The Problem of the Establishment

One thing that both parties have in common in this primary season is the fact that there's a sharp divide between "We, the People" populism, and the rich and powerful Washington establishment.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is leading the race by running on a populist platform based on the fact that he's not beholden to the billionaires or lobbyists, and that he's never been part of the political establishment.

And during the Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders was asked what he thought about the fact that Hillary Clinton has so many endorsements from elected Democrats across the country, and even in Vermont.

If there's one person who exemplifies why Hillary Clinton and her campaign are part of the establishment though, it's her campaign's chief financial officer, Gary Gensler.

Just to be clear, this fight between "Establishment politicians" and "Anti-establishment politicians" is nothing new in American politics.

In fact, it's a fight that's literally as old as the country itself, going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson and his Anti-Federalists fighting with the Federalists, led by John Adams.

The fight basically came down to Thomas Jefferson arguing that "We, The People" should control our own destiny, and John Adams arguing that the "rabble" could not be trusted to govern ourselves.

The Federalists supported a strong federal government that was run by the wealthy, and one that could create a national bank to grant benefits to favored businesses.

On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson worked hard to amend our Constitution with a "Bill Of Rights" that would explicitly state the natural rights of the nations' new citizens.

Jefferson wrote to Francis Hopkinson and explicitly laid out what he saw as the shortcomings of the Constitution on March 13, 1789: "I am not a federalist… What I disapproved from the first moment also, was the want of a bill of rights, to guard liberty against the legislative as well as the executive branches of the government; that is to say, to secure freedom in religion, freedom of the press, freedom from monopolies, freedom from unlawful imprisonment, freedom from a permanent military, and a trial by jury, in all cases determinable by the laws of the land.".

Most of those freedoms were eventually guaranteed on December 15, 1791 when the Bill of Rights was ratified.

But Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and the Federalists fought hard to keep one of those rights from being guaranteed: "Freedom from monopolies in commerce".

That omission represents a longstanding divide in American politics between the vested interests of the rich and powerful aristocrats - and Jefferson's vision of a more egalitarian democratic Republic elected directly by "We, the People".

And in many ways, that omission represents the biggest difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

With all the flak that Hillary Clinton has been getting about being too close to Wall Street, she's been quick to point out that Bernie Sanders voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000.

And it sounds really bad for Bernie Sanders and his campaign's promise to reign in Wall Street excesses, especially because he frequently cites his voting record as evidence of his good judgment.

But what Clinton described isn't quite the whole story, and the whole story reveals a lot about Hillary Clinton's connections to the establishment.

As Alan Pyke pointed out over at ThinkProgress: the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was a modified version of an earlier bill that Bernie had voted for in the House of Representatives.

The earlier version that Sanders had voted for would have left room for regulators to go after fraudulent uses of derivatives, but it couldn't pass the Senate.

Then, while the nation was distracted in 2000 by the recount between George W. Bush and Al Gore; Phil Gramm, Richard Ewing, and a group of Clinton White House advisers worked out a "compromise" that made it nearly impossible to regulate futures and derivatives trading.

That bill was what was snuck into the omnibus bill that Bernie Sanders and pretty much everybody else voted for because if they hadn't it would have shut down the government.

And at that time, none other than Gary Gensler was serving as Bill Clinton's Undersecretary of the United States Treasury.

During his time at the Treasury, Gensler fought hard to deregulate the banks, and he helped to draft the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, the same bill that set-up the 2008 financial disaster and that Hillary is now attempting to pin on Bernie Sanders.

Gensler's career is the definition of the government-to-private sector revolving door: he went from Goldman Sachs to the Treasury, and then from the Treasury to Strayer University, a for-profit university.

Then he went from Strayer University to Paul S. Sarbanes office, and then from Sarbanes' office to "WageWorks Inc", where he worked even while he was leading Obama's Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to

If Jefferson was uncomfortable with the idea of a federal bank because it would concentrate money and power in our federal government, it's hard to imagine what he would think about Gary Gensler's career.

And if Hillary Clinton wants voters to take her seriously about not being an "establishment" candidate, it might be time for her to cut ties with establishment revolving-door shills like Gary Gensler, who is currently the Chief Financial Officer and economic adviser to her campaign.


cccccttttt 7 years 7 weeks ago

One implication of this well done analysis:

If Hillary does win the nomination, there may be a large

crossover vote to Trump.

Being anti-establishment will be more important than other than issues.


2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 7 years 7 weeks ago

I don't know how anyone can consider Trump as an outsider. Trump has admitted to being one of the big money players purchasing our democracy. His Fascism and ownership of our government makes him part of the establishment/ruling class. "When I Call They Kiss My Ass" Trump words on 1/9/16. What am I not seeing here?

Of course calling him a Fascist would be unpolite in some circles, because the average person on the street equates the label Fascist with something very negative, much the same way they do with Bernie's Socialist label.....but wait....the mass media is constantly referring to Bernie as being a Socialist, but never Trump as being a Fascist.... we'll just call him an Oligarch and not be offensive....because 90 percent of the population will have no idea what that means.

Marsh In Florida's picture
Marsh In Florida 7 years 7 weeks ago

I'm sitting here watching the incoming votes in NH, and while watching I could not help but ponder the following question. Let me preface by saying the question arises from all those Trump supporters declaring he would be a great president, because he did so well in business. This, despite the fact that he files for bankruptcy when he feels it is necessary to cut his losses. This, despite the fact that each time he files for bankruptcy, it is We The People who get stuck with the tab.

My question is: "What would Donald Trump, the President and businessman extraordinaire, do when a well-respected Senator like Ted Cruz threatens to shut down the government?

This is a question that I hope gets asked, hopefully long before the General Election. He will have options. He could just say, "Go ahead." (Then one would have to accept by this time Trump would have learned that he can't make decisions on his own. He'd have to abide by the Constitution and negotiate with Congress.) Of course, the "Go ahead" is the equivalent of Trump, the businessman, trying to run the country like he runs his businesses. Chances are he would think nothing of defaulting on our loans. Wouldn't that be nice? (tongue stuck in cheek)

Trump states that to offset all the things he is uninformed about, unfamiliar with, etc., not to worry. He will hire the best, most brilliant experts to handle these questions for him. Doesn't that give you a warm, fuzzy feeling?

Now I'm thinking to myself as I put this matter to paper (so to speak), "Be careful what you wish for. You may get it!" If these Trump dilusionals . . . even 50% of them . . . give this question some thought and are actually swayed by it, it may make it a tad more difficult to beat some of those other "conservatives" (I think this is just another word for separatists) come November.

At the ripe old age of 73, I must admit that this is one of the most entertaining reality shows I've ever had the joy of watching. I usually don't watch them. I'm afraid they will exaserbate my dimentia. This election process from beginning to end (I see no reason to assume the antics of the candidates, personal responses from voters and lack of good questioners at both parties' debates will change in the next 9 months) should receive an Emmy right up there next to The Batchlor, The Batchlorette, Survivor, The Amazing Race, or The Biggest Loser. Yes, this is the most fun I've had watching any TV, especially Network TV, except maybe the Jon Stewart show when it was on Comedy Central on a cable network.

Marsh In Florida's picture
Marsh In Florida 7 years 7 weeks ago

Well said!

Willie W's picture
Willie W 7 years 7 weeks ago

Trump is going to take care of Trump. Remember, he's a business man first. Can't change your stripes. He is not going to do anything that would hurt his business ventures, and so by default, he will be protecting all the wealthy. Remember, he doesn't like to lose.

ginico55's picture
ginico55 7 years 7 weeks ago

I still stand by Hillary, I don't believe that Bernie will stand a snowballs chance in hell of being able to get anything even on the House Floor of the Republican House of Representatives. He has preached these same things for years and what has he accomplished in the Senate on moving anything to a vote.

ginico55's picture
ginico55 7 years 7 weeks ago

I don't think so. By election time, all of the things that the right has tried to use against Hillary will be resolved. No FBI indictment, the email will be shown for what it is, the same thing that previous people like Powell and Rice, who now have emails that also were classified after the fact. Hillary is the best prepared person in the whole bunch to be President . . . that's why the right will continue to spend billions against her. Bernie doesn't stand a snowballs chance in hell to get any of his promises even to the floor of the House. We have been trying to get something done on healthcare evern since the Truman administration, the ACA, broke that ceiling, and Bernie thinks the Republicans are going to roll over for single payer! Come on, people, think about it. He discards ACA, for single payer and he thinks that Republicans will play nice on YET ANOTHER debate on healthcare.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 7 years 7 weeks ago

Much of the liberal media spent 2015 in overdrive, trying to sell Hillary Clinton as a "progressive." Clinton has a long, solid record of support for the right wing agenda, so I guess people simply need to draw their own conclusions about this media.

I'll probably vote for Sen. Sanders, but I think we need to reconsider sticking a "democratic socialist" button on him. Democratic socialism does, in fact, include a system of poverty relief for the jobless poor and the unemployable. Sen. Sanders used to speak out powerfully about the need for legitimate poverty relief programs, but that doiesn't sell to todays middle class campaign donors. Dem. socialists would be the first to point out that our poverty crisis is the result of the serious shortcomings of our deregulated capitalism. Sen. Sanders removed poverty from his priorities. Does this mean that he now believes our system is so successful that everyone is able to work, there are jobs for all, therefore no need for poverty relief?

I also hope (though don't expect) that Sen. Sanders will be asked to clarify his position on Social Security. Sanders (and Democrats overall) used to demand protecting Social Security in whole. Social Security provides retirement, disability and survivors' insurance. The Clinton admin., was the first to begin "reforming" Social Security, targeting the disabled. Tonight, Sen. Sanders vowed to protect Social Security retirement and, very specifically, disability for veterans. Does this indicate his intent to dump the disabled who aren't veterans? We don't know, and with November on our minds, that's a problem.

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 7 years 7 weeks ago

On what policies do you support Clinton? Her support for NAFTA/TPP? Her views on war, poverty, our legal/prison system...?

DHBranski's picture
DHBranski 7 years 7 weeks ago

Well, in Gore vs. Bush, the poor (and those who oppose Dem. laissez faire capitalism) voted third party or withheld their votes, and the middle class picked Bush. Twice. The poor, etc., won't vote for Clinton. Keep in mind that the middle class has fallen below 50% of the population, and that Dems (and liberals) only more deeply alienated the poor.

RLTOWNSLEY's picture
RLTOWNSLEY 7 years 7 weeks ago

DHBranski; Good points, the Middle Class has taken a big hit and is now questioning the Reagan inspired Trickle Down economy that the Neoliberal Democrat Leadership has been promoting since the middle eighties. Bill Clinton, the poster child for the Democrat Neoliberal Leadership, has long promoted the so-called free trade policies like NAFTA & CAFTA since the early nineties, policies that have long been viewed by Thom as SHAFTA for all American Workers and their families ! Sanders and I are close to the same age which means we have had the pleasure of living in an earlier America where families enjoyed a living wage existence and as one reporter printed in the mid-sixties, their are good jobs for everyone with real benefits and the only reason for anyone being unemployed is that they just don't want to work ! Now even the college grads who had to mortgage their futures to get a living wage job are increasingly being shone the door as they are replaced by low wage H1B foreign workers or foreign based highly educated talent doing business on the Internet. Foreign Talent that is increasingly being trained to fill the needs of American Business by American Universities who have established foreign branches in key foreign cities. To say that the American worker has been sold down the river to benefit the increased profitability of American Capitalists is in no way a stretch of the imagination !

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 7 weeks ago

Trump says he's not part of the political establishment. Of course he is! He's the very backbone of it, he funds it!

He bragged about how he bought so many politicians who can never contradict him or say or do anything or even think anything that might upset him. Follow the money to the top of the political establishment and you'll find Donald Trump and some others.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 7 weeks ago

Ginico, that's why we need the "political revolution". It's not enough to elect a good president, Congress has to change too. Ted Cruz will get even more through Congress as currently constituted and that's what scares me about him and Hillary.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 7 weeks ago

Hillary's a DINO.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 7 years 7 weeks ago

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"Thom Hartmann is a literary descendent of Ben Franklin and Tom Paine. His unflinching observations and deep passion inspire us to explore contemporary culture, politics, and economics; challenge us to face the facts of the societies we are creating; and empower us to demand a better world for our children and grandchildren."
John Perkins, author of the New York Times bestselling book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
From Screwed:
"If we are going to live in a Democracy, we need to have a healthy middle class. Thom Hartmann shows us how the ‘cons’ have wronged this country, and tells us what needs to be done to reclaim what it is to be American."
Eric Utne, Founder, Utne magazine
From Cracking the Code:
"No one communicates more thoughtfully or effectively on the radio airwaves than Thom Hartmann. He gets inside the arguments and helps people to think them through—to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."
to understand how to respond when they’re talking about public issues with coworkers, neighbors, and friends. This book explores some of the key perspectives behind his approach, teaching us not just how to find the facts, but to talk about what they mean in a way that people will hear."