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2016 is a hard year for a cynic.

August 17, 2016

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It has been a nauseating year for most people. There has been horrible violence, tragic death and terrifying sickness. But even worse than all that, there is another soul-crushing American presidential election. Every four years, the country comes together to argue about the soul of our nation. The teams are supposed to pick champions. No team can ever agree on who to pick. First, they fight amongst themselves, casting off the dead weight and lunatic liabilities before settling on the most agreed upon candidate to champion their causes. Pretty much from the beginning, but especially since the advent of television, the process of teams picking their champions and the ensuing battle between them has become an exercise in pompous ceremony that rivals religion in the fervor for tradition. A presidential election is usually nauseating any year, but 2016 has upped the ante. We are living through a watershed moment where the two major parties are experiencing painful metamorphosis. For me personally, it has been a revelation.

I have said from the minute Donald Trump was an actual contender, that he is the true face of America. He is bombastic, self-centered, and egotistical. He is rich at the expense of others. He’s a bigot. He is duplicitous. He is a conman that could have only been made in the USA. He embodies the unspoken American ideal of getting yours no matter what it takes or who you have to step on or screw over on the way there. He is the face America tries to hide like a portrait in the attic.

On the other side is Hillary Clinton who has never been the right candidate, but only ever the candidate for right now. While trashing stay-at-home moms, she has built a political career based largely on the fact that she married the right redneck rapist. Her political skills are so rudimentary and forced that she probably couldn’t get elected class president if she had never taken the name of Clinton. She is the ultimate elite: a lawyer and a DC insider, she has been a household name for almost twenty-five years. She has served as First Lady, as well as on the board of Walmart, and as a Senator from New York, and finally Secretary of State. About the only thing that everyone can agree on regarding Hillary Clinton, is that not many people like Hillary Clinton all that much. Most of her support is as forced as Hillary Clinton’s sense of humor and the rest only know who she is from her tweets about the Hamilton musical.

There has been a lot of discussion by talking heads and “think piece” “writers” about how this election has brought us to a lesser-of-two-evils decision as if that’s something new. It is especially pronounced this year but it is nothing to be surprised about. When has the electorate ever been happy about their candidates? For me, the real revelation was that there is an “elite” in America and they have more control over things than the voters.

Before we go on, let me explain. I know a lot of you are tuning out now if you haven’t already. “Elite” probably raises alarms with you as a fringe buzzword for the “Establishment”. “They” for some people. It immediately conjures up the specter of Fox News or spittle-spraying firebrand weirdos like Alex Jones. One is never sure if a discussion of the Bilderberg Group might be close behind an utterance of “the elites”. I am not suggesting that there is some cabal of evildoers with Mr. Burns and Dr. Evil meeting in a hollowed-out volcano plotting about how to control the world. I am not going to say there are reptilians who have infiltrated the world’s governments. What has become clear, however, is that there is an Establishment and there is everything else. It is not comprised of any specific set of people, though once inducted it is next to impossible to get kicked out. Even rape is permissible at times. The Establishment is a way of thinking: We know better than you. The Establishment is here to help. The Establishment will keep us safe. They want to make sure you have money, clothes, food and entertainment. The Establishment is here to tell you what you want. That’s why they spent nearly a billion dollars in 2012 to sway your decision-making. They are the people who have dedicated themselves to the American political system and the status quo. They do not have the vision to see beyond their own sphere of influence.

The Establishment encompasses a whole strata of society, engulfing the political world, the media and international finance. As their influence has been illuminated, partly because of the internet and the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, so too has their failure. They are a class of people who are defined by the mantra “We Know Better Than You” but they have brought us to the uncertain and nauseating time through which we are living. In America, they have overseen the mass incarceration of minority populations and have completely abdicated the War on Poverty. Abroad, they have involved US in failed conflict after failed conflict, touting shooting an old man in the face as one of their greatest military victories. Economically, they have favored their friends with fat wallets over their hungry constituents. Politically, they have committed to ideals to gain votes rather than committing to any sort of positive change because that might imperil their standing in the Establishment. They have no remorse because they feel they are justified because they are merely performing the sacred ceremonies of the American political tradition. A notable exception to this adherence to the ceremonies of political tradition is in the media. The media, which is now owned by just a few people, has become subservient to the Establishment. Desperate to maintain access to influence across the political spectrum, they cultivate friendships instead of holding the Establishment accountable. They have abdicated their prosecutorial role, to become the mouthpiece of the Establishment. Their main target now seems to be anyone who deviates from the Established American Political Ceremony rather than shedding any light on the horrible things the Establishment has been doing in our name and it is their job to know better than you.

I have chosen to call this Establishment class “elites” because that is what they purport to be. They know better than us, don’t you know? This year, both sides have presented us with pretty compelling evidence of the presence of an elite class that are controlling things like out of some dystopian novel or loony conspiracy theory.

Let’s look at the Democrats first.

In 2008, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was co-chair for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. In 2011, she succeeded Tim Kaine as the Democratic National Committee chairperson. In 2016, she was exposed by Wikileaks and shown to have been working against Senator Bernie Sanders in his bid as the nominee for the Democratic party. Also exposed in the leak, were emails between the DNC and members of the media, including emails from Debbie Wasserman Schultz to prominent members of the media instructing them on how to behave. While Debbie Wassername Schultz is not the only person implicated in the leak, she is the highest profile and was forced to step down because of it. She was immediately made an honorary chair in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The DNC had decided before the election even started who would be the nominee. Who gives a shit what the voters want? Bernie Sanders set the world ablaze with straight, impassioned talk, but the longtime party members snuffed it out. Even after the leak had been exposed, the DNC continued to stifle the voices of members of their party. At their convention, they employed noise-cancelling devices to drown out protest; they took away signs with unpleasantly true slogans; they instructed loyal delegates to drown out the protests of their neighbor with Homer Simpson-like chants of “USA! USA!” and “Hillary! Hillary!” And here we are, whether the voters had anything to say about it or not: Hillary Clinton is the nominee of the Democratic party. The most troubling aspect is that no one seems to care that it was weighted in her favor. If you found out a casino was using weighted dice, you’d be justifiably upset. Many people say she would have won anyway so what difference does it make? I say there is simply no way to know that. Had there been a DNC chairperson who took a more objective role and fostered debate instead of stifling it, who knows what could have happened? Maybe we’d all be talking about nominee Martin O’Malley right now instead of chronic Clinton fatigue. Whether you think she would have won anyway or not is irrelevant. What is clear is that a group of elite insiders worked behind the scenes to get the result they wanted for themselves and their friends and they were successful.

On the other side, Reince Preibus, the chairperson of the Republican National Committee, conducted a fair and even-handed primary campaign even when it might have benefited the nation for him to weigh the scales against Donald Trump like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her cohorts did with Bernie Sanders. From the beginning, Donald Trump was a joke. A group of media elites literally laughed on air at the notion that he would go on to win the nomination. Jeb Bush was the favorite early on. It seems like a joke to think ol’ Low Energy Jeb ever had a shot. I see Reince Preibus yelling at the monitor backstage, “It’s a trap!” With sickening swagger, Donald Trump dispatched opponent after opponent. A few, like Scott Walker and Rick Perry, folded like George Costanza at a poker game: “Too rich for my blood!” Some, like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, just liked seeing their names in the paper. They ran out of money and people who weren’t looking at Donald Trump. 2012’s failed nominee went on TV and called Donald Trump a clown and a lunatic. A number of prominent Republicans, including the last two Republican presidents, refused to attend the convention to nominate Donald Trump. The president of the United States dismissed him as a reality TV star unfit for the job. Billionaire media magnate and mayor of stop-and-frisk’s New York, Michael Bloomberg took to the stage at the Democratic National Convention to denounce Trump. Everybody from the established order of things has come out to decry the man, from late-night comedians to members of his own party. People I have disagreed with for years have said Donald Trump is a horrible person.The media cannot stop talking about him. Donald Trump says they demand political correctness. I say they demand adherence to the traditions of the ceremony of the teams selecting their champions and our nation selecting its new mask. The keepers and adherents of the rules and traditions stand there saying “You can’t do that!” while the bull smashes up the china shop. But it is already done and the bull can only hear their protests like a gnat buzzing meaninglessly in his ear . He has upset the natural order and elites across the board perceive the threat. He has not released his tax returns. He responds to every insult. He tweets too much. He’s a racist. He isn’t spending nauseating amounts of cash on advertising. (Side note: as someone who teeters at the edge of poverty, it is hard to believe that someone who can spend more than $60,000,000 on advertising has my best interests at heart.) He isn’t doing it the way he is supposed to do it, but somehow it is working. Despite the fact that he got more votes than any other Republican primary candidate in history, party insiders have worked hard to hobble him, launching assault after assault. All of the people who have had to follow the rules and slither through bureaucracy to gain influence and join the entrenched elite are not happy to see him subvert the will of the party elite.

It is unfortunate that it didn’t happen the other way around. Maybe if the Democrats had a chairperson like Reince Preibus, Bernie Sanders might have been the Democratic nominee. Maybe if elite Republicans had weighted the scales in favor of their chosen nominee, presumably Jeb Bush. The fois gras goose candidate was so overstuffed with donations, he could barely summon the energy to campaign. Maybe if it had gone the other way, we wouldn’t have to be talking about two people we all can’t stand and the two candidates would now be hashing out ideas and agendas instead of pointing out hand size and voice modulation.

Too bad we’re in the Mirror Universe.

The elites are here and they control everything but Donald Trump and his coalition of racists and frat boys and anarchists and illiterates and rich indolents and gun nuts. The bull is still smashing the china shop and we have yet to ascertain the extent of the damage. I don’t have a lot of confidence in the almost lifelike efforts of Hillary Clinton and her band of inept conspirators.

2016 is a hard year for a cynic.

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