Like most of the country, we have been alarmed at the violence, vitriol and demagoguery that dominate this election cycle. At the same time, we understand the anger on all sides that drives it. We believe that anger springs from the long-overdue realization that we have lost control of our government over the past three decades.
A small handful of far-right billionaires have engineered the laws, policies and popular thinking that have prevented the middle class from moving ahead. They’ve spent billions to foster the divisions that keep them in power, using perhaps the cleverest and most thorough propaganda strategies the world has ever known.
They are more than influencers. They are our invisible rulers, hidden behind a veil of secrecy made legal by the Citizens United ruling, which they regard as their greatest triumph. They control America through media, think tanks, endowed chairs at universities, rigged science, publications with respectable veneers and, of course, their elected officials — from school boards to state lawmakers to the U.S. Senate to the Supreme Court.
When the rest of us turn against other, our invisible rulers invariably win. All the anger that should be directed at them goes elsewhere instead: toward President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Hollywood, immigrants, the poor, the rich, African-Americans, gays, Catholics — practically anyone or any group that can be exploited as a dividing line.
In fact, their success is based largely on this formula: While hoi polloi are cursing each other, the families who got rich cheating at business, polluting the world, evading taxes and ignoring regulations sneak in under the radar and continue rigging the system to their advantage.
Their names and faces are unknown to the vast majority of Americans, Charles and David Koch notwithstanding. We are too focused on blaming the demon du jour to realize they exist. If you’re interested in who they are and how they did it, read “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer, perhaps the most thoroughly researched and readable book ever written about the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right — from their family histories to their methodology.
In normal election years, the small handful of right-wing billionaires who form what is now the nation’s ruling oligarchy are delighted to see the electorate divided and intractable. This election year, however, those families are soiling their drawers. The anger and divisiveness they fostered wasn’t supposed to go this far — to near-revolutionary rhetoric. The society they’ve engineered for 30 years is unraveling. People on both sides of every divide are fed up with being deprived. As a result, the puppets chosen by billionaires are being rejected in the primaries, trounced by candidates who are willing to say that the system is rigged. Not even the $25 million they spent in February alone to save Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign in his home state of Florida had any effect. That money was burned up in the flames of middle-class America’s anger over the economic inequality the right-wing billionaires have created.
Perhaps the greatest irony of this year’s presidential race is what’s come of the brutal and endless campaign that those billionaires have waged against Hillary Clinton. Ever since she put forward a national health plan in 1993, Clinton has been in their crosshairs. But now she leads the pack.
This election has not only pushed Clinton further to the left, but all the anger roiling the GOP has given her a stronger-than-ever chance of winning. The foe who’s kept them awake at night for decades may well sit in the Oval Office.
Beyond that, they never anticipated having to deal with candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who have defied their ability to buy votes through advertising. This election cycle they face the unthinkable: No matter who wins, they lose.
While we deplore the nasty road this year’s elections have taken, we hope it signals that people on both sides of the political aisle are fed up with having to work two jobs and spend an extra $700 on their vehicles each year due to potholes there’s no money to fix. If the electorate’s anger leads to the discovery of the nation’s real enemies, perhaps it will prove to be the turning point we so badly need to get the nation back on track to authentic Democracy.