The Establishment or The Voters: Who Decides?

ElectionTo us, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump seem two sides of the same coin. Both are using their respective parties as convenient transportation in a desired direction and neither has paid his fare for the ride. Sanders has been tolerated as a necessary foil for Hillary Clinton’s coronation while Mr. Trump was considered self-appointed comic relief by the GOP until it realized that the voters weren’t laughing. But no one appears to be discussing the most significant issue in this election.

That issue is: Who controls the passing of political power in the United States?

In China, that is done by the Communist Party, at gunpoint, though elections are regularly held. In today’s United States, we seem to be deciding whether it will be done by “the Establishment,” a series of alternating political dynasties within a uniparty with one Democratic and one Republican end, also holding elections as theater.

Sanders’ unexpected primary success shows that a significant number of Democrats still think voters should have something to say about who rules. Trump’s success rests, we suppose, on numbers of Republicans making the same statement. And the two party establishments are huddled together in shock, assembling political assassins to remove their unwanted players. Both parties are hampered, we think, in being internally divided just as is the country itself, weakening their responses. And Sanders and Trump therefore thrive.So far.

But the real question is how much longer will voters continue to matter in reality, and who will wield the political power that their voting has represented? If the Establishment succeeds in replacing Sanders/Trump by nominating an Establishment choice, say by manipulating “superdelegates” or a backroom deal at a contested convention, legitimacy of government may come into question. Very bad things can occur in such times.

And if Sanders or Trump is a nominee and then elected, such an event will  be another substantial uncertainty, though not one that leaves the voters feeling robbed. Interesting times indeed …

But from the longer view, perhaps the most significant element in this melange is whether the voters or the political Establishment will be deciding who holds power in the future. The result, whichever way it goes, will be quite different.

About Jack Curtis

Suspicious of government, doubtful of economics, fond of figure skating (but the off-ice part, not so much) Couple of degrees in government, a few medals in figure skating; just reading and suspicion for economics ...
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2 Responses to The Establishment or The Voters: Who Decides?

  1. On the other hand Abraham Lincoln, easily one of our greatest Presidents, went to the Republican Party convention of 1860 as the 2nd place candidate, not the voters choice. The establishment (party officials), and power brokers in attendance decided that the front-runner, William Seward, had “electability” problems, and Lincoln became the nominee on the third ballot.

    • Jack Curtis says:

      If a contested convention were likely to provide a succession of Lincolns, that should be an easy sale. I’m not persuaded that any method fits that specification, though.

      But I worry about an American politics that appears increasingly oligarchical and decreasingly responsive. That may be a pendulum that will swing back in time, but to rely upon that appears a very high priced risk.

      The more so as central government asserts control over ever more details of daily life.

      Too, the 1860 voters chose from four presidential candidates; they were not limited to two by such heavily entrenched parties as we see today. We seem to have proceeded into a sort of bimodal, uniparty system?

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