Virtually all the reporting about this fall’s presidential election focuses on the candidates and the question of who is going to win nomination and election. That is to be expected. But it misses what really matters.
The likelihood that either the nominating contests or the election itself will bring change is small. The machinations of the bosses in both political parties to keep the anti-Establishment candidates from being nominated (Trump in the Republican Party and Sanders in the Democratic) become increasingly open. They are likely to succeed in both cases. In the improbable case that one party nominates its anti-Establishment contender, the entire Establishment will come together to demonize him, frightening the public into voting for more of the same. The model will be Lyndon Johnson’s campaign against Barry Goldwater in 1964. Presumably we will see television ads showing little girls picking flowers snatched away to be white slaves in the harem of either a plutocrat or a socialist.
Should a miracle happen and both Trump and Sanders be nominated, the Establishment would be undone. I would cheer madly, but I would also expect to see the Virgin Mary hovering over the White House.
In fact, the contests don’t much matter. What really matters has already happened and the Establishment cannot undo it. In both parties, the peasants have revolted.
The peasants are you and I, the poor saps who are expected to turn out in every election to put “their” party in power. Only it isn’t their party. Both parties’ elites hold the voters they depend on in contempt. That is true of non-elite whites in the Democratic Party (why any white person would vote Democrat is difficult to understand, unless they are gay) and of Christians in the Republican Party. Other than at election time you would not see a member of either parties’ leadership anywhere near people from either voting block. Once the election is done, they have to spend weeks at a spa to get off the grime.
But this election, the peasants have figured out the game. They aren’t buying it anymore. Democratic whites have rallied around Sanders, and a huge portion of the Republican base, not just Christians (some of whom have been decoyed to Cruz), are backing Trump. When their guy loses, they are not going to go back to the fields, pick up their hoes and vote for their party’s Establishment nominee, who will promise “change” but give more of the same.
The most important question in this election is what the peasants do when the election is over and they are again shut out. Many may simply give up on politics and go home. Others may remain politically engaged as the equivalent of Cleveland Browns fans, whose motto is, “There’s always next year.”
But many from both parties may stay angry, stay involved, but realize that neither party offers a way forward. Those people have the potential to create what usually happens when a corrupt and incompetent Establishment endlessly clings to power: a pre-revolutionary situation.
Pre-revolutionary situations do not necessarily involve mobs in the streets carrying torches and pitchforks, though they certainly can. Both the Trump and Sanders campaigns to some degree reflect a pre-revolutionary situation. My great if slender hope, following Establishment victories in both parties’ nomination contests, an independent Trump-Sanders ticket, would clearly manifest a pre-revolutionary situation. Post-election manifestations could include a variety of politically-oriented mass movements, including one for a constitutional convention.
The most likely direction such a pre-revolutionary situation would take, I think, is one for devolution: the movement of power away from Washington to state and local levels. This would not be a “mother-may-I”, hat-in-hand request to Washington for devolution, but concrete actions at state and local levels to seize power. On issues ranging from gay “marriage” to the use of GMO seeds, states and localities, through their governments or through direct action, would nullify rulings coming out of Washington. Should the Left obtain a five-vote majority on the Supreme Court, nullification by state governments might become a powerful movement in itself. State National Guards, forced to choose between home and Washington, might decide to take orders from home.
A wise Establishment, faced with a pre-revolutionary situation, would accommodate it with Constitutional devolution, which is to say a return to federalism. Life in South Carolina would again be allowed to differ from life in Massachusetts, as it did when our republic still followed its Constitution.
But falling Establishments are seldom wise. It may turn out that the question of who sits in the White House come January, 2017 is about as important as who became Roman Emperor in 450 A.D.