Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 11:53 pm | Fair 49º


Randy Alcorn: Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders Portend a Popular Revolt

The surprising durability and magnitude of support for Donald Trump’s run for the presidency is threatening the established order of the Republican Party, unsettling the usual power brokers, delighting Democrats, and providing the media with an entertainment windfall.

If John McCain was the GOP’s maverick, Trump is the GOP’s rogue elephant.

Self-financed and beholden to no special interest but his own inflated ego, Trump is becoming a larger-than-life character distilling all the nation’s concerns, fears and discontent into an elixir of simplistic solutions and promises of a glorious national renaissance. All of which will be delivered — somehow — through Trump magic.

Apparently, his intoxicated fans forget that a president does not have dictatorial powers — yet.

Trump’s improbable lead as the GOP’s presidential nominee is indicative of an endemic angst in America that things are not quite right, threats are everywhere and the future looks bleak.

American optimism is flickering. The post-World War II economic boom built the greatest middle class in the world by broadly distributing the wealth from America’s prodigious productivity. That model has been perverted by the forces of greed, who though small in number, purchase tremendous political leverage with their vast wealth.

Although these forces and their purchased politicians distract the nation with the inane culture wars, and with overblown fears of terrorism and gun violence, for the two-thirds of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck it is still about “the economy, stupid.”

It is money that matters in the U.S.A., and for decades now nearly all the wealth generated in America goes to those at the very top of the economic food chain. Consequently, the middle class shrinks and the underclass increases.

Attempts to remedy this situation are condemned by the forces of greed as socialist attacks on free-market capitalism. But, capitalism as practiced in America these past three decades is more like the promises of religion than a practical path to delivering a middle-class lifestyle in the here and now.

Faith that the American Dream can be realized with hard work and determination is fading as “trickle-down economics” hasn’t delivered much more than table scraps for most Americans.

Trump correctly identifies some of the snake oil of American capitalism when he denounces the offshoring of America’s once mighty manufacturing base and the loss of its many well-paying jobs; the influx of cheap foreign labor; and the selfish greed of corporate capitalism that benefits market manipulators and corporate executives first and foremost at the expense of customers, labor and even shareholders.

But what Trump doesn’t do is provide credible fixes to prevent the entire system from teetering over from top-heavy greed. He expends most of his air time on blathering braggadocio, denigrating his opponents, bullying his critics and fanning the flames of xenophobia.

Ironically, the other presidential candidate who shares many of Trump’s voiced concerns is Bernie Sanders, whom the forces of greed insistently dismiss as a dreaded socialist.

Sanders is as independent and outspoken as Trump but without all the offensive narcissism and fear mongering. While both candidates engage in a good deal of magical thinking, Sanders is clearly dedicated to the general welfare and to actually addressing the dangerous economic imbalances in the country.

Both men deplore the trillions of dollars wasted on military misadventures in the Middle East that would have been better spent on rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Sanders, however, has and continues to heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the corrupting avarice of the military-industrial complex. He believes that making college educations affordable for all qualified students would be more beneficial to the country’s welfare than are superfluous, grossly over-budget war machines.

Outwardly, an excessively massive military makes America appear strong, but internally the nation is deteriorating. Not only is the country’s infrastructure falling into dangerous disrepair but also, more critically, more Americans are losing economic status, losing hope and losing patience with the established order.

Limiting the pursuit of happiness and justice to the entrenched elite is what most threatens the American republic and its founding principles of liberty and justice for all.

A political system that becomes feckless and inequitable and does not provide for the general welfare is eventually deposed.

Throughout history, disaffected populations have turned to demagogues and dictators to fix things for them when the old order has not. Something approaching that may be happening now in America, and the old order is uneasy about it.

The Republican and Democrat establishments, both of which have long been purchased by the forces of greed, are vigorously manipulating the political process to push their preferred candidates on the voters.

Hillary Clinton and someone like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio are the candidates that the forces of greed want on the 2016 ballot, because a victory by any of these is a victory for business as usual.

A Trump versus Sanders ballot, however, would be a clear mandate for overthrowing the established order. Congress, detested by 86 percent of Americans, and the U.S. Supreme Court, incurring growing public criticism, would come under increasing public pressure to either get on board or get out of the way.

If ideological idiocy and fealty to the forces of greed continue to hinder effective government, pressure from a disgruntled public could well push more power to the executive branch.

History could again repeat itself as dictatorships replace republics.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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