According to Wikipedia ‘Antiestablishmentarianism is ‘is a political philosophy that views a nation’s or society’s power structure as corrupt, repressive, exploitative, or unjust’. Is this what we are facing? Quite possibly and it is a real threat to our democracy. Power structure here is both government and private sector/corporate. The underlying origins are numerous and correlate with the contemporary issues that we are experiencing.
Antiwar. The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have been the longest in our nation’s history. Many young lives have been lost and huge amounts of money have been spent. Money that could have been spent on badly needed domestic programs. In addition the government has not been totally forthcoming about the conflicts, particularly the rational for the Iraq war. All of this has fostered huge distrust of Washington and cynicism regarding the future.
Woman’s rights and issues. Equal pay for women has been an issue for a long time. Progress has been made but very slowly. The so called ‘glass ceiling’ for women in corporate environments continues to be a source of frustration with only slow progress. We tried but failed to elect a woman President. Then there is the seeming endless string of harassment allegations and the #MeTo response. All of this engenders huge mistrust of male corporate elite, as well as our male political elite.
Financial insecurity. Despite economic growth over the last decade, the benefit seems to have accrued mainly the top of the economic ladder. Wages for most have been stagnant, creating a lot of frustration and discontent. This being the reality, political leadership only touts the growth with no apparent regard for fixing the inequality. Another example of priority on the establishment and the elite.
Race and ethnic relations. Despite decades of progress we still experience racially motivated incidents. We elected a black President but the opposition elite spent the entire term focused on obstruction – political or racial or both? Recent immigration seems to have spawned a huge amount of ethnic resentment. It is amplified under the guise of jobs and job protection. This all the while ignoring the contributions made to this country by immigrants. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants. These issues seem to suffer from a lack of open and rational discussion. The agenda is set for the benefit of the political elite and their financial supporters. It is blatant. No wonder the mistrust.
These and other issues create an environment of distrust, of feelings of discrimination and unfairness, of resentment. Is this environment how can we possibly have a healthy functional democracy? We can’t. The issues underlying antiestablishmentarianism are real and won’t magically go away. The problem is not the set of issues, it is the perception that no progress is being made to resolve the issues. Even worse is the feeling that the issues are getting worse. As with other problems we have discussed, the fix is the same – we all need to get politically active to find and support the type of representatives that we believe understand the threat and are committed to finding solutions. Just being ‘against’ candidates and policies will not be sufficient, we need to be ‘for’ and strongly supportive.
Photo by keegstra