As a proud supporter of Hillary Clinton, I have to confess that I’ve spent the better part of the last 6 months a bit baffled by the twin candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Who would support those clowns, I’d say. They’re living in a different world. Their plans (assuming they have any) have no relation to reality.
And then I saw The Big Short, and it all became much clearer. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie or read the book, it’s part explainer, part polemic about the roots of the 2008 economic crisis. The basic thesis is that there was a tacit conspiracy between the banks, the rating agencies, the government, the media and the politicians to keep the go-go times of 2000s going, which turned a run of the mill bubble to a ticking time bomb of epic proportions. And who paid the price – it certainly wasn’t the bankers or the politicians (only one poor sap has gone to jail), but rather everyday Americans who lost their homes, their savings, their futures as a result of the greed and hubris of the 1 percent. It’s why Neel Kashkari’s (the Republican President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, who worked for Goldman, ran TARP, and ran for CA Governor) pronouncement that we still need to break up the banks is so appealing.
So how does this relate to Trump and Sanders? Both of their candidacies are fueled by the same pain and anger, just channeled in dramatically different directions.
In sum, for Trump and Sanders voters, the institutions that we’ve all depended on for decades have broken trust with America.
For Trump, the argument is that only he, Donald J. Trump, has the solution to what ails America. His is not a campaign based on policy proposals. Whatever he’s put forward is empty promises, and most people believe that he would bear no allegiance to the policy if, god forbid, he got elected. Rather it’s Trumpism that people support: I will keep the immigrants from stealing your jobs. I will keep you safe from Muslims. I will tell you the truth, while the politicians pull the wool over your eyes. It’s a compelling and seductive message, that in many ways is immune to attack. Because it’s not about any specific policy, it’s the messenger: I will stand up for you and fix things.
(By the way, the way to go after Trump, is to run Trump against Trump… the past things he’s said, and show that he’s as much of a hypocrite as everyone else.)
For Sanders, the problem is precisely the same. The system is rigged, he says. There is a conspiracy of politicians, bankers, and rich guys who will screw the little people and get even richer.
It’s the answer that is different. One man won’t solve the problem. We need a revolution to get money out of politics, and then the government will swoop in and solve the problem. That’s why he advocates for a 40-50% increase in government. Free college tuition. Single payer health care, etc. The implicit message is the rich guys have gotten theirs, and now it’s our turn.
And who is responding to these messages. For Trump it’s older white guys who lost everything in the crisis. They’re mad as hell, and they want someone to stand up for them. For Sanders, it’s young people who saw the American Dream and their bright future, disappear in a flash. They, too, want someone to create a new era of opportunity.
In sum, for Trump and Sanders voters, the institutions that we’ve all depended on for decades have broken trust with America. The government that was supposed to protect us from greed failed us. Our leaders who promised that we’d get the terrorists who caused 9/11 failed us when we went into Iraq. The media that was supposed to uncover the truth is corrupt.
So according to this way of thinking, we need to start fresh, to wipe away what’s passed, and to start anew. With new leadership a la Trump. Or with new institutions a la Sanders.
Enter my candidate, Hillary Clinton, whom I believe will make the best President out of all the candidates running. Up until very recently (her Nevada victory speech was a Tour de Force and a preview of what’s to come), she’s shown that she’s part of the problem, not part of the solution. Most likely because she’s still fighting the wars of the 90s, rather than those of the 2000s.
In her view, she needs to protect herself from the vast right wing conspiracy who will come after her in any way possible. So she comes up with a home-brew server to host her correspondence. She agrees to speak before Goldman Sachs because she needs the money and support to protect herself from the coming onslaught of ads from her opponents and the superpacs. She continues to parse sentences (I’ve tried to tell the truth), because she knows that every word she utters will be held against her. This is political post traumatic stress disorder of the highest magnitude.
The good news for Hillary is that there is still time, and as Nevada proved she can connect with voters (anyone who doubts should watch her campaign ad “Brave”). But she needs to stop being the pragmatist trying to find incremental solutions to the problems we face. (Again, this is why I think she’ll make the best president). It starts with a deep emotional understanding of why Americans are angry, and channeling that anger in constructive ways. BTW, the same message could be said for Jeb, but he’s toast, so I’m just focusing on Hillary.
In every story, there is a good guy and a bad guy. We now know who the bad guys are now – it’s the institutions that have failed us. Hillary needs to stand up and stand with every day Americans who have been crushed by the system – the banks, the government, the media, and, yes, our friends in the Republican party, who have chosen obstruction over loyal opposition.
And with Donald Trump’s big victory in Nevada, the real race for President begins today, and we’ll see which vision prevails.