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Sun Jan 10, 2016, 04:52 AM

 

Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and the Many Faces of Populism By Charles P. Pierce

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a40993/bernie-sanders-trump-populism/

Because Bernie Sanders is not a vulgar talking yam, when he gives a speech like the one he delivered on Tuesday afternoon—and it was an authentic Old Testament jeremiad about the greed and social vandalism as practiced by the money power in the United States—it doesn't even make the cut to be carried live on CSPAN. But it's worth reviewing, because this presidential campaign has done a great deal to distract and to obscure the fundamental corruption of the democratic experiment into mindless oligarchy, and anytime anyone rises up to tell that simple truth, it's worth the effort it takes to transmit it through the raucous noise of the carnival midway.

As most people know, in the 1990s and later, the financial interests spent billions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to force through Congress the deregulation of Wall Street, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the weakening of consumer protection laws in states. They spent this money in order to get the government off their backs and to show the American people what they could do with that new-won freedom. Well, they sure showed the American people. In 2008, the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street nearly destroyed the U.S. and global economy. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings. While Wall Street received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world with no strings attached, the American middle class continues to disappear, poverty is increasing and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider. And Wall Street executives still receive huge compensation packages as if the financial crisis they created never happened.


Of all the misappropriated and misunderstood terms in our political lexicon, "populism" is right at the top of any respectable list...However, even at its worst, it never was simply an excuse to rail and to hate. Even at its worst, it was a reaction against the corrupting power of money in a self-governing democratic republic. Even at its worst, it was an argument to distrust big money as much as we distrust big government because, too often, the latter is the servant of the former. Even at its worst, it was a statement that privatized threats to liberty are just as great as those that emerge from government. That's the history lesson behind Bernie Sanders' campaign.

There were undeniable campaign elements to the speech; Sanders was very tough on what he perceives to be Hillary Rodham Clinton's milquetoast proposals to reform the financial goliaths further. But the real meat of the thing was to demonstrate that—as populists have done for over a century—unaccountable money power inevitably corrupts everything it touches, and that unaccountable money power turns the principles of self-government into a ludicrous form of vaudeville.

It is no secret that millions of Americans have become disillusioned with our political process. They don't vote. They don't believe much of what comes out of Washington. They don't think anyone is there representing their interests. In my view, one of the reasons for that deep disillusionment is the widespread understanding that our criminal justice system is broken and grossly unfair—and that we do not have equal justice under the law. The average American sees kids being arrested and sometimes even jailed for possessing marijuana or other minor crimes. But when it comes to Wall Street executives, some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country, whose illegal behavior caused pain and suffering for millions—somehow nothing happens to them. No police record. No jail time. No justice. We live in a country today that has an economy that is rigged, a campaign finance system which is corrupt and a criminal justice system which, too often, does not dispense justice.


In that kind of political system—and I believe that Sanders is deadly accurate in his assessment—the people are prone to the worst instincts of the mob as an entity, and to the worst impulses of every member of it. I have little patience with the argument that the same voters energized by He, Trump are energized by Bernie Sanders simply because both men are seen as being outside some fanciful conception of their party's respective "establishments." They have become vehicles for entirely different populist impulses, the personification of the two halves of old Tom Watson's soul. In his case, the darker impulses won out. That's why it would be a capital mistake to assume that, when Bernie Sanders says this…

And so my message to you today is straightforward: If elected president, I will rein in Wall Street so they can't crash our economy again. Will they like me? No. Will they begin to play by the rules if I'm president? You better believe it. Thank you and I look forward to working with the most powerful force in our great nation, not the Barons of Wall Street but the people our government was created to serve.


…he is talking only about his own party's frontrunner.



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Reply Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and the Many Faces of Populism By Charles P. Pierce (Original post)
Proserpina Jan 2016 OP
dae Jan 2016 #1

Response to Proserpina (Original post)

Sun Jan 10, 2016, 10:00 AM

1. Great OP Proserpina,

thank you for your insight and the excerpts from Esquire's article on the rise of Populism.
Personally I support Sen. Sanders and have nothing but disgust for Mr. Trump. The only thing some of their respective supporters share is a rage against an unfair political system.
IMO, Sen. Sanders recognizes the problems and has a plan to correct them. Will his solutions work, I don't know but it beats the ideology this country has been following for 35 plus years. I view our country's basic problem as greed, pure and simple.
Mr. Trump offers nothing but rancor and spite which feeds his supporters fears and hatreds. The Trump supporters I know are racists and firmly convinced the poor(minorities) have made a lifestyle choice and are living a carefree life at their expense.

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