The Autonomous Government

Every two years, we elect parts of the government, and then sit back as they drive the country around and around, hither and yon. Sometimes we try to comment or protest about where we are headed, but it seems pretty clear that the government only changes direction for people with money. Even votes don’t matter all that much any more.

Almost forty years ago, the government began deregulating large financial institutions. About eight years ago, those institutions almost drove us off a financial cliff, and into the great recession.

One reaction was the Tea Party movement, named after the Boston Tea Party, which rose in early 2009 in protest of bailouts like the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and even the auto industry reorganizations. But the Tea Party eventually morphed – or was morphed – into a more fiscally and socially conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Another reaction was the Occupy movement, which echoed the Arab Spring and overseas anti-austerity student protests in the UK, Spain, Chile, and Greece. Hordes of young Occupiers railed against Wall Street and corporations as the 1%, but were never completely on board with their anarchist organizers, and were eventually dispersed by local governments.

One might see the presidential campaigns of Donald J Trump and Bernie Sanders as later echoes of the Tea Party and Occupy, respectively. Sanders’ campaign was undermined by the Democratic National Committee, but he now seems to be a major voice in what is left of the Democratic Party.

Trump ran as the anti-establishment voice for the forgotten working class, but seems to be surrounding himself with “experienced” staffers from the ranks of the same swamp he promised to drain. It remains to be seen exactly how Trump governs, but I suspect that he will end up as another passenger in the autonomous government.

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