This morning I searched the news in vain for cogent political analysis. I find only reports of what happened. Donald Trump won Indiana and is indeed the presumptive Republican nominee now. Cruz is out, and Kasich too, according to early reports. I thought Kasich would hang in, on the chance that if the Republican convention dissolved into internecine conflict he would be the last rational man standing. Now it looks like there will have to be a third-party candidate.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders beat Hilary Clinton, although she will still win the nomination, but at least the win keeps him viable until the convention so if Clinton self-destructs, is indicted or otherwise blows up, Sanders will be the backstop.
In the general election, Clinton will slaughter Trump. We can only hope the effect trickles down-ticket. Sanders could also beat him. The third-party candidate will be someone splintering from the Republicans, because the party structure will be needed to deal with the formidable challenges of money and message. Some unknown independent selected by the moneyed class will never rise to the occasion. Ideally, it will be somebody properly socialized; an anti-Trump who could pull the party and even the country back together. That would be the candidate’s mission, not winning in 2016.
Joan or John of Arc would have to understand what’s happened to the polity and work to mend it with the future in mind because the 2016 election is already owned by the Democrats.
Many people thought Obama would be that great unifier but he came in with two debilitating flaws, obvious in retrospect. One, he was too inexperienced to understand how badly Bush had broken the world. He was plunged immediately into the deep end of the pool with the financial crisis and two wars. He managed his way (and us) admirably to the edges of that swamp and will be remembered for that, but did not have the capacity or opportunity to do more.
In addition, Obama came in with his preconceived goal of establishing universal health care in the country, a laudable but arbitrary goal based on his FDR fixation, not on facts on the ground. It wasn’t the appropriate goal for the situation the country was in. If he’d instead focused on financial reform, we’d be in a different place today.
Which is not to say he could have been successful with radical financial reform even if he’d understood that was the country’s festering wound. He didn’t have the power or knowledge to go up against Geithner, Summers, Paulson, and the rest. He wasn’t the right person in the right place to lead a financial reform movement.
Because of his focus on health care instead of financial reform, the culture of resentment stewed on, seasoned with greed and envy, a culture that has now ripped the country and the political parties apart. Who saw that coming? Maybe Bernie. Maybe the Occupy Wall Street folks. Not Obama.
The underlying issue is injustice. Economic injustice resonates a very bass string in people, and it’s not about greed and envy. It’s about dignity and respect. It’s about “all men are created equal.” It’s about basic human rightness, compassion, respect and equality, and that has not been addressed.
The financial crisis was patched over, the status quo restored, and not much changed. Nobody went to jail, nobody was to blame, the same wealthy people still run the country, and corruption of the political system is even more blatant than it was before. The arrogance, impunity and fundamental injustice is what set off the tea-partiers and then the Trumpeters. A patina of plain old greed and envy coats their protests, but the crisis runs much deeper than that.
The crisis of economic injustice is usually blamed on tangential causes: globalization of trade, technology, urbanization, terrorism, immigration, demographics, educational trends, and on and on. None of those address squarely the fact that America has become an oligarchy. Perhaps it always was so, but now the myth of the American Dream has worn so thin you can see right through it.
Could Obama have fixed it if he’d been aware and appropriately motivated? Maybe not. Maybe oligarchy is an inevitable development of capitalism and can’t be stopped short of revolution, as history would suggest. I hope instead for a leader who sees the problem and has a vision for its solution. That leader is not Trump and it’s not Clinton.