What happens when the two main political candidates are the most unpopular in history?
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
This is an election unlike any other. The Republicans are in horror of their own candidate, whom they aren’t even sure will represent their interests. The Democrats are baffled that people are flocking to an old Jewish socialist with crazy hair yet are loathe to go near their chosen candidate. The media is awash with an inane cacophony of disbelief.
W. B. Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming” keeps surfacing in my thoughts. The centre cannot hold, things fall apart. Except the same two parties have shifted the deBate so far to the right that we, who once bemoaned the loss of the left, now bemoan the loss of the centre.
Every time the pundits speak, they marvel at how this election is off-kilter. Something’s going down. They just can’t figure out what. We are facing the November election with what looks like Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, and yet they are the two most unpopular candidates ever to run. Clinton might be facing an indictment for her baffling failure to follow the rules or inform key department staff regarding her use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State. We are heading into the political conventions with big divisions in both parties. The media and the political establishment can’t understand why we just couldn’t return to the 90s, with a Bush/Clinton race. While they have attempted to explain Trump, they can’t seem to fathom Sanders.
Why are we surprised that the mainstream media doesn’t understand what’s going on? Six corporations own 90% of the media in the U.S. All the major newspaper and news outlets in the U.S. were blind cheerleaders for the disastrous Iraqi invasion.
This is the very same corporate media that was already running cover stories about the soon-to-be-president Jeb Bush on Time magazine last year. Of course, The Republican Party had thought Jeb Bush was the obvious choice. After all, the Bushes are obedient workers for corporate special interests, banks and the military.
The Democrats also assumed they knew how things would unfold: It was Hillary Clinton’s turn. Democrat voters were all going to embrace her as we did her husband. The Clintons had served the ruling class, and were connected to the big-money sources that the Democratic Party uses for funding.
The party wasn’t even interested in Bernie Sanders’s money-raising techniques. The fact that he kept reiterating that his money came from “the people”, with an average contribution of $37, actually put them off. What people? The unwashed masses? Who needs those people when you can get George Clooney to host dinners in San Francisco for $300,000 a head? We condemn Hillary for it, but in fairness, when she arrived in California she was only doing what Obama and everyone else had traditionally done without remark. It was an efficient system: charge the billionaires for lunch and promise to protect their interests. Now those are the people you need.
The Democratic establishment and the media keep scolding Bernie Sanders. They routinely tell him he is a disgrace for running such a successful campaign. Even worse, he is attracting so many engaged, thoughtful new voters and independents longing for genuine democracy. Who wants those kinds of people in an oligarchy?
The media repeatedly chides Sanders supporters for their naivety, for not knowing how Washington works. Hilary, they keep telling us, is the pragmatic choice. Sure, she voted for the Iraq War, but that was so long ago. Why bring it up? So why are the people still flocking to hear the old curmudgeon with the wild hair, dandruff shoulders and unglamorous academic wife, barking about income inequality as the central crisis of our time? The media hadn’t told any of us that this was the issue; we were meant to be reading their script and be cowering in the face of the evil ISIS, the evil Putin and the evil Iranians. We were meant to keep handing over our money to the military to protect us from the boogiemen. But Bernie said the boogieman was actually our financial system. What’s wrong with us? How could we doubt capitalism? This is the U.S.: you too can slip on your flip-flops, zip up your hoodie, drop out of college, write another useless App and become a billionaire, right?
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
Since the Clinton 90s, we’ve had NAFTA, September 11, the Patriot Act, invasion after invasion, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Drones, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the banking crisis, the bailout, Citizens United, the internet, the birth of social media, Snowden, Wikileaks, the first black family in the Whitehouse, the birthers, the Tea Party, the Occupy movement.
Sometimes, the media would take time out from their annual super soaker ball games in Joe Biden’s back garden and acknowledge their witless collusion – The New York Times published an apology for their coverage of the lead-up to the Iraq War – but by then it was too late and six trillion dollars had been spent on that one war alone. That’s $6,000,000,000,000 we could have spent on arts, infrastructure, health, education, alternative energy and combatting climate change. Money that would have created a completely different reality to the one we are in now. Then maybe we could have coped with a return to the 90s and embraced the notion of the first woman president and the Clintons back in the White House.
The media knows why the majority of us don’t want the White House to be the Trump House but it can’t figure out why people aren’t getting excited about another Clinton White House? Thanks to the continuous deregulation of banks by every administration since Reagan, and the handing over of the financial reins of government to Goldman Sachs, we have a nation in which the top 100 richest people now have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire population. This is a bigger wealth disparity than existed even during the Gilded Age. In fact, at no point in the history of this country has the gap between the rich and poor been so pronounced.
We know that voting for Clinton or Trump won’t change this because the candidates who can afford to run represent those billionaires who gave them the money to do so. Democracy has disappeared and we are living under an oligarchy.
But this election is different because people have finally realised what’s wrong. Many people under 50 in the U.S. have massive student loans due to the rocketing costs of education; they will not be able to afford to send their own kids to college. Many have lost their houses in the great sweep of foreclosures and will never be able to buy again. The famous U.S. upward mobility has ground to a halt. People are hurting and sour.
To the profound shock of the Democratic Party, another Clinton era of war mongering, bad trade agreements and Wall Street–scripted policies just aren’t attractive to most. “Why don’t people want experienced politicians?” Obama asked helplessly last week at a Rutgers’s graduation. He was referring to Trump but he has also criticized the Sanders supporters who won’t support Clinton. Even he can’t see the reality from the Rose Garden.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
On the other side, we have the Republicans uneasily accepting a rogue demagogue. The media at first dismissed him as a buffoon. Then it noted that his racist and incendiary pronouncements were encouraging the disgruntled, undereducated underclass in this country to place the blame on the wrong people. When people experience no upward mobility and are living lives of constant struggle, it’s always easier to listen to right-wing talk radio and Fox News and blame poor, desperate, powerless migrants rather than the slick, faceless hoard of bankers who have ensured that the education of the underclass does not equip them to decipher the complex economics of rapid wealth shifts. People are voting for Trump out of the same impulse as that which motivates them to vote for Sanders. They want change. They just don’t have the education to understand that they are voting against their own interests.
So what happened to the education system?
Essentially, for all of our lives, we have been living through a vicious backlash against the radical 60s. The powers-that-be were truly shaken by the revolutionary rhetoric of even their own white, wealthy, university-educated children. That old-money oil family the Rockefellers set up a think tank called The Trilateral Commission to study this phenomenon and their findings were clear. There was a problem of too much education. They had overeducated the masses and raised the expectations of minorities, to the detriment of the ruling class.
To counteract this overeducation of the wrong people, they systematically attacked, undermined and defunded public education until it was in the pitiful state it is today. And we need education, the kind of education that will bring awareness to people and an ability to analyse and see through the masses of misinformation, manipulation and marketing we are subjected to on a scale never seen before. A century ago, access to information was the problem; now, the challenge is to learn to filter information and find the small nuggets of actual truth in this polluted, raging, propaganda-marketing stream that can sweep you away if you don’t have anything to hold onto.
The rest of the world is enjoying the entertainment value of the U.S. madness during this election. However, there is no room to be smug. The oligarchy is transnational and this Gilded Age is global. European countries are being sucked into a debt spiral just as Third World countries were decades earlier. Austerity is a code word for the siphoning off of taxpayers’ money into the pockets of global banks and corporations. This wealth is being hoarded, stored and used to hurt and kill innocent people in far-off countries for vast profits and resource grabbing.
Up to now, the global population has been passive and accepting; the universities are calm. No one was protesting this. Why now?
The vast majority of people have not done well in this carefully engineered oligarchy but if the Trump supporters are barking up the wrong tree and picking on the less powerful as scapegoats, the Sanders supporters are putting it all together and using the power of social media to create their own information networks. This is an offshoot of the global Occupy movement, which initially camped outside the banks after they collapsed and which were bailed out with taxpayers’ money, once again proving that you can have socialism, as long as it’s for the rich. The Occupy movement brilliantly coined the idea of the “One Percent”, which is now a household term. And while Occupy’s tents have been taken down, they have not gone away. Instead, the movement is using the power of the Internet to create its own activist media, a media that actually knows what’s going on, a media that can spread the news about the industrial-military complex and the austerity that has humiliated and crippled ordinary people.
Sanders’s revolution sprang from this dissent. This is the moment where the cracks in the whole ugly, greedy, toxic, unjust system are exposed. We can’t lose this moment. This is the beginning of a revolution that is finally combatting the neoliberal think tank–driven thought control we have been subjected to for the last 40 years. The generation that was being trained to be quiet, passive consumers while handing 68% of its tax money to the U.S. military has finally woken up. Cranky old Sanders is giving them hope because he can’t be bought.
In Britain, people chose the unpolished, disheveled Jeremy Corbin as the antidote to the shiny, squeaky manic parrot of neoliberalism, the duplicitous, hawkish Tony Blair. In London, the people chose the Muslim son of a Pakistani bus driver over the son of a billionaire. The election of Sadiq Khan as the new mayor of the capital city of a major western power has repercussions for the rest of the world. It is a rejection of the thought control we’ve been under all of our lifetime. What if Muslims aren’t crazy people to kill and steal oil from? What if we can even integrate them into our societies? What if neither Europe nor the U.S. needs to remain white? The mass migrations are not the problem: the war machine that reduced the migrants’ region to rubble is. Diversity in population is not what scares us. The oligarchy scares us. War without end scares us. Austerity scares us. And climate change scares us.
Trump and Hillary are the most unpopular candidates in history because we are sick of being manipulated by billionaires. It is an obscenity that a billionaire even exists. The American Dream was better delivered through New Deal social policies that shared wealth and funded free education rather than rampant neoliberalism.
However, the mass media still doesn’t get it: Trump and Hillary are the One Percent. The people of the West have had their hopes of a better life snatched away since the 60s and have become poorer and poorer. Middle-class status is something our parents could aspire to, but we cannot achieve their level of comfort and stability. If we are not ready to be serfs, then power and wealth need to be equitable. Despite decades of right-wing talk radio, Think Tanks funded by oilmen like the Rockefellers and the Koch Brothers, we still know that climate change is no lie and that we have been led down a path of destruction. We can’t trust power any more.
They have stolen our future. We want it back. The message that was delivered in the 60s and subsequently crushed is being heard again. We voted for Obama because he said he would give us change but he never said what kind of change that would be. He didn’t deliver anything different from the Clintons before him, so we can’t vote for them again. Sanders is offering a critique of the capitalist system that got us into this sad mess. We are listening. The Democratic Party and the mainstream media have fought him all the way, but they still don’t understand that he has given us the key, and we can use it, with or without him. We have to reduce the insanity of the world, attempt to come to terms with our own avaricious, competitive nature and live in harmony with other species and the Earth herself. Otherwise, we have very little time left and what percent you belong to will matter little. Perhaps this is an awakening; people have been activated and mobilised. Trump and Clinton belong to the era of billionaires, an era that, hopefully, is drawing to a close.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Emer Martin is the American Affairs Correspondent for The Bog Cannon. She is a writer and an artist. Her first novel, Breakfast in Babylon, won Book of the Year 1996 in her native Ireland at the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week. Houghton Mifflin released Breakfast in Babylon in the United States in 1997. More Bread or I’ll Appear, her second novel, was published internationally in 1999. Emer studied painting in New York and has had two sell-out solo shows of her paintings at the Origin Gallery in Harcourt Street, Dublin. Her third novel, Baby Zero, was published in the UK and Ireland in March 2007 and released in the United States in 2014. She has completed her third short film, Unaccompanied, and produced Irvine Welsh’s directorial debut, NUTS, in 2007. Emer founded the publishing cooperative Rawmeash in 2014. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000.