Battlers Against the System

trump dirtyDemocratic nominee Hillary Clinton has endured two populist insurrections over the past eighteen months, one from the Left and the other from the Right. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have played the populist card, a conviction that ordinary men and women have been rorted by “the system” and that strong decisive action was required on behalf of regular folk to take back control of the nation from a coterie of cronies. The populist’s worldview is invariably a Manichean one of blameless “outsiders”—in alliance with a would-be political saviour—fighting the good fight against the “wicked insiders”. Sanders’s gripe was the state’s failure to safeguard the little person; Trump’s grievance is much the same, albeit for mostly different reasons. 

A populist movement is a function of voters going rogue after deciding that the political status quo has lost its legitimacy—in the American case, the customary policies of the Democratic Party and the customary policies of the Republican Party. Populist revolts in America have emerged before at times of stress, from the People’s Party of James B. Weaver in the 1890s to the “Share the Wealth” movement of the Great Depression, the latter cut short by Huey Long’s assassination in 1935. Jack Ross, writing for the American Conservative in March 2016, insisted that Sanders’s politics should be seen as a contemporary version of Huey Long’s proletarian-flavoured radicalism rather than in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt-style liberalism and Henry Wallace’s progressivism or, we might add, Barack Obama’s New Left-style identity politics. Ross rationalises Sanders’s recourse to the middle-class identity politics of Black Lives Matter as the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, then, Senator Sanders differentiated himself from Hillary Clinton in his populist morality tale by implicitly casting her as the establishment candidate, an insider compromised by long and intimate association with “Wall Street speculators”.

Bernie Sanders, fittingly enough, kicked off his primary campaign by refusing to set up a Super PAC (political action committee) as proof that shady plutocrats and their Washington accomplices could not buy off the aspiring people’s hero. He was free to remain an independent operator and, presumably, the champion of outsiders. Central to his populist narrative was that an overclass had subverted democracy in America; decisions were being made that profited powerful oligarchical interests by selling out ordinary American workers, the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being two obvious cases in point.

Sanders’s self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” insurgency also drew on a pervasive bitterness at the wage and wealth inequality in the modern-day US. Accordingly, Sanders’s policy rollout began with a range of government-guaranteed benefits for ordinary workers, from a new minimum wage to longer holidays. Sanders also pledged full remission on student-debt loans and a $70 billion plan to make tertiary education free. It was payback time for the outsiders.

Five weeks before the November 8 election an audiotape (dating back to a March 2016 fundraiser in Virginia) emerged of Hillary Clinton dismissing Bernie Sanders’s supporters as ill-informed Millennials who believed America should have “free college, health care” and that the Obama administration had not “gone far enough” in transforming the United States into “Scandinavia, whatever that means, and half the people don’t know what that means”. However, as Sanders’s campaign was surging at the time, Hillary Clinton entered into a bidding war with her rival. For instance, she promised a $250 billion infrastructure upgrade, only for Bernie Sanders to top this with a $1 trillion undertaking, throwing in high-speed internet access for rural America as a bonus. Why not? Add to that, of course, his plan for universal health care (or so-called Berniecare), a single-payer health plan that Sanders himself acknowledged would increase annual government spending on health from $1 trillion to $2.9 trillion. A Sanders presidency would have likely seen the resentments of the Occupy Wall Street movement to “the greed of corporate America” become the de facto creed of the White House.

Such was the appeal of Bernie Sanders’s leftist version of “the system is rigged” that he garnered almost 39 per cent of Democratic delegates in the primaries, possibly his most surprising victory being the March 8 victory in Michigan. In fact, he collected 46 per cent of delegates if “superdelegates”—party-appointed delegates not elected in primaries or caucuses—are excluded from the count. This was not the only way in which Democratic Party apparatchiks worked in favour of the establishment’s candidate. On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, held in Philadelphia, WikiLeaks revealed that the leadership of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had conspired against Sanders from the beginning. For instance, some of the 20,000 leaked e-mails show that the DNC considered making Sanders’s Jewish background a campaign issue in some states. There was also evidence of collusion between the DNC and the Washington Post in the interests of the Clinton campaign. These troubling revelations forced DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign but, tellingly, immediately afterwards she was hired by the Clinton campaign.

Ironically, the leftist populist battling “the system” never fully grasped what he was up against. In October 2015, at the first televised Democratic debate, Sanders refused to address the issue of Hillary Clinton’s problematic use, as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, of a private server and attendant private e-mail system that could serve no purpose other than to obscure her electronic communications from management/government oversight, a practice unheard of in the Western world, let alone concerning someone working for the State Department with all the issues of national security involved. Instead of tackling the scandal head on, Sanders meekly surrendered to the proprieties of PC rectitude: “Enough of the e-mails—let’s talk about the real issues facing the American people.”

The right-wing populist critique of the current state of play in the US—and Hillary Clinton’s role in it—has proven less faint-hearted. For a start, there is the insistence that Emailgate involves more than Hillary Clinton and her inner circle being, as FBI Chief James Comely would have it, “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information”. Peter Schweizer in Clinton Cash (2015)—now a film and a graphic novel—makes the case, in the tradition of an old-style populist narrative, that behind Emailgate is an attempt by the Clinton family and allies to defraud the American people.

Between 2009 and 2013, contends Schweizer and a growing body of evidence, foreign governments and multinational corporations could donate to the Clinton Foundation or invite the loquacious Bill to opine on the general state of the world in the hope of receiving favourable treatment from the US Department of State. The key liaison person in all of this—and seemingly the only other member of staff with an e-mail account at Clinton.com—was Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s personal assistant. It was her job as contact person, according to an e-mail released to the public by the FBI, to “figure it out”. Certainly there would have been no shortage of liaising for her to do. Even Ed Pilkington, writing for the Guardian in May 2016, was disturbed after watching the film version of Clinton Cash:

Perhaps the most telling detail is the bald fact that between 2001 and 2013 Bill Clinton made thirteen speeches in which he made more than $500,000 in fees; eleven of those speeches were made within the period when his wife was working as America’s top diplomat.

For one speech, delivered on November 12, 2011, Bill Clinton received $750,000 from Ericsson, a multinational electronics operation previously criticised in Congress for selling surveillance material to repressive regimes.

While the gentlemanly Bernie Sanders politely averted his eyes from Emailgate, the Republican nominee Donald Trump turned it into a central theme of his campaign, which included giving his Democratic adversary the moniker (no pun intended) “Crooked Hillary”. Incongruously, perhaps, the owner of Trump Tower has aspired to the role of people’s champion no less enthusiastically than Sanders. Trump and Sanders, thus, share something more than “New Yawk” accents. Trump’s bellicose manner, not to mention the thick outer-borough accent, might be considered unsuitable for a country club, but it did a lot for his credibility as a populist maverick. Though fabulously wealthy, Trump has fashioned himself, in the words of his daughter Ivanka, as “blue collar with a big budget”.

Donald Trump’s “sensible conservative” insurgency has paralleled Bernie Sanders’s “democratic socialist” not only with its denunciation of NAFTA and the TPP, but also in its focus on the plight of America’s Average Joe and Jane. Mitt Romney might have misrepresented himself in the infamous “47 per cent” remark captured on video during the 2012 election season, and yet it played into the stereotype, promoted by the Democratic Party, that a wealthy and well-connected businessman running on a Republican ticket would privately deride ordinary people as overly dependent on government handouts: “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Crucially, Donald Trump has eschewed all talk of “lifters and leaners” or “strivers and skivers”, and promised not to wind back social welfare, Medicare or Medicaid under his watch. Whatever its ultimate merits or explanatory power, a key feature in the 2016 US election has been a populist narrative about how foreign governments and companies, in cahoots with American political and institutional insiders, have wrought ruin upon the nation. Both Trump and Sanders, in their different ways, have ridden that populist wave.

The upshot is that the Republicans (under Trump) and the Democrats (post-Sanders) appear to have reversed their positions on Average Joe and Jane from the 2012 election. At a September LGBT fundraiser in Manhattan, Hillary Clinton disparaged “half of Trump’s supporters” as belonging in a “basket of deplorables”—they were, to put it bluntly, the scum of the earth: “the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it”. Ordinary people, according to Hillary Clinton and her PC ideology, are not merely “leaners” and “skivers” but, to borrow from Orwell, “un-persons”, with Donald Trump being the loudest “un-person” of all. It was Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, who made the most poignant rejoinder:

The truth of the matter is that the men and women who support Donald Trump’s campaign are hard-working Americans, farmers, coal miners, teachers, veterans, members of our law enforcement community, members of every class of this country, who know that they can make America great again.

The US sociologist C. Wright Mills published The Power Elite in 1956. Mills was left-wing but sophisticated enough to characterise the powers-that-be in America as a privileged elite rather than in Marxian terms of a ruling class. He wrote of celebrities, in the form of entertainers and media personalities, brushing shoulders with the CEOs of important companies, the corporate rich, notable families, military figures and key members of the federal government. Mills claimed this power elite collectively steered the country in the direction that best suited their own ambitions and worldview rather than the interests of the general population. Hillary Clinton, we might note, made her “basket of deplorables” pitch at an elite gala event hosted by the rich celebrity Barbara Streisand. Tickets cost $50,000 and the evening raised $6 million for the Clinton campaign. Maybe the time has come for a non-PC sociologist to consider writing an updated version of The Power Elite.


21 thoughts on “Battlers Against the System

  • ianl says:

    > ” … a private server and attendant private e-mail system that could serve no purpose other than to obscure her electronic communications from management/government oversight, a practice unheard of in the Western world …”

    On the contrary, Daryl, it was Climategate that demonstrated to the self-described “elite” the true value of keeping data, emails and other reports away from machines that are subject to FOIA. The hoi-polloi must never know, eh ?

    I suppose you’ve made a sort of a fair fist at describing what you’ve called “populist” attacks on a Hilary apparently undeserving of those, but as usual the avoidance of examining HRC’s slimey policies in order to scare us with opposition “populism” just irritates me.

    But never mind … Hilary will win.

  • brian.doak@bigpond.com says:

    No mention Daryl of the appropriately named Anthony Wiener, former husband of the PA Huma Abedin and sharing her computer! What was he hiding?

  • Warty says:

    There have been a number of articles outlining ‘HRC’S slimy policies’, in The Australian and elsewhere, in particular Dennis Shanahan’s comprehensive expose ‘Green campaign against Australian coal: trails leads to John Podesta’, so the fact that Daryl looks at the issue from quite a different angle is perfectly acceptable and yet still highly informative. He doesn’t even need to discuss Huma Abedin’s ‘disgraced’ husband in order to make an impact.
    Personally, I would not look on a Bernie Sanders with even a hint of kindly objectivity, because his brand of socialism would have made America’s current Current Account deficit seem like my weekly grocery bill (‘I am speaking in relative terms here’, he says tongue in cheek). But the only useful comparison between Trump and Sanders is that they were both (Trump still is) saying that the system is broke and that the ordinary bloke down in Kentucky feels profoundly diddled and cannot find a way out of the nightmare on his own accord. Trump, like Pauline stands up for this Okie in a way no one to date has promised to do.
    As others, far more intelligent than I, have pointed out, how he might manage to do so with a hostile Congress and equally antagonistic Senate is anyone’s business. My feeling is that the threat of a then leaderless country will force the haters into some sort of line, and agree to work something out. Perhaps this is where the rather more dignified Pence guy will help out, who knows. As some film character, whose name escapes me, constantly said ‘it’s a mystery’.
    By the way, ianl’s claim that Hillary will win, is beginning to seem a little shaky now.

    • ianl says:

      1) > … ianl’s claim that Hillary will win, is beginning to seem a little shaky now

      Not a “claim” (don’t use condescension, thank you) but a prediction. The only shaky aspect appears to be whether Obama will pardon her for all possible federal offences, or whether as President she has the power to pardon herself. I admit I do find this prospect highly amusing.

      2) Shanahan from the Aus is not present here (unless in hiding), so whatever he may or may not have written is irrelevant to my comment. And this is: in using the insulting description “populist”, Daryl is being condescending as well.

      I don’t at all mind disagreement – it’s a worthy method of learning – but I dislike dishonest disagreement.

      • Warty says:

        I think you misinterpret the line of argument above. My mention of a number of articles outlining ‘HCR’s slimy politics’ is simply a response to both your and Bran Dee’s expectations that Daryle McCann should include every bit of negative information possible against Hillary. So many have already done so, including Dennis Shanahan. A number of readers reference other sources by including hyperlinks: one cannot do that with The Australian, as they have a pay wall.
        The point that ianl’s claim about a Hillary win was a little shaky is based on the latest polls, which gives Trump a 2 point lead over Clinton, or it did when I formulated my response. But I have reread the Warty comment, and for the life of me, I cannot see where the argument is ‘dishonest’. You may like to point out which aspects qualify as being dishonest.
        I also notice you level the same accusation at en passant in his response to today’s article, ‘President Hillary’s first year’. Apart from the fact he (and I) misinterpreted your claim of a Clinton win, as actually wanting her to win, an understandable misunderstanding you must admit, I do not see where his ‘argument’ can be regarded as being dishonest, a little over the top, perhaps, but not dishonest.
        I, for one, was not actually attacking you.That is all I wish to say.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Trump won the day he started saying the election is rigged.

    The oeople listened and within a week The Rasmussen Poll predicted a Trump win by 2%.

    For those who don’t know. The Rasmussen Poll predicted the two Obama victories to within 1%. Those elections were unusual in that Obamas victories were based on huge numbers of people who had never entered the political game before. Ie new electors. Much of Trumos support is from a simikar demographic but not from the minorities if Obama but from majority white communities who wouldn’t ordinarily vote … and who are not normally polled.

    • ian.macdougall says:

      Trump won the day he started saying the election is rigged.

      But he has refined that since. He said he will accept whatever result, provided that he wins. In that event, he could hardly claim it has been rigged.

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Hillary can’t win

  • Keith Kennelly says:

    Why? Because those voters live in the swing states and the rust belt states the Democrates usually win.
    Simple really.

  • pgang says:

    I love the way our elites denigrate democracy as populism, whenever a genuinely democratic movement emerges.

    This is worth reading to understand the Clintons a little better:


  • en passant says:

    Today, November 3rd, Hillary was declared the 45th President of the USA as she has won 99% of the pre-voting day votes amounting to 51% of the castable votes and giving her 390 Electoral College votes. Donald Trump has been arrested on charges of treason and is expected to be executed before November, 8th as a precaution.

    You heard it here first …

    So, this is the good news Ianl that the cabal and covens want to hear. Yes, let’s forget the Benghazi and Libyan and Iraqi and Syrian and all the other dead, after all, as Hellarity would say ‘what do they matter anymore’?

    This was my Quadrant comment last July. Note that there is much that could be added since then, but this is apparently what Ianl, Jody and the American voting public want. As a devout atheist, all I can say is god help western civilisation …

    “Trump does not have ALL the answers therefore the Americans should be very careful when choosing whether or not they should vote for him.
    Extending this logic the voters should then vote for Clinton based on:
    1. She has NO answers – a blank page with no black marks, just many blots.
    2. SHE is not a HE, so that scores brownie points with the mediascum.
    3. HELLary has not been convicted of:
    a. Bribery & fraud with the sham ‘Clinton Foundation’,
    b. Having blood on her hands over the sacrifice of good men in Benghazi,
    c. Lying over Benghazi and everything to do with islam & terrorism
    d. Breaking security laws by using a personal unsecured server for classified emails,
    e. Scrubbing the said server and passing classified emails to her lawyers (who did not have the Security Clearance to receive or read them,
    f. Whitewater Fraud that possibly lead to a suicide or murder,
    g. Starting an illegal and unauthorised war in Libya,
    h. Selling Uranium to the Russians through a crony for huge profits and a donation to (you guessed it) the ‘Clinton Foundation’ Bank Account.
    i. Lying to coal miners that their loss of a livelihood is just a misunderstanding,
    j. Lying about her ‘combat experience’ at Kosovo(?) airport where she had to ‘run for cover’. Highly paid News Anchors have lost their jobs for fabrications like that (but in Oz we elect such tall tale telling ‘heroes’ to Parliament),
    k. Showing what a feminist woman she is by sticking with Bill despite his ‘never having had sex with that woman’.
    l. Being the architect of Obamacare – the worst and most destructive social policy in US history,
    m. Lying to Congress, lying about her classified emails, lying about lying … endlessly and congenitally,
    n. and on … and on … until the alphabet (or several alphabets) run out.
    4. Running a dishonest smear campaign against both Donald Trump AND Bernie Sanders. The DNC Campaign Manager has been exposed and has had to resign

    Yes, American voters, be very, verrrry careful when considering who you will vote for as the next President.

    At least if you (and lots of dead people) place a vote for Hilarity you know exactly what you are getting … but Trump is a risk.”

    • Warty says:

      Dear en passant, just in passing, I’m sorry you feel the need to call yourself an atheist (and are moreover proud of it). You are a product of the so called ‘Enlightenment’ that is ultimately leading to the unravelling of so many of the values we associate with our ‘Western Civilisation’. But this is by the by.
      There is another angle to this presidential election: a Hillary win, which I oppose with heart and soul (the latter being something you deem to be non existent) may not be such a bad thing.
      It is now February 2017 (I think the Americans like to put it the other way round, 2017 February) and the demonstrations in every major city have begun to spiral out of control. The National Guard had been called out right across the country, but a number of units downed arms and joined the protestors, calling on the First Amendment, their constitutional right to free speech.
      Despite heavy Secret Service deployment, Hillary Clinton has twice, in the same week, been covered in chicken manure, in bags thrown by unknown protestors, believed to be previous Trump supporters. The seemingly mandatory chant breaking out in these protests is ‘Clinton is chicken shit. Clinton is chicken shit’.
      The US economy is in melt down and both Congress and the Senate experiencing member gridlock, on account of revelations in The Wall Street Journal of massive electoral improprieties by the Clinton Foundation, in the lead up and during the presidential elections. In particular, it has been revealed that the foundation requested and received $2.5 billion in donations from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with the Muslim Brotherhood pitching in with a further $1.2 billion. The latest Wikileaks hack revealed that the precondition of the Saudi sponsorship was that the US become the 36th member of the OICD, having opened its borders to a further 3 million refugees from Syria.
      BREAKING NEWS: Hillary Clinton has just been arrested on charges of grand treason.

    • ianl says:

      An HRC win is not at all what I want, but what I sardonically predict based on the apparent situation where over half the electorate live in the American version of Centrelink suburbs.

      But perhaps the unregistered votes may turn out for Trump. My prediction is not.

      It’s interesting, the obvious “hysteria rising” …

  • padraic says:

    The article mentions “celebrities” being part of the political elite in America. It seems to be catching on elsewhere – vide the United Nations trotting out “Wonder Woman” to inspire the downtrodden damsels of the world, and the ALP has been into it for years.

  • ian.macdougall says:

    I recommend: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/opinion/sunday/how-hillary-clinton-met-satan.html
    Clinton vs Trump is like Reagan vs Mondale. Reagan played to America’s ego; Mondale to its conscience. Guess who won.
    Trump (“make America great again”) is playing to the American ego, and Clinton is playing dangerously close to an appeal to the American conscience. But there is another contest going on here: Trump vs Reagan. For Trump is the mirror-image opposite of Reagan. Trump has been to the top of the mountain, and has looked over and has seen the Rustbelt wasteland that has resulted from the economic free-for-all of Reaganomics, and is not buying it: not for one second. (But it was good for someone while it lasted.) Now gun-crazy middle America is indignant, outraged, and looking for someone to blame. Hillary Clinton is the scapegoat of choice at the moment, but it could just as easily become Hispanics, Jews (Sieg Heil!) Blacks, Asians; the conspirators behind 9/11, who are :………………………………………………..((enter chosen target group here.)

  • ian.macdougall says:

    And also:

    I simply cannot wrap my head around how others with level heads and sound minds can even consider Trump for president of this country and leader of the free world. The logic simply escapes me.
    I try to view it through the lens of economic anxiety, diminished economic mobility and global pressure. It all seems understandable, but then I’m reminded of Donald Trump, a billionaire whose businesses have on more than one occasion gone bankrupt, who stiffed contractors, who outsources the making of many of his products and who brags about not paying federal income taxes. All of which brings me back to: Are you kidding me?


  • en passant says:

    So Trump went bankrupt – and then came back and made another $Billion? That shows guts and admirable qualities does it not? Truman was the same, was he not? Roy Kroc of McDonalds succeeded at his third, or was it fourth?) attempt. Churchill was a psychotic alcoholic, but a determinedly great leader. Hellarity? Well, I listed her qualifications above.
    Try reading the following before asking yourself how any sane person citizen could vote for her to be the leader of the former, misnamed ‘free-world’ – which she has put up for sale.
    Try reading the following – but not while eating.

    • ian.macdougall says:

      Yes. True Pundit is full of right wing allegations, right wing alleged sleaze and right wing innuendo: the ideal stuff for gulling the gullible – present company excepted of course.

      And most mainstream journals I read agree that this campaign has brought far more of this out than most. Yet, as was shown most brilliantly by the Nixon Watergate scandal, nobody is above the law in the US.
      IF CLINTON IS GUILTY of any of the stuff her FBI detractors allege through hints that she is, and if the OFFICERS OF THE STATE ARE DISPOSED TO DO THEIR JOB, then the due process of the law will catch up with her: but only IF SHE IS PROVEN GUILTY and the State is doing its job.
      But then again, Trump is not only accused by a dozen or so ladies (nb not of the night) of being a serial fingerlanderer. There is also the long established soft shoe routine, for which it is necessary to have good legal and accountancy team on standby. Borrow a lot, buy up a lot, and at the right time, sell off what you’ve bought; park the money somewhere safe, like say the Caymans; declare bankruptcy have your debts wiped off and then start again. Above all, work it all so as to avoid paying any income tax. Oh, and meanwhile, tell your creditors to go take a running jump.
      The bankruptcy routine can be used to one’s advantage; though I am not saying that was what Trump was up to.
      But this is the man the ‘conservatives’ (?) want to step into the shoes of George Washington. George Washington: first US President, who as a boy famously confessed to chopping down his father’s cherry tree, because he ‘could not tell a lie.’ (!)

    • Doc S says:

      That is indeed a sickening regurgitation but then there’s also Satanism – don’t forget the Satanism:


      Killary will be the wicked old witch of the Whitehouse!

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