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Monday night began on CNN with Anderson Cooper asking “who would have thought we’d be talking about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump winning?” The actual answer to that question is anyone who’s not wedded to establishment.
And Monday night ended with Ted Cruz and Sanders giving victory speeches, both of which attacked the establishment and major media:
To perhaps the biggest cheers of the night, Sanders said: “I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way, to the media establishment.”
Similarly, Cruz: “Iowa has sent notice that the Republican nominee for the next president of the United States will not be chosen by the media. Will not be chosen by the Washington establishment.”
The simple numbers show a serious anti-establishment majority transcending party: 50 percent for Sanders, 28 for Cruz, to 24 for Trump. And anti-establishment tendencies are probably deeper among independents and those who have dropped out of the political process.
The more wedded to the establishment a candidate is, Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush et al, the more they are stuck in single digits — in spite of them being treated to extensive, and generally positive, major media coverage.
Clinton’s rise has more to do with the Republican attacks on her. She’s deemed as “good on foreign policy” by many ostensibly anti-war Democrats simply because the Republicans vilify her over narrow issues like the Benghazi attacks. This has had the twisted effect of eclipsing from public memory her Iraq war vote — and host of other militaristic positions. (Ironically, Clinton backers will the next moment often argue that she would be more skilled at working with Republicans — ignoring among other things that she works with Republicans against the interests of much of the Democratic party base.)
Sanders may ultimately be defeated for a variety of reasons: His unwillingness to pointedly attack Clinton in debates (Martin O’Malley’s sharp crit of Clinton will be missed in future debates); his own contradictions (calling himself a democratic socialist while in fact being a New Dealer); his largely pro-establishment foreign policy.
But it’s also possible that the media attacks on Sanders will benefit him — that was the apparent dynamic in Britain, as Jeremy Corbyn rises with each unfair attack from a corporate media there that has lost legitimacy. The more sophisticated media are already finding other ways to attack Sanders: Show his supporters in the most unflattering light. If Sanders won’t give them a “Dean Scream,” find a supporter who will.
Still, we have — in the highly flawed candidacies of Cruz, Trump and Sanders — an insurgency in each of the major political parties against the permanent political and media class. Or, we should say, that is their appeal to their bases.
If the establishment gets their way, the two insurrections will demonize each other and peter out instead of finding ways to build up.
The solution, may ironically lay in a substantial fight from each of these two insurrections, but an ultimate defeat at their conventions.
If it ends there and the voters so riled up against the establishment now ultimately vote for Clinton or Marco Rubio or Bush, then Sanders, Cruz and Trump would have served as “sheepdogging” function — shepherding voters to the establishment of each party they claim to deride.
But there’s the possibility for another approach — a serious victory: These insurgencies could conceivably go deeper and have an ultimate victory in joining forces. There is a new anti establishment center: The U.S. is a republic, not an empire; it must abide by the rule of law; it should not be forever meddling in other countries; liberty must be preserved; the corporate class can no longer be favored with Wall Street bailouts and corporate trade deals tailored for the benefit of transnational corporations.
What’s needed in a sense is meaningful transpartisan caucusing: The anti-establishment from within each party making plans for how and to what extent they can possibly join together instead of allowing the monied establishment to perpetually divide them. In so doing, the election becomes at minimum a tool of outreach for those who want to see serious change hearing each other out as to what sort of change that should be. Such an outcome would be the worst possible defeat for the establishment.