Taking an assessment of the current political scene, it seems like we have fallen down the rabbit hole and are living in an alternate universe. A solid majority of Americans support the Iranian nuclear deal, but it virtually assures us that Iran (the world’s largest sponsor of terror) will become a nuclear power and frees up nearly $300 billion for them to conduct their nefarious activities.
If one was to look up the definition of political expediency, the Iran deal would be the ultimate case study. It’s an ideal issue to divert attention from the problems at home. President Obama will be the first president ever to not have at least one quarter of any year during his presidency with 3% or higher growth in productivity. Even in the post-crisis era, growth is less than half of the average growth since 1948 forward. At this point, 2015 will be even more disappointing than the last four years and yet the stock market is hitting new records.
The stock market shows just how big of a disconnect there is between the ruling class and the average citizen. Recent polls show that 60% of Americans feel we are in a recession, yet the stock market is soaring. America is no different than other economic systems; when it is are growing or prospering, people have an outward and positive focus, but when things are stagnant and declining, the system tends to turn on itself. If a system is not growing as it’s supposed to, then growth must come at the expense of something or someone else. It becomes a fertile ground for populist theories, whether from the left or the right.
So what’s the political scene right now? It’s partly made up of Bernie Sanders, a full-blown socialist with little charisma, even less money, and no hope is pushing Hillary Clinton in either the Iowa or New Hampshire primaries. On the Republican side, we have Donald Trump, a billionaire who has declared bankruptcy four times and has made numerous comments with negative racial and sexist tones leading a crowded field.
It really isn’t that surprising to me that the populist candidate from the left is telling people that the American dream is dead or never really existed, and the only way for those to get ahead in the bottom two-thirds is to take it from the top third. The populist candidate on the right is telling people that he will make America great again, and points to the transformation and cost of the largest illegal immigration in the history of the world while telling people he will stop this transformation of America into becoming a third world country.
What they should be talking about
Of course, the sad thing is that the discussion that should be occurring—how to raise productivity across the board—is not happening. Part of the reason that the populist rhetoric seems so appealing is that the establishment on both the left and right are offering nothing but the same old recipe, which is far more about political posturing than substantive results. Meanwhile, Hillary has historically high negative numbers for a presidential candidate and Jeb Bush has been underwhelming to say the least. It is striking that nobody wants Bush vs. Clinton yet again, but the establishment that seems bent on making sure that nothing happens to disturb their hold on power have given these two candidates such sizable war chests that most are willing to concede them their perspective nominations.
Many are concerned over the effects, both short and long term, of the influx of illegal immigration and the need to secure our borders; many understand that we cannot continue to spend our children’s future racking up debt; few disagree that we need to restart and start building the economy; and the list goes on. Yet, the inescapable truth is that Republicans have failed to act. In fact, they have provided nothing more than token opposition to Obama’s initiatives, even after taking control of both houses of Congress.
Who sees the Republicans as the solution? Obama, and by association the Democrats, continue to dominate the political scene and win seemingly every skirmish, but the results can only be characterized as exacerbating the problems. Who gets excited about that? Admittedly, many point to the addition of millions of illegal immigrants and the growing welfare state as ensuring the dominance of the Democratic Party moving forward. But as we have seen with Greece and the Soviet Union, redistribution of wealth ultimately shrinks the pie, and collapses when there is no more wealth to redistribute.
Right now, I give the Democratic Party a hefty advantage. Not just because words like success and hard work are increasingly considered to be dirty words, but because the Democrats tend to have a different level of commitment. They will do anything for their agenda, while the “right” has little pragmatism and will sacrifice political success for ideological purity. I can’t begin to say which blindness is more damaging in the long term, but the Democrats are expanding their coalition every day, while the Republican Party seems committed to contracting its own.
Odds are that the Democrats won’t cut their throats and nominate a full-blown socialist, and the Republicans won’t nominate a billionaire who has alienated a lot of people, including women, and even unapologetically berates a prisoner of war hero. But the reason the two populist candidates from either side of the political spectrum are so popular is that the alternative (Bush and Clinton) are the epitome of everything that is wrong with American politics.
The pundits predict the $100 million-plus war chests will carry Bush and Clinton to the finish line. The good news and bad news for the Democrats is that they have no alternative; the good news and bad news for the Republicans is that they have a lot of alternatives. Theoretically, there are 13 states which can play a role in the election; realistically there are nine swing states. Whoever emerges with the candidates or strategies to win those states will ultimately win the election.
The establishments on both sides have a plan but the American people might, just might, have a say in that process before the end. The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is a message to the establishment that voters have no desire to continue down the paths that both parties have set forth. The Democrats are in a much better position—Sanders is a candle that ultimately will burn itself out without the support of the establishment. The Republicans have a different beast in Trump—his message, while surrounded by embarrassing gaffes, has lots of staying power and Trump has the potential to operate despite being outside of the establishment.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.
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