by Robert Parry
09 March 2016
The insurgent campaigns
of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders
have staggered Official
Washington's twin corrupt establishments
on the Republican and
but what happens next, asks
The United States is led by two
...both deeply dependent on
special-interest money, both sharing a similar perspective on world
affairs, and both disdainful toward the American people who are
treated as objects to be manipulated, not citizens to be respected.
There are, of course, differences.
The Democrats are more liberal
on social policy and favor a somewhat larger role of
government in addressing the nation's domestic problems.
The Republicans embrace Ronald
Reagan's motto, "government is the problem," except when
they want the government to intervene on "moral" issues such
as gay marriage and abortion.
Democratic presidential candidate
But these two corrupt establishments are intertwined when it comes
to important issues of trade, economics and foreign policy.
Both are true believers in neo-liberal
"free trade"; both coddle Wall Street (albeit seeking slightly
different levels of regulation); and both favor interventionist
foreign policies (only varying modestly in how the wars are sold to
Because the two establishments have a chokehold on the mainstream
media, they escape any meaningful accountability when they are
Thus, their corruption is not just
defined by the billions of special-interest dollars that they take
in but in their deviations from the real world. The two
establishments have created a fantasyland that all the Important
People treat as real.
Which is why it has been somewhat amusing to watch establishment
pundits pontificate about what must be done in their make-believe
establishing "safe zones"
fawning over noble "allies" like
Saudi Arabia and Turkey,
...while growing legions of Americans
have begun to see through these transparent fictions.
Though the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders
have many flaws, there is still something encouraging about
Americans listening to some of straight talk from both Trump and
Sanders - and to watch the flailing reactions of their establishment
While it's true Trump has made comments that are offensive and
stupid, he also has dished out some truths that the GOP
establishment simply won't abide, such as noting President
George W. Bush's failure
to protect the country from
the 9/11 attacks and Bush's
for invading Iraq.
Trump's rivals were flummoxed by his
audacity, sputtering about his apostasy, but rank-and-file
Republicans were up to handling the truth.
Trump violated another Republican taboo when he advocated that the
U.S. government take an evenhanded position on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and even told pro-Israeli donors that
they could not buy his support with donations.
By contrast, other Republicans, such as
Sen. Marco Rubio, were groveling for the handouts and
advocating a U.S. foreign policy that could have been written by
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump's Israel heresy brought the Republican foreign-policy elite,
the likes of William Kristol and other neoconservatives, to
full battle stations.
Kristol's fellow co-founder of the
Project for the New American Century,
Robert Kagan, was so apoplectic over Trump's progress toward
the GOP nomination that he announced that he would vote for Democrat
Clinton, however, has had her own struggles toward the nomination.
Though her imposing war chest and
machine-driven sense of inevitability scared off several potential
big-name rivals, she has had her hands full with Sen. Bernie
Sanders, a 74-year-old "democratic socialist" from Vermont.
Sanders pulled off a stunning upset on
Tuesday by narrowly winning Michigan.
While Sanders has largely finessed foreign policy issues - beyond
noting that he opposed the Iraq War and Clinton voted for it -
Sanders apparently found a winning issue in Michigan when he
emphasized his rejection of trade deals while Clinton has mostly
The same issue has worked well for Trump
as he lambastes U.S. establishment leaders for negotiating bad
What is notable about the "free trade" issue is that it has long
been a consensus position of both the Republican and Democratic
establishments. For years, anyone who questioned these deals was
mocked as a know-nothing or a protectionist.
All the smart money was on "free trade,"
a signature issue of both the Bushes and the Clintons, praised by
editorialists from The Wall Street Journal through The New York
The fact that "free trade" - over the past two decades - has become
a major factor in hollowing out of the middle class, especially
across the industrial heartland of Middle America, was of little
concern to the financial and other elites concentrated on the
At election time, those "loser"
Americans could be kept in line with appeals to social issues and
patriotism, even as many faced borderline poverty, growing heroin
addiction rates and shorter life spans.
Despite that suffering, the twin Republican/Democratic
establishments romped merrily along.
The GOP elite called for evermore tax
cuts to benefit the rich; demanded "reform" of Social Security and
Medicare, meaning reductions in benefits; and proposed more military
spending on more interventions overseas.
The Democrats were only slightly less
unrealistic, negotiating a new trade deal with Asia and seeking a
new Cold War with Russia.
Early in Campaign 2016, the expectations were that Republican voters
would again get behind an establishment candidate like former
Florida Jeb Bush or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, while
the Democrats would get in line behind Hillary Clinton's coronation
TV pundits declared that there was no way that Donald Trump could
win the GOP race, that his high early poll numbers would fade like a
summer romance. Bernie Sanders was laughed at as a fringe "issue"
But then something unexpected
On the Republican side,
blue-collar whites finally recognized how the GOP
establishment had played them for suckers; they weren't
going to take it anymore.
On the Democratic side, young
voters, in particular, recognized how they had been dealt an
extremely bad hand, stuck with massive student debt and
unappealing job prospects.
on the GOP side, disaffected
blue-collar whites rallied to Trump's self-financed campaign
and to his promises to renegotiate the trade deals and shut
down illegal immigration
on the Democratic side, young
voters joined Sanders's call for a "political revolution"
The two corrupt establishments were
Yet, whether the populist
anti-establishment insurrections can continue moving forward remains
On the Democratic side, Clinton's candidacy appears to have been
saved because African-American voters know her better than Sanders
and associate her with President
They've given her key support,
especially in Southern states, but the Michigan result suggests that
Clinton may have to delay her long-expected "pivot to the center" a
On the Republican side, Trump's brash style has driven many
establishment favorites out of the race and has put Rubio on the
If Rubio is knocked out - and if Ohio
Gov. John Kasich remains an also-ran - then the
establishment's only alternative would be Texas Sen. Ted Cruz,
a thoroughly disliked figure in the U.S. Senate. It's become
increasingly plausible that Trump could win the Republican
What a Trump victory would mean for the Republican Party is hard to
Is it even possible for the GOP
establishment with its laissez-faire orthodoxy of tax cuts for the
rich and trickle-down economics for everyone else to reconcile with
Trump's populist agenda of protecting Social Security and demanding
revamped trade deals to restore American manufacturing?
Further, what would the neocons do?
They now control the Republican Party's
foreign policy apparatus, which is tied to unconditional support for
Israel and interventionism against Israel's perceived enemies, from
Syria's Bashar al-Assad, to Iran, to Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Would they join Kagan in backing
Hillary Clinton and trusting that she would be a
'reliable' vessel for neocon desires?
And, if Clinton prevails against
Sanders and does become the neocon "vessel," where might the
growing ranks of Democratic and Independent
Will some side with Trump
despite his ugly remarks about Mexicans and Muslims?
Or will they reject both major
parties, either voting for a third party or staying home?
Whatever happens, Official Washington's
twin corrupt establishments have been dealt an unexpected and
potentially lasting punch