So said Archilochus, Erasmus, and Isaiah Berlin, and so say I. So let us try to look together this morning at the facts on the ground—and to look from a vantage of thirty thousand feet in the air. And let us ask: What are the really big things we know?
Based on the 2016 election, and based on the results so far this year, I submit that we know, to a moral certainty, that today’s zeitgeist does not favor conventional politicians with well-honed, traditional, focus-grouped proposals. We are, collectively and as a matter of generality, looking for something completely different.
And why, pray tell, are so many voters looking for something completely different, at this particular point in history?
Children, let us form an hypothesis.
So, as the song suggests, let us begin with some observations. Here’s one, for starters. According to Forbes, Income Inequality In America Continues Its Inexorable Rise:
Income inequality is an increasing problem in the United States and has been for several decades now. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), back in the mid-1970s, income inequality reached its lowest point after incomes grew rapidly over the years from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Also, incomes increased at about the same rate for different households all along the income ladder. Then, beginning in the 1970s, economic growth slowed, as dramatically demonstrated by the 16-month recession from 1973-1975, the longest recession at the time since the Great Depression. Ever since then, income inequality has been on an inexorable rise.
Unfortunately, the trend is continuing and doing so at a steady pace year over year.
And here’s another observation: great inequality leads to anger and other powerful psychological effects. (See, for example, Elizabeth Kolbert, The Psychology of Inequality.)
If observations one and two are correct—and they are correct—it follows that generalized anger at the increasingly unequal status quo is on the rise. Bigly.
Maybe that right there is the reason that so many of us are so pissed off, so much of the time.
Who would have thought it?
Trump mobilized the anger of the unlettered portion of his peeps, channeling it into racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. But the unlettered portion of Trump’s peeps have been racists, xenophobes, and misogynists for decades, indeed for centuries and millennia. What happened in 2016 to make them deep six all their empty-suited, well-groomed traditional politicians? Might it just be that rising inequality pushed them over the line?
If Sanders is the nominee this year, he will lie about many things, but his message about rising inequality will be the truth. And he will spread that truth with great vigor.
In all this, there is bad news and there is good news. The bad news is that he will drive a great many of the affluent into the arms of Donald Trump. But the bad news qualified by the fact that many of the affluent were going to vote for Trump anyway.
The good news is that Sanders will be telling the truth about the thing that really matters. Trump will be lying.
And the other good news is that, where the lying side and the truthful side present their cases with equal skill and vigor, the truthful side wins.
That is the one big thing I would invite you to consider this morning.