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The Volcanic Core Fueling the 2016 Election


The Volcanic Core Fueling the 2016 Election

Robert Reich

Not a day passes that I don’t get a call from the media asking me to compare Bernie Sanders’s and Hillary Clinton’s tax plans, or bank plans, or health-care plans.

I don’t mind. I’ve been teaching public policy for much of the last thirty-five years. I’m a policy wonk.

But detailed policy proposals are as relevant to the election of 2016 as is that gaseous planet beyond Pluto. They don’t have a chance of making it, as things are now.


"... these days, nothing of any significance is feasible and every bold idea is a recipe for gridlock. This election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the choke hold of big money on our political system."

Reich is correct, and i'll be voting for Sanders. But it's important also to recognize, that Sanders is attempting to jump-start this "political revolution" because there is no effective national movement threatening that big-money chokehold.

It's exciting to pin hopes on Sanders' campaign, which risks disappointment if the (still-likely) outcome is a Clinton nomination.

We all need to be building such a chokehold-breaking movement, with or without a "champion" presidential candidate. Building a strong movement against the rampant power of the looting class, only empowers such a candidate.


Einstein would give you a head's-up, Mr. Reich. This brief analysis falls right in sync with the genius' admonishment that "No problem could be SOLVED at the level of thinking that brought it about." Hillary certainly does argue for the status quo. And you managed to say what needed to be said while also delivering a huge compliment to this Woman of The Power Establishment.

Good stuff:

"This election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the choke hold of big money on our political system.

"I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have.

"But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.

"The upcoming election isn’t about detailed policy proposals. It’s about power – whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well."


I am reprinting Mr. Reich's very wise and apt reference to the Page and Gilens Study (and its revelations) because it flies in the face of all those commentators who insist that the pubic doesn't care. They take--as evidence--what is kept OFF the radar and OUT of policy and blame those fighting for these important things FOR the corruption (in the form of empowered Establishment Forces) that works assiduously to prevent any genuinely positive changes from taking place:

"A study published in the fall of 2014 by Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page reveals the scale of the challenge.

"Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.

"Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy.”

"Instead, lawmakers respond to the moneyed interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

"It’s sobering that Gilens and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002, before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in its “Citizens United” and “McCutcheon” decisions. Their study also predated the advent of super PACs and “dark money,” and even the Wall Street bailout.

"If average Americans had a “near-zero” impact on public policy then, their impact is now zero."

So, when Judy Woodruff lies to listeners insisting that the public didn't want a single payer health care system... it's bogus.

And when pro-surveillance outfits and/or the MIC argue that citizens WANT to be spied on and support everything from torture to foreign wars of aggression, these are specious arguments.

Big Brother writes policy and AFTER THE FACT decrees that it's what citizens "must have wanted" because that's what exists. It's a new version of "Divine Right of King."


"to bankroll campaigns.". The need for 'campaign funds' in the internet age should be negligible. If the U.S. had an independent, non-partisan, statutory electoral authority it could provide a web-hub where each candidate or party could have space to put up whatever they wanted in support of their campaign to be elected - text, photos, videos none of which require expensive professional equipment (and crews) anymore. Voters could inform themselves accordingly (or not.)

It would however entail a ban on all other media being used for political advertising and a ban or at least a cap on 'donations' to candidates. (In some countries the Electoral Authorities reimburse candidates for out-of-pocket expenses depending on how many votes they received.)

Of course any such scheme would then mean that the whole idea would be challenged as 'unconstitutional' - (in breach of the 1st amendment.) Be that as it may, until electoral campaigning is 'de-professionalised' and money is removed as much as possible from the equation of who is chosen to govern, nothing significant is going to change.

How to go about it? One possible avenue to examine is the success a century ago of the Anti-saloon League (allied with other temperance forces, especially the Woman's Christian Temperance Union) which not only managed to get nationwide laws enacted prohibiting the sale of alcohol but also managed to change the constitution - all in an age before 'social media' and where public speaking and limited printed material was the only counter to information controlled by media proprietors.
. (An examination of the career of Pauline Sabin and her role in getting prohibition reversed would also be informative as to tactics.)


A friend who has worked at big city daily newspapers his entire career told me that the only revenue source big enough to keep most daily newspapers afloat is revenue from campaign ads every two years. TV networks and stations make even more money than newspapers on campaign ads.

The media itself may be the biggest obstacle to establishing the 21st century election program that you so clearly describe.


They like everyone, didn't see the internet coming and are of course, all part of the problem.


Damn, Professor Bob, you nailed it good! We citizens, together, I really think this time, (like I've said a few too many times before, lol), will workin' folks will re-take our rightful position as the governing authority of these here United States. Understanding that our land is only part of the greater expanse of wild lands from the Pacific to the Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans and down to Mexico and farther south to the Southern Ocean - it was once a great uninterrupted Commons, so wild, so beautiful - occupied by millions of people living sustainably off the land and waters. Today, we live with what remains of this former paradise. As renters and owners, we know so little of this past - of these days past, when, certainly, a crime took place. The stolen land, it turns out, became our first uniquely American tradition, real estate invention:good ol' "private property". But I digress. Thanks again Dr. Reich.


Radical solutions are the only solutions that will work now. To embrace anything else is to say we willingly consign most of humanity and the Earth to suffering and violent death, and to do that is to make the blowback terrorism of the last 20 years look like a cricket match.

This tired meme of Clinton's fitness is absurd. Clinton's ability to "push" her right wing agenda through an extreme right wing-controlled Congress has nothing to do with Clinton or her abilities. A monkey could do it. But maneuvering an agenda through that will actually help us survive climate catastrophe... Clinton can't do that because she doesn't know what that is. She doesn't believe in it and her inextricable ties to the banking and other industries that can't survive our survival mean that even if she did believe in it she couldn't try to get any such program passed. She's moved to the left as needed in a primary against someone more popular to the left of her. Big surprise. She'll follow whatever winds she and her advisors think will get her elected, and then like Obama gosh, another surprise, will turn out to be a center-right employee like most of Congress.

It doesn't matter who we elect as President if we don't also rise up enough to either wipe Congress clean of everybody to the right of Dennis Kucinich or force the current members to do what we want and need, and not what they and their corporate owners want. No president has the power to get anything real through this Congress without our force behind him or her and a radical change in the consciousness of the US citizenry over climate and ecology, inequality and democracy, and corporate power and media. Clinton will never, ever do what we need no matter what the circumstances. Sanders will do it if we force him and make it possible in Congress.


I enjoy your work very much and Campaign for America's Future is wonderful - thank you!

And you're right that Bernie is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have. But I completely disagree that Hillary is most qualified for president of the political system we now have. Bernie is the one for that. Hillary's many wrong positions demonstrate that we can't afford to have her as president.

You're a long time friend and I think you've tried hard in this piece to let her down easily in a graceful way. Friends should be loyal - unless the stakes are high.. And they sure are now.

Thank you.


Thank for for your critique,this is so obvious to any average american ,to bad the corporate media fail to address these issues in a meaningful way.

Hillary Clinton voted to invade a country that never attacked the US. And today thousands have been devastated by this choice.

Hillary Clinton takes over $200.000 for each speech she gave to banks----every average american knows this is a bribe-they are paying for influence.-----Sanders makes this an issue and Clinton calls it a personal attack.

Here is the real question of the day--What is Obama telling Sanders?


Typical Reich. Cogent, perceptive, educational and positive. Among the many reasons he should be in Bernie's Cabinet.


Well said, once more, Mr Reich. As always, you tell it like it is.

Sadly, though, it won't make any difference: even if Sanders is elected to the White House, he'll need two fundamental conditions to be present.

First he'll need a larger percentage of the population to vote, probably over 70%. Second, if elected, he'll need a majority in both houses to have any chance of avoiding persistent and pernicious gridlock; that's where the real power is, anyway.

Quite frankly, that's way too much for the American people to achieve now.


You dismiss the power of the people to affect politics. From the minute Bernie gets elected, the gridlock in Washington becomes less rigid and far more ramshackle. Politicians will be scrambling to recreate themselves as 'new and improved' versions of themselves in preparation for the mid term elections. They will try to make it appear like they were always more progressive but it just didn't look that way...lol.

There will be gridlock but it will become riskier and riskier as the months go by as the public who is sick and tired of these politicians push back for the first time. If Bernie gets in then prepare for a new crop of politicians (more progressive ones too) getting in through the door he will have opened.