…Clinton had been challenged in the Democratic primaries by the unlikeliest of candidates – a 74-year-old Jewish senator from Vermont who described himself as a democratic socialist and who was not even a Democrat. Bernie Sanders went on to win 22 states and 47% of the vote in those primaries. Sanders’ major theme was that the country’s political and economic system was rigged in favor of big corporations, Wall Street and the very wealthy.
The power structure of America wrote off Sanders as an aberration, and, until recently, didn’t take Trump seriously. A respected political insider recently told me most Americans were largely content with the status quo. “The economy is in good shape,” he said. “Most Americans are better off than they’ve been in years.”
Recent economic indicators may be up, but those indicators don’t reflect the insecurity most Americans continue to feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience. Nor do the major indicators show the linkages many Americans see between wealth and power, stagnant or declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and the undermining of democracy by big money.
Median family income is lower now than it was 16 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Workers without college degrees – the old working class – have fallen furthest. Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to top. These gains have translated into political power to elicit bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, favorable trade deals and increasing market power without interference by anti-monopoly enforcement – all of which have further reduced wages and pulled up profits.
Wealth, power and crony capitalism fit together. Americans know a takeover has occurred, and they blame the establishment for it.
Robert Reich, “Democrats once represented the working class. Not any more”, The Guardian (10 November 2016) [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/10/democrats-working-class-americans-us-election]