“The great and terrible irony of capitalism is that if left unfettered, it inexorably engineers its own demise, through either revolution or economic collapse.” Robert Scheer, The Great American Stickup
I’ve never set foot within Iowa’s boundaries. It’s the middle land, flat country, with an economy centered on agriculture and insurance; the highest point in the state is Hawkeye Point at 1,670 feet above sea level. Every presidential election cycle, Iowa takes a turn in the spotlight as the center of the American political universe, and then it returns to being, well, Iowa.
So maybe Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family political machine isn’t invincible after all. Until the Iowa Caucus, Hillary looked the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, a shoo-in with too many advantages for any other candidate to overcome, especially one like Bernie Sanders who proudly proclaims himself a socialist. Americans are conditioned from birth to fear socialists and communists and Maoists, or any other doctrine that doesn’t exalt free market capitalism; calling yourself a socialist is normally a political death sentence.
I wrote Sanders off in these pages some time back -- not because his economic message doesn’t resonate, it does -- but because the political status quo is so difficult to beat. The truth is that I desperately want to believe that someone like Bernie Sanders can be elected President, but my doubts are as strong as my desperation. The ruling class will not go quietly or let go of its privileges easily; they are on a major winning streak and control nearly every gear of power. Hillary Clinton is an ally of the ruling elites, one of them, a Wall Street suckup if there ever was one, and she will do their bidding when push becomes shove. Same goes for the Pentagon. Hillary seems to enjoy saber rattling, and she will be unlikely to throw a lug wrench into the perpetual war machine. Sanders might, although he’s not completely averse to militarism.
Sanders did better in Iowa than I thought he would and I’m sure the Clinton camp is concerned that Madam is in a battle from which she may emerge bruised or bloodied.
The Clinton coronation is now behind schedule.
The nation is clearly unsettled and seething with anxiety. The middle class is battered. Young people face a diminished future, with many saddled by student loan debt and lousy job prospects. Middle-aged whites, particularly males, have seen their economic and social advantages eroded. They need a scapegoat, and Mexican immigrants, Muslims and other minorities make for inviting targets. Donald Trump speaks in a language these people understand at a subconscious level. Though a complete buffoon, a joke that no thinking person can take seriously, Trump understands how to connect with certain people on a gut level. Make America Great Again is a nice sounding slogan and looks good on a bumper sticker, but what does it mean? Trump says he will make “deals,” as if the political world is merely an extension of a corporate boardroom. It’s not. The world is frighteningly complex and dangerous, many times beyond the Donald’s ken.
I’m not surprised that Cruz won Iowa, although the victory over Trump and Rubio doesn’t make Cruz any less creepy. Past GOP winners of the Iowa Caucus include Mike Huckabee and crazy Michele Bachmann, so winning Iowa isn’t, frankly, that grand a prize. Cruz will pick up momentum on the GOP fringes, with Holy Book thumpers and mainstream media handicappers, but Teddy will also learn that with frontrunner status comes intense scrutiny. Ted has made many bizarre statements during his political career, and all those birds will flock home.
Rubio is still my pick for the GOP. When the dust settles, and Trump and Cruz have totally freaked the GOP mandarins out, Rubio’s youth and ethnicity might prove a realistic default. This hardly means Rubio is presidential material. None of the GOP contenders are; it’s a weak and sorry bunch of nitwits and hacks.
More and more Americans are aware that something is fundamentally out of kilter with the way our society is organized, that the American Dream is only available to a select few, and that the means to redress the situation are missing. Thus the appeal of a political outsider like Trump or an unusual voice like that of Bernie Sanders. Too much economic and political power has lodged in too few hands, and the Casino Economy offers more jagged edges than benefits for working people.
When it comes to ideas, the GOP offers nothing but more of the same. Sadly, the Democrats aren’t much better, though at least Sanders is talking about middle and working class issues like college tuition, Medicare for All, and increasing the contribution of the wealthy to the common good. Better still, Sanders is not a serial liar like Hillary Clinton.
If nothing else, that’s refreshing, and in this feeble and horrible political year we take what we can.