Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Wednesday, November 8, 2016

They Said It:

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song….

 

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war….

 

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight.

 

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again….

 

The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” 1971.

 

ELECTION 2016:  CORRUPTION AND THE RULING CLASS.

On each of the past three presidential election days, we have used this platform to forecast the day’s events.  We are not going to do that today.  Instead, we are going to look back at some prior forecasts for the purpose of looking a little further into the future.

We are doing this because, believe it or not, we have been writing about this next presidency for much of the last quarter-century.  As far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing new here, especially if Hillary Clinton wins.  We know what happens next.  Longtime readers know that there are a handful of themes that have dominated our work over the past twenty years or more.  Among the most important and most relevant of these are the risks posed by Islamic terrorism; the ongoing “war” over resources; the death of the old political order and the rise of the “new political paradigm;” corruption and the risk it poses to governments and markets; and the existential battle between the ruling class and the country class.  Of these five, the last three are likely to prove the most important over the course of the next four years.  Starting today.

Fifteen years ago, when we arrived at a now-defunct Big Shot Wall Street firm called Lehman Brothers, after having been defenestrated by another now-defunct Big Shot Wall Street firm called Prudential Securities.  Our introductory piece at Lehman (which, needless to say, did not earn us an invitation to the executive dining room), concentrated on our long-held belief that corruption would dominate our politics and our markets for much of the then-new century.  Specifically, we put it this way:

Our first theme is global corruption.  For several years now we have been emphasizing that this is the biggest threat today to liberal democracy, to capitalism, and thus, to the investment business.  Throughout most of our lives, communism was the threat.  “History is on our side.  We will bury you,” Khrushchev said in 1956.  And the threat was real.  Indeed, at its height, the evil called communism engulfed, or directly threatened, half the globe.

In many ways, however, communism was less a threat to freedom and free enterprise than corruption is today, primarily because it was a flawed ideology from the start, but also because the proselytizing was directed from within a bunker surrounded by what was called an “iron curtain.”

Unlike communism, corruption is not an outside threat.  Nor is it something new.  Corruption is endemic to capitalism. And it is as old as mankind. . . .

Corruption comes in many garbs.  The quality of corruption in Russia and China, for example, is unstrained. . . .

And then there is the corruption called “crony capitalism,” which infects the non-communist Asian nations; the soft corruption of socialism that is strangling Europe; and the narco-corruption that has spread throughout much of Latin America. . . .

We are not saying here that the United States occupies the moral high ground on this issue.  As has been amply demonstrated over the past eight years, U.S. politicians and business persons can be as crooked as any in the world.  What we are saying is that if honest capitalism cannot be sustained in the United States, with its long history of respect for moral and ethical behavior and the rule of law, then it will disappear from the world.  And therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans, but most especially the nation’s business community and its politicians, to be scrupulously honest in their dealings, both here and abroad.

This past spring, when it started to become clear that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would win the respective parties’ nominations, we revisited the theme, writing the following:

In the United States, of course, we have our own brand of political and economic corruption, the most obvious variety of which goes by the same surname as it did twenty years ago:  Clinton.  In the years since Bill left office, he and the little Mrs. have grown fat and happy.  Or at least she’s grown fat and happy.  He looks a little like Stan Laurel to her Oliver Hardy.  In any case, the two have earned more than $100 million, while their “foundation” – and we use the scare quotes advisedly – has raised in excess of $2 BILLION, the overwhelming majority of which has been used to pay the people who work for or lend their surname to the foundation.  The list of the Clintons’ ongoing scandals is long.  It is wide . . .

Still, that’s not really our point today.  Our point, rather, is that the ENTIRE ruling class in the United States – and in Europe, although thus far to less dramatic effect – is manifestly and undeniably corrupt in that it has rigged the game for itself.  Moreover, in rigging the game for itself, it has ensured that the country class has no real access to power and is labelled a “threat to society” if it ever tries to alter the status quo.

You will note that at least one bit of this discussion is now out of date, the bit about Europe and its “less dramatic” reaction to the corruption of the ruling class.  In June, of course, the voters of Great Britain elected to leave the European Union, largely because of the type of corruption we detail above.  The Brits were sick of the rigged game and they voted accordingly.  Who could possibly have seen that coming?  Well, we did.  With a little help from Friedrich Hayek, we wrote the following nearly twenty years ago.

During the next decade, Europeans will find that their “planners,” have done the following:

Exacerbated the racial and ethnic hatreds that have plagued Europe for centuries.

Exacerbated the class tensions that have plagued Europe for centuries.

Added layers of new and expensive bureaucratic bloat to the already-heavily burdened back of the European industrial base.

Intensified the antagonism and distrust that many Europeans already feel for their political leaders.

Increased the already rampant corruption in both the private and public sectors.

And most probably, prompted terrorist reactions by disgruntled nationalist organizations, which are certain to spring up in virtually every member country in response to the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that is bound to result from having to deal with the new, more powerful, “big brother.”

Whatever the outcome of today’s voting, the fundamental truth is that Americans too will have voted to impeach the ruling class and to exit the “rigged” game.  It may be that they did so at the wrong time in the process to have any effect immediately.  But they did so nonetheless.  Donald Trump received more primary votes than any Republican in history.  Senator Bernie Sanders, who offered a trite and muddled version of the corruption/rigged game theme, nearly beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.  In fact, it is quite possible that he would have beaten her, if the manifestly and unashamedly corrupt Democratic National Committee hadn’t worked its magic to ensure that he didn’t.  Whatever the case, regular Americans – which is to say the country class – have expressed their displeasure with their rulers and have already voted to tell said rulers to change their ways or face repercussions.

For better than six years now, we have argued that the ruling class-country class division, which was first discussed by our old friend Angelo Codevilla, would be the dominant story of our era.  Way back in November, 2010, just before the Republicans took back the House on the strength of the Tea Party insurgency, we put it this way:

This election is not about policy.  It is not about any specific decision that the president took or did not take.  It’s not about any policy proposition that was shepherded through the Congress by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and translated into law.  It is not about any of the traditional factors that are generally suspected to motivate voters to punish the majority party.

No, this election is about all of those policies cumulatively, and, more important, about the single common factor that binds them all together.  This election is, in short, about the will of the people and the ruling party’s contempt for that will. As the sub-head on the pollster Scott Rasmussen’s final pre-election analysis put it: “Voters don’t want to be governed from the left, right or center.  They want Washington to recognize that Americans want to govern themselves.” . . .

Four years later, when the GOP was about to take control of the Senate as well – again on the strength of the Tea Party insurgency – we reemphasized the point:

What says “death to the establishment!” better than a former Senator and Secretary of State and wife of a former president duking it out with a former governor, the grandson of a Senator, son of a president, and brother of another?  In retrospect, we shoulda just made George Washington king and been done with it.

As it turns out, this is, in many ways, the theme of this election and the theme of American politics more generally.  After more than twenty years of social upheaval, war, economic collapse and recovery, partisan waxing and waning, and geopolitical disarray, the American political ethos remains largely unchanged . . . .

[T]he American system had, by the 1990s, become little more than a corporatist racket intended to benefit the rich and powerful, while placating the masses just enough to keep them contended.  The fact that this has not changed – indeed, has become more pronounced in the twenty years –is troubling for any number of reasons.  Today’s election results will, we imagine, be the last desperate attempt by said masses to regain control of their government and to avoid an otherwise unavoidable fate. . .

We concluded that piece with the following prediction:

The great race to 2016, which will begin tonight, will provide more than a few surprises.  Most notably, we think, neither party will nominate its current presumed insider-frontrunner.  A GOP sweep will signal significant dissatisfaction with the status quo and will, in turn, signal hard times ahead for both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

Well . . . we were half right.  Actually, we were more than half right.  What we didn’t know – what we didn’t anticipate but should have – was just how badly in the tank for the corrupt Hillary Clinton the mainstream press and the Democratic establishment would be.  Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that Bill and Hillary are NOT more corrupt than the rest of their contemporaries on the Left.  Indeed, they fit in quite well.  They were mere harbingers, early signs of the decay.  As a result, if Hillary wins tonight, the entire ruling class will spend the next four years fighting a rear-guard battle hoping to keep reality from catching up to the most powerful grandmother in the world.

If Trump wins, of course, the battle will be different and will depend entirely on him.

In either case, the waves that brought us here – corruption and the clash of classes – will continue to crash against the slimy shores of the Potomac.  Fittingly enough, it was a swamp in 1790, when Congress approved the Residency Act, which called for the establishment of a “permanent seat of government” along the Potomac River.  Eventually, one side or the other will win, which is to say that either our republic will be saved or it will be crushed for good.

Sleep well tonight, a new battle – which will look remarkably like the old battle – begins tomorrow.

 

Copyright 2016. The Political Forum. 3350 Longview Ct., Lincoln NE  68506, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.