For a good many of us, those under 40 certainly, neoliberalism in all its permutations is all we've ever known. Free market fundamentalism, corporatism, globalization all seem like components of our standard operating procedure. Like all flawed ideologies - secular religions - they lead to consequences unforeseen, initially unintended. In this case those consequences include rampant inequality, largely unchecked environmental degradation, economic and fiscal imbalance, democratic atrophy and a fracturing of social cohesion. Welcome to 2016.
Some of the best and the brightest began proclaiming globalism and, in effect, neoliberalism failed and dead for more than a decade. Yet free trade agreements are still inked, each adding a fresh layer of lost sovereignty. Environmental degradation proceeds apace to the point where climate change now presents a possibly unstoppable existential threat. Good jobs are gone, lousy jobs created in their place. A population angry succumbs to charismatic hustlers. This, we are told, is the face of an interregnum, a period in which our leaders cast around for the next great thing to replace globalism.
AlterNet's Thom Hartmann touches on this floundering in his essay, "What happens when neither political party answers to the bottom 90%?"
Both parties right now face a great crisis of leadership/ideology as well as a great opportunity for reinvention, and whichever party first reinvents itself successfully will begin winning elections the way the Democrats did in the 1932-1968 era.
If neither does, our nation faces a massive crisis provoked by the loss of democratic representation of the majority of the American electorate. Neither party today does much of anything for the bottom 90% of Americans, as so clearly demonstrated by a recent study out of Princeton that showed that the likelihood of legislation passing that represents the interest of that bottom 90% was equivalent, statistically, to white noise.
Now, with both Trump and Sanders exposing complex trade deals as unwieldy and destructive to the bottom 90% (but very useful and enriching to the top 10%), as well as the politically corrupt environment that supports the top 10%, people on the right and the left are waking up.
If that’s Trump and/or Sanders, it’ll either splinter the Republican and/or Democratic Party or may reinvent that party in a way that it can begin to build and hold multigenerational national political power.
If Trump is the Republican nominee, he’ll almost certainly win as a change-candidate in a change-year against establishment-candidate Clinton.
If the 2016 reform candidate is on the Democratic side and it’s Bernie Sanders, he’ll almost certainly win against any non-Trump establishment Republican (and could also easily beat Trump, according to the polls). His presidency would force the Democratic Party to re-embrace the 90%, and, combined with Bernie’s positive values of social and economic justice, could take America back to another era of a strong middle class, with peace and prosperity.
(And either a Trump or Sanders candidacy would only succeed over the loud, powerful, and probably very, very ugly screams and actions of the top 0.001% and the Koch Network. It’d be a titanic battle.)
No matter what happens in this 2016 election, though, the bottom 90% has had enough.