Editor’s column: Two billionaires and a socialist
A whole lot of Americans, with good reason, think the system is rigged against them.
And it is, and the next president won’t cure that, as much as we’d like to think that’s possible. In fact, the rest of this year may serve to show just how rigged the system is and just how powerful and entrenched the powers that be are.
As improbable as these ideas would be in a normal election year, we could see two brokered national party conventions with the Democratic nominee decided by superdelegates; a well-financed independent presidential candidacy; and our new leader selected by the House of Representatives.
Few would disagree that the country is run by the golden rule of power and politics: Those who have the gold make the rules.
The tax system favors the rich, who have convinced many of the rest of us that lower taxes for those who set wages will magically mean a better life for workers, even though wages and income have been flat for middle America ever since supply-side tax cutting began under Ronald Reagan.
The jobs that are being created are disproportionately food servers, caregivers and temps — jobs that don’t pay well and don’t offer security.
While flat wages may have been more excusable for a time as employers tended to absorb rapidly rising health insurance costs, that cost has been shifting to workers the past few years with companies using Obamacare as a fig leaf to excuse trimming their insurance bill.
(Which is not to say that’s an obligation of business. It’s a societal issue that we have allowed to become polarized.)
At the bottom line, average workers are not sharing in rising profits, do not benefit from the tax code, have seen retirement plans kicked into their court as if they are able financial managers and are working more hours every year.
No wonder people are pissed.
So it’s a presidential election year.
As Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders tap this anger, we are seeing an unmasking of mainstream Democrats and Republicans as both tone deaf and desperate to maintain the status quo, which is broken for many of the rest of us.
The party power brokers on both sides hear frustrated shouting and think, “We just need to move these people back to what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years and we’ll be fine.” “We’ll” be fine; not “they,” the public, will be fine.
These political geniuses should be hearing that people on both sides are really fed up with working harder and falling further behind.
Some voters might think Donald Trump will fix this, but it’s a remarkable stretch to think that a thin-skinned, self-interested billionaire born on third base who has bankrupted his own businesses and has no policy experience or plans is going to be effective or even interested in improving the lot of ordinary Americans.
Bernie Sanders, who is sincerely interested in doing just that (whether you agree with his remedy or not, he’s sincere), would be savaged as a socialist in the general election and, should he survive that, would face an intransigent Republican majority in Congress.
The Republicans, who abetted extremism for decades and whose overpromising is coming home to roost — doesn’t Trump look and act like a rooster? — are thrashing about to find a viable representative of their mainstream.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is faltering. Again. She’s talked about “taking stock.” Her husband, a gifted campaigner, is now often at her side, and went on the attack against Sanders the weekend before the New Hampshire primary. Prominent women have started scolding young female Sanders supporters — as if Grandma can bring these girls to their senses.
These developments all suggest that Clinton’s campaign doesn’t like the polling results it is getting beyond New Hampshire.
At some point, the Democrats may realize that she’s a joyless candidate with so much baggage that even people who want to like her just can’t.
The Democrats’ superdelegate rules may get her the nomination but weaken her in the general election.
I’m starting to think it’s possible that Sanders will continue to get bigger popular vote totals, which could force the party to move toward him.
Michael Bloomberg appears to be hoping so. The billionaire former mayor of New York is exploring an independent candidacy that’s most likely if Trump and Sanders are the major party nominees.
Under this darkly delicious scenario, Americans would choose between two billionaires and a socialist to be the 45th president.
But rank and file voters may not end up choosing at all. If Sanders and Trump or Ted Cruz ran reasonably close, Bloomberg would need to win only a couple of big states — say New York and California, where his policies and big media spending might connect — to make it impossible for the Electoral College to reach a majority.
In that event, the U.S. House of Representatives chooses our next president. Then, the major parties may understand how the public feels: Screwed and left out.
Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.
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