US Middle Class Revolt is Still Divided

Roughly eight years ago, from the ashes of the Great Recession, we in the United States saw the rise of the Tea Party movement. Three years later brought the Occupy Wall Street movement. Both began by protesting the effects of Wall Street speculators on the economy, and the government’s unwillingness to do anything but bail out banksters and help them become richer. The Tea Party was somewhat mirrored by the rise of rightwing groups in Europe. Occupy and similar movements such as the Arab Spring, the 15-M Anti-Austerity movement (Indignados), etc. were also occurring in other countries, and were often ascribed as much to the ubiquity of cellphones and social media as to any new abuses by government.

The Tea Party was gradually co-opted into a protest against just about everything to do with liberals, the government, and the new President Barack Obama. Tea Party followers were mobilized in primaries to support conservative Tea Party candidates against moderate, establishment Republican state and national congressmen.

Occupy, being run by dedicated anarchists, was more difficult to co-opt. But rank-and-file Occupiers were not ready to do much more than demonstrate peacefully, hold general assemblies and try to hash out an ideal sort of world order. Their camps were eventually overrun by city police, and efforts to revive the fervor have been underwhelming. Some Occupy groups still try to achieve local objectives, like housing the homeless, but no one talks about Occupy candidates in national politics.

Now we have parallel political revolts within the Republican and Democratic parties themselves. One was initially based on anti-immigration fervor, and is personified by Donald Trump, and perhaps Ted Cruz. The other hearkens back to rage over Wall Street’s influence over the government, and is personified by Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

A lot of virtual ink has been spilt trying to explain why voters are engaged with a media personality like Trump. One of my friends loves that he is calling media, government and others on all the PC bullshit that has been coming down the pike for years. Nate Silver chalks it up to media exposure. Scott Adams believes that Trump is a Master Persuader in the vein of Dale Carnegie. John Michael Greer believes that Trump is adeptly channeling the resentment of the hourly wage class that has been savaged by Democrats and Republicans, and by the top 1% and the top 25% salaried classes alike. They resent being called racist, but are only accepting of minorities that act just like white people. These folk see immigrants and foreign competition as the primary bogeymen in the loss of their lifestyle.

It seems to me that Sanders is likewise channeling the resentment of underemployed millennials and older folk who have been left behind by the economy and left out of the BLS unemployment statistics. These folk probably attended or closely identified with Occupy events. They may have marched for the environment, favor unions, and tend to feel accepting of minorities and immigrants. They see a rich elite as the bogeymen.

Despite the media’s take on Iowa, both Trump and Sanders did well enough to show that voters are definitely looking for a change. I think that together, these movements would wield enough power to significantly change the government-industrial complex. The question is whether there will ever be enough common ground for them to function together as a political entity.

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