Rethinking America, American Bystander

United States: The End of Establishment Orthodoxy

Democratic and Republican Party elites have failed to produce outcomes U.S. voters expect.

Credit: danielfela/


  • Cruz is merely Trump without the flexibility Trump promises when he touts his deal-making prowess.
  • Insanely, Cruz is the last best hope for the GOP to get back on a sane course!
  • Because Clinton isn’t outright saying that she stands for status quo, she seems to stand for nothing.
  • Bernie, the only candidate so far that is actually “likeable” – is the anti-Trump in many respects.
  • Like Trump, Sanders says what he believes. But unlike Trump, what he believes is devoid of malice.

Last summer, American politics was set to embark on the most boring election season since George Washington accepted the Presidency. The battle of the great American political dynasties was about to begin: the Bushes versus the Clintons.

Then someone came down an escalator in New York City and broke wind, loudly and extravagantly. Today, the sonic repercussions of Donald Trump’s arrival on the political stage reverberate through the entirety of the U.S. politics and beyond.

The emptiness of Reagan worship

When Trump took his escalator ride, the Republican Party had become little more than a Ronald Reagan fetish, a parody of Reagan’s construct of “smaller government, lower taxes and stronger defense.”

Reagan’s acolytes, seeking to outdo each other and then to outdo Reagan himself, decided that if “smaller” government was good, “no” government was ideal.

Republicanism became a race to the right, fueled by the anger, acrimony and sulphur-laden rhetoric of the right- wing media. Going into the election, GOP policy had been reduced to a series of impractical ideological slogans. It subsisted on a steady diet of “Barack Obama.”

This approach did not serve the Republican electorate well. The Republican base, which had grown increasingly disenfranchised economically, was ripe for a politician who spoke in absolutes, challenged convenient assumptions and demolished all concept of orthodoxy.

Hitting it out of the park

Right-wing media dutifully teed up the balls for Trump. Meanwhile, mainstream media acted as if they were deer caught in headlights.

All Trump needed to do in order to win a big part of the Republican electorate was to make “policy” pronouncements that were even more extreme than any of his competitors.

But as outrageous as many of the positions Trump took were, they came down right in the middle of the fairway for a plurality of GOP primary voters.

And so it was that Trump went further right than any of his opponents on issues like “the Mexicans,” “the Muslims” and “the Chinese.”

The important point to realize is this: Donald Trump did not take the Republican Party to this place; the Republican Party took Donald Trump there! All he did was throw away the dog whistle.

The “lamestream” media meets its match

When Trump discredits the (mainstream) media – which Sarah Palin and her cohorts call the “lamestream” media — for treating him unfairly and enforcing “political correctness,” he is merely trumpeting Republican dogma.

And what is the Republican alternative? Until Trump came down that escalator to announce his candidacy, no one seemed capable of getting further right than Cruz.

But now he is considered the moderate one, even though his policy proposals mirror Trump’s. Cruz is merely Trump without the flexibility Trump promises when he touts his deal-making prowess.

Insanely, Cruz is the last best hope for the GOP to get back to a sane course!

Clinton = Status Quo

On the other side of America’s political divide, we find an unabashed exercise in political correctness. But in spite of the relative civility with which the Democratic primary campaign has been conducted, deep fissures have been revealed within the Democratic Party.

Americans seem to rankle at the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Many are unable to identify any of her accomplishments — other than those accomplishments that benefited Hillary herself.

She stands for the status quo. But because Hillary Clinton is unwilling to say outright that she stands for the status quo, she seems to stand for nothing – nothing tangible, at least.

Her campaign has been the opposite of Trump’s extravaganza. Nine circles of political consultants have sucked the life out of her candidacy. They have come up with a milquetoast message.

More infuriating to a wide swath of the American electorate has been the dedication with which her campaign has pursued a self-ordained path toward the Democratic Party coronation.

Worse, the mainstream media – revealing its keen interest in upholding the status quo rather than reporting the actual news — has given Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt at every turn. To trump that servitude, Clinton herself has exemplified political correctness.

But in an election where voters have little appetite for moderation and “triangulation,” Hillary finds herself in a tough fight with a Jewish septuagenarian Socialist.

There’s no pejorative meaning in the use of any of those terms, except that historically they would have been used to disqualify a candidate in a U.S. Presidential election!

Bernie – who may be the only candidate to appear so far who is actually “likeable” – is the anti-Trump in many respects.

Like Trump, Sanders says what he believes. But unlike Trump, what he believes is largely devoid of malice, even if his policies are unpalatable for many. He may sound like the “crazy uncle” at a holiday dinner, but he’s a lovable uncle!

Like the GOP, the Democratic establishment teed up many of Bernie’s issues. His calls to break up the big banks, to tax the one percent and to back track on trade are the new absolutes of progressive orthodoxy.

Like Trump, all he needed to do to build a constituency was to go where the progressive wing of the party wanted him to go.

Who do you hate less?

A recent CNN/ORC Poll showed Donald Trump’s net “favorable” rating at minus 36%. A good sign for Democrats, until you look at Hillary’s net favorable rating in the same poll – negative 13%. (Sanders meanwhile stands at positive 5%, while Cruz is at negative 20%.)

Viewed in that light, the 2016 U.S. Presidential election might very well boil down to this: The winner will be the person America hates less.

Donald Trump may have exploded in the face of the GOP establishment. But that’s exactly what Bernie Sanders did to the Democratic Party establishment when he started to gain real traction against Hillary.

You say you want a revolution

The bottom line is that there’s a revolution afoot in American politics. The assumptions that have governed American politics since 1980 have been called into question and are in retreat.

The fact is that neither the Democratic nor the Republican agenda is working the way the American people expect it to work.

The Cold War is over. The left/right economic discussion is a relic of the industrial revolution. It is obsolete and replaced by new polarities that present new challenges.

The orthodoxy embraced by the establishment on the left and right is unable to produce desirable outcomes in the face of globalization, new technologies and asymmetrical forms of warfare.

Now, as all the king’s horses and all the king’s men try to put America’s political parties back together again, the world faces a geopolitical paradigm shift. The boom heard round the world has people scrambling for the ideological exits.

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About Richard Phillips

Richard Phillips is a New York-based international analyst with extensive financial sector experience. [United States]

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