A word that made its way into common usage this political year was “Establishment“, and it became wildly popular with both those on the right and the left to describe anyone that disagreed with them. This casual use of the word by people desperately trying to sound far more informed and educated than they clearly are robs the American people of an important word of warning that gives a name to the hissing sound of shifting wires that tug at the pliable and corrupt political system we find ourselves increasingly suffering from.
Let’s be very clear. This kind of adolescent indifference to exact definitions of words is exactly the kind of insipid behavior that conservatives have long suffered from the left and is no less insufferable when those who claim to be on the right do it. Not everyone that is rich is greedy. Not everyone that is white is a racist. And not everyone that is long tenured in government or is politically active is necessarily a member of the Establishment. Sadly, if nothing else, the 2016 presidential election has demonstrated just how pervasive this sophomoric misunderstanding of what or who the Establishment actually is has become.
The misunderstanding itself is as much a symptom of a larger and more looming problem as it is a problem in and of itself, as it demonstrates the philosophical literacy of what was once considered the right has reached toddler levels of sophistication. The larger issue is well beyond the scope of a single essay. The other, smaller, problem, one of definitions, is one we can deal with in a few hundred words, so let’s start there.
So what or who is the definition of the “Establishment“? Is this even actually a thing or no more seriously than a tin foil hat conspiracy theory of late night tabloid radio? Well, it’s real enough that it appears in the Bible.
“The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
Money, like any object or idea, can be used for good purposes as well as evil, and it is crucial to keep this in mind as we unpack the Establishment. We aren’t condemning those who have been successful in their pursuit of happiness, because acquiring wealth through honest hard work is at the very heart of the American Dream. When we’re talking about the Establishment, we’re not talking about them. Wealth alone does not make someone a member of the Establishment, but all members of the Establishment are wealthy or in some direct way benefactors of the wealthy.
Political activism is also not, by itself, an indicator of the Establishment. There are, after all, clearly people who are politically active for causes on both sides of the political aisle that are truly invested in the good of the people as their intended goals, regardless of the soundness of their ideology. So long as they see themselves as a voice among many, rich and poor, they can’t necessarily be condemned along with the Establishment. Political activism, however, is a necessary part of the Establishment’s game.
The Establishment are those that possess great wealth who then use that great wealth to acquire political influence, directly or indirectly, over and above the common people (even when they believe their goals benevolent) in order to perpetuate their wealth and political power. This has been true throughout the ages, though outside of the United States the connections between economic power and political power has a much more incestuous. Every king and petty dictator has claimed ownership of their national assets, parceling out land and resources to kin and cohorts, all in the name of perpetuating their regimes.
At the time and, to a large point, still alone in the world, the United States was founded on the simple principle that all men are moral equals, so that no one person is born politically superior to another. Even while one may be born with certain traits that may give him or her an advantage over another, both the greater and lesser are entitled to the same basic rights, no more and certainly no less. The Establishment fundamentally rejects this fundamentally liberal principle, clinging to their Dark Age aristocratic pretensions.
“Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Britain.”
-King George III-
There is a distressingly dwindling divide between economic power and political power in the United States today. For much of the history of our republic, the rich were forced to buy favors from politicians in order to exert political power only indirectly, because the people had the good sense to remain suspicious of the motives and actions of the rich. That all changed as of this last election, and the Rubicon has tragically finally been crossed.
While tremendous noise was heard about reforming a corrupt political system our president-elect freely admitted to participating in, he now surrounds himself with the same names and faces of long time political players and party loyalists. Too many are too blind or simply too ignorant to see that the Establishment may very well have staged the entire political coup on themselves, leaving us at the mercy of a narcissistic, wealthy, authoritarian Establishment influence peddler who has been pulling strings of power his entire life.
The more things change…
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