One of the major reasons I consider myself a “recovering politician” and write for a web-zine of the same name has been laid bare by the recent wikileaks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. There is a corruption to modern politics that too often allows a campaign system disproportionately funded by elites to therefore disproportionately do the bidding of elites—powerful industries, individuals and special interests. We see this when ketchup is declared a vegetable; when anyone can have access to any damn gun they want; when insurers can cherry pick who they insure; when banks can wreck an economy and then come out wealthier on the other side.
There is a small segment of society capable of funding expensive campaigns. And politicians (as I experienced as a City Council candidate) spend disproportionate amounts of time talking to the elites to in order to fund their campaigns, which can skew perspective and priorities. The consequences emerge from the local to the national. While there are no pure sinners or saints, here is my snapshot of the “good and bad” on how the wikileaks reflect on the major players in the 2016 presidential race:
Barack Obama – GOOD
President Obama built a campaign apparatus outside of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). His “Organize for America” (OFA) amounted to the most potent grassroots fundraising and organizing apparatus in political history. His instinct to go outside the Party establishment will look better and better over time. (Note: Howard Dean deserves major props for being first out the gate for “net-roots” fundraising that helped drive his 2004 presidential run.)
Hillary Clinton – BAD
The email scandal that has haunted Secretary Clinton is now given new credence. Indeed, it shows how vulnerable (hack-able) emails can be to outside interests. Clinton violated State Department (and Obama Administration policy) policy, plain and simple. And now we are reminded why such policies exist. When classified information is made vulnerable, America is made vulnerable.
Bernie Sanders – GOOD
Sen. Sanders was right to call out DNC bias. His concerns are now vindicated. Furthermore, his grassroots donor base (the famous $27 average contribution from everyday people) represented a good antidote to a two-party establishment system where big money too often correlates to big spoils for the very powerful, often at the expense of everyday people who struggle under today’s economic conditions.
Gary Johnson – GOOD
The Libertarian Party has its most exciting and proven presidential tickets in decades, led by former New Governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld. In some ways, their candidacy is a preview of what next generation Republicanism might look like – fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and pro-science.
Donald Trump – GOOD & BAD
Donald Trump’s message, like it or not, will resonate all the more now. His message on trade deals that quash the little guy, his distance from Wall Street, among other themes, sets himself up to be the messenger for a system that is in need of an enema. Sadly, too many Trump supporters – spurred by Trump himself – have turned their scorn towards the little people who suffer under global arrangements and/or lawlessness. This especially holds true for third world populations that are today’s indentured servants, and immigrants or illegal immigrants fleeing deplorable economic conditions and or extreme drug violence that has overtaken many Central American communities. A message about a system stacked against the proverbial “little guy” is powerful; a message that in turn casts vulnerable people of color as the problem is contradictory and, well, simply cruel.
The Two Party System – BAD
The Republican establishment was utterly rejected by its base voters during the primaries. Trump was not “their” choice. The Democratic establishment was narrowly undermined by Sanders, and it now appears the DNC did what they could to keep him down. I know from personal experience from local politics that the two-party system perpetuates itself through a system of spoils and picking winners and losers. And this is spoiling democracy.
This is in many ways a scary election. The “people” are fed up, but the vehicles to express that anger are compromised. We know in the abstract of a “system” that is rigged at many levels. But legitimate anger is being harkened by dog whistles from one campaign, and a compromised candidate from the other. Let’s pray that both major candidates – Hillary and Donald – recognize this historic moment and respond to it in ways that provide a somewhat shell shocked electorate with real options and a new direction.