If Bernie Sanders sounded one of the very few authentic notes in recent U.S. politics, it was in his call for political revolution. We need a political revolution not just against Donald Trump but also against the repulsively corrupt likes of Hillary Clinton. Because of the former secretary of state’s veiled but solid-as-granite lackey service to the 1 percent, she is probably just as responsible for sustaining Trump’s thuggish, scapegoating brand of populism as is the real estate mogul himself.
As the most unpopular pair of presidential candidates in U.S. history, Clinton and Trump are perfect foils. Clinton provokes the blind, unfocused resentment and rage that engenders support for Trump, sneakily thwarting the healthy, legitimate aspirations of most of the people by pretending those aspirations are — for reasons too complex for us brainless peons to understand — simply unachievable. Trump plays the ogre all too effectively — offering simplistic fixes and scapegoating minorities and women. He is the Republican best-suited to draw fear-based voters to a candidate as all-around loathsome as Hillary Clinton.
Yet Trump and Clinton, both privileged members of the multimillionaire elite (whatever Trump’s genius for lowbrow populism), share one crucial trait in common: They are members of the elite establishment who manipulate voters with disrespectful, false rhetoric. Trump is a billionaire with a lowbrow lout persona, who has grown his wealth by employing crony capitalism, paying low wages to his workers, ripping off students and — when necessary — declaring bankruptcy to stick it to his creditors. His reality-show shtick as a boss sadistically intoning “You’re fired!” is the real Donald.
By contrast, Clinton’s scathing contempt for everyone who is not a member of — or aspirant to — the moneyed, global elite seeps from her every pore. Not even her hubby Bill’s evident pleasure in glad-handing the people that he is conning — the stock in trade of a born swindler — lends redeeming charm to her scripted and forced encounters with members of the great unwashed.
Trump’s and Clinton’s scarcely concealed contempt for average voters is perfectly mirrored in what they offer those voters: diddly squat.
Trump offers entertainment value — his celebrity personality, outsize ego, outrageousness and unpredictability — to voters who more than ever need an honest, serious policy thinker with a correct diagnosis and remedy for a corrupt political system careening toward disaster. On the more dangerous side, he offers a channel for resentments and a barbarous jingoistic patriotism (“Make America great again!”) that could lead to wars but will almost certainly lead to hostility and violence toward minorities and foreigners — above all, to Muslim ones. Such is his ego that in a corrupt system on a collision course with climate catastrophe, he feels qualified to be president despite utterly lacking political experience, skilled advisers and or the feeblest attempt at such a diagnosis or remedy.
Ask any of Clinton’s supporters what she offers, and their answers ultimately amount to saying she is not the monster that Trump is. Maybe they will cite her defense of abortion or her strong likelihood of appointing saner Supreme Court justices, although they will surely be corporate lawyers and prosecutors who believe in executive power and big business. Probably they will speak of her experience in high office. What they often resolutely refuse to speak about — angrily asking if you want to elect Trump if you mention it — is that she is her own kind of monster. She is monstrous in her corruption by money, in her contempt for transparency and in her militarism. The Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, correctly calls Clinton a “Wall Street, war and Walmart” candidate.
In an age screaming for honest, transparent politicians uncorrupted by money and accountable to informed voters, Clinton rakes in scads of political money and is positively Nixonian in her deviousness and her efforts to remain invisible to the public. As with Nixon, the air of an untrustworthy crook fully envelops Clinton. A viral Facebook meme, noting that she has had more FBI interviews this year than press conferences, nicely sums up the matter.
It is no wonder that in the arid political desert constituted by Clinton and Trump, Bernie Sanders seemed not merely an oasis but a miracle-working political savior capable of transforming that desert to bloom. By his own repeated avowal, Sanders is not a savior, but he is an honest, experienced, transparent politician with an on-point diagnosis and remedy for the deeply corrupt politics of the age. In fact, what made Sanders seem almost a savior was his rare, humble insistence that he was nothing of the kind, that his campaign was not about him but about us, and that in a political system so deeply corrupted by corporate money, politicians like him had no hope of fixing it on our behalf if we did not become engaged in political revolution.