influence of the corporate elite. Members of Congress often spend about one third of their time of their whole term to raise money from rich donors and big business in order to get reelected. And if they are not, or decide to (temporarily) “retire” from public life, they often gain powerful positions at the same businesses or banks who previously funded their campaigns and whose interests they served so well while officially representing the people.
This revolving door between the public and the private sector is also a widespread
phenomenon in the case of appointed administration officials, including cabinet members and White House staff, with the current Obama administration being no exception. So Clinton for example, before embarking on her political career was a corporate lawyers and served on the board of WalMart and other Fortune500 corporations. Her close ties with Wall Street, furthermore, are of course legendary by now and the object of growing criticism from the Sanders’ camp.
America’s political system has in fact increasingly shifted from a democracy to an oligarchy. This loss of democracy is what the Senator from Vermont has been seeking to oppose for years. And now for the first time he has the support of a large part of the Democratic base. Of course, this is no coincidence, seven years after the outbreak of the crisis that started on Wall Street but is exacting its toll on Main Street and among many ordinary American citizens. Real median income has been stagnant for decades and has been declining since the crisis. Of the so-called economic recovery 95% has been going to the top 1 %. Meanwhile Wall Street is making huge profits again. Furthermore, research shows that social mobility continues to decline. The “American Dream” is something many Americans can indeed only dream of. As a result anger and frustration are taking its place, but also the increasing sentiment that things really have to change and that everything is better than the current corrupt political class. This revolt against the elite, already visible in the polls for some time but now confirmed by the first results, is what is driving not just the mass movement mobilized by Sanders but also the rise of both Trump and Cruz, the latter also presenting himself as anti-establishment candidate and occasionally rhetorically attacking Wall Street (whilst receiving a large loan from Goldman Sachs). The anti-elite revolt thus has two faces. Thus far we above all saw Trump’s face on all the media all the time, but maybe Sanders will be the real surprise of these elections.