Summary: Hillary is the establishment’s nominee for the Democratic ticket by virtue of seniority, dynastic succession, loyalty to the 1%, and service in the State machinery. An elderly statesman, Sanders, challenges the power of these institutions’ bureaucratic authority by a call to follow traditional authority (unlike in the GOP, where Trump’s appeals with charismatic authority) . We can only guess at what lies ahead. This is a follow-up to Max Weber explains Campaign 2016: we want a charismatic leader to restore America. Charisma in the deep sense, meaning a source of authority.
“With Hillary sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”
— Olivia Sauer, 18, a college freshman from Ames, Iowa quoted in the Feb 5 NYT.
The planned 2016 contest between Hillary and Jeb would have marked the descent of US politics into the last of Max Weber’s three forms of authority, from traditional to bureaucratic.
Republican voters appear to have successfully rebelled, with Bush polling at 4%. The Democrats still remain loyal to who they’ve been given — albeit with a strong insurgency from Sanders’ attempts to roll back the Democrat’s clock, asserting traditional authority and values.
Too see the bureaucratic nature of Hillary’s candidacy, see Jackson Lears’ review of the second volume of her autobiography, Hard Choices. It’s well-worth reading in full: it is more informative than her speeches and more revealing of how she’ll govern than any or all of her campaign’s white papers.
“The intellectual bankruptcy of the Democratic Party is nowhere more evident than in the looming presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Assumptions of the inevitability of her candidacy tend to ignore policy matters, focusing instead on her gender and her twenty years as a Washington insider. Many usually thoughtful people can find nothing more substantial to say in her favour than ‘it’s her turn.’
“…In slogging through it, one is reminded of why the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency is so dreary. … Nothing could more clearly illustrate the merger of economic and political power in the oligarchy that dominates American public life. Were Clinton to win, her victory would ensure the continuation of business as usual in Washington. The only change would be the return to power of the Clinton machine, an army of loyalists who have been milling about the capital for two decades but whose command has now shifted from Bill to Hillary. Despite their differing styles, the intent is the same: rewarding friends and punishing enemies, the latter with such precision that one of her staffers fears Hillary will come to seem little different from ‘Nixon in a pantsuit’.
“The sense of continuity is reinforced by the blizzard of worn buzzwords and market-researched phrases regurgitated by Clinton as she races round the globe…”
For those who can stand it, Joseph Lelyveld’s review at the London Review of Books provides even more evidence that Hillary is the ideal candidate for a bureaucratic President serving the 1%, equaled on the stage only by Jeb Bush.
“The book landed with a thud. It’s a stiff-jointed, careful performance, assembled by a “book team” of former and present aides from briefing papers, old speeches, town hall transcripts, and interviews.
“What we get are the highly edited reflections of a prospective candidate: part résumé, designed to reveal the depth of her immersion in global affairs and the extent of her familiarity with the world’s great and near great, scores of them (from the Empress of Japan to His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, to Bono); part rampart, designed not to reveal too much.
“… may have difficulty getting past clunky, cursory accounts of how she pulled off a thaw in relations with New Zealand or spoke up for democracy in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Kosovo. The book has few revelations, let alone pleasures. Its gazetteer notes compete with one another for lameness. (The Sinai is “famous for its role in the Bible.” Lahore is “full of fantastic Mogul architecture.” Copenhagen is “a picturesque city, full of cobblestoned streets.”)”
Alex Pareene at Gawker highlights Hillary’s role as the apparatchiks’ nominee, distant not only from the American people but also from the Democratic Party’s base. This incident also shows her lack of political skill.
“At last night’s Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton invoked an unexpected figure: Henry Kissinger. “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time,” she said, in an off-hand aside. It wasn’t an endorsement of Kissinger, or really much of anything. It was just a little brag that would have played well in a different room.
“The sort of room it would have played well in, really, is the sort of room in which the worst people in the country congregate. The fact that Clinton lapsed into speaking as if she were in that room is more or less why she’s having trouble, once again, convincing the Democratic electorate to nominate her for the presidency.
“Henry Kissinger, for the record, is a bad man, who waged a terrible and illegal war in Cambodia, supported a horrific right-wing strongman in Chile, and generally ran America’s foreign policy apparatus in the most amoral way possible, as a point of pride. However, in the bubble of elite American society, the bipartisan consensus, shared by politicians and members of the media alike, is that he’s simply a respected elder statesman.
“…Hillary Clinton exists in a world where “Henry Kissinger is a war criminal” is a silly opinion held by unserious people. Her problem? Lots of those silly and unserious people want to wrest control of the Democratic Party away from its current leadership, which is exemplified by people like Hillary Clinton.”
Hillary’s poor fit with the Democratic Party’s loyalties shows another common weakness of bureaucratic power. Not just her fondness for foreign wars, but also her lavish support from the 1% — an investment from which they probably expect larger returns.
- “Hillary Clinton’s self-satisfied privilege: Her Goldman Sachs problem helps explain the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump” by Paul Campos (Prof of Law, U CO-Boulder) at Salon — “She has a peculiar tone-deafness to how matters of class relate to her personally. It helps explain Sanders’s rise.”
- “Hillary Clinton’s artful smear: Her Goldman Sachs speaker fees matter, even if she doesn’t understand why” by David Weisberg at Salon — “Clinton made hundreds of thousands for a few speeches. She thinks the money had no effect, but it’s still corrosive.”
- “The establishment looks like this: The real reason why Clintons always push our politics to the right” by Paul Rosenberg at Salon.
- For a detailed analysis of the Clinton money machine, serving the 1% like McDonald’s serves the proles see “The Clinton System” by Simon Head (Oxford, NYU) at the New York Review of Books.
Update: Another consequence of running a candidate relying on bureaucratic authority: low voter turnout, as the NYT describes: “Beneath Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday Wins, Signs of Turnout Trouble“. People just don’t care.
But Clinton holds the high cards of institutional approval. Sanders’ insurgency has made a strong start, but faces long odds against success as the Party’s traditional sources of authority (which he represents) are even weaker than its bureaucratic ones. He’s an elderly challenger with equally tired nostrums. But no matter what outcome, this clash will create an opportunity for new forms of authority eventually to assert themselves on the Left.
“In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters,
one representing danger and the other, opportunity.”
— Speech by John Kennedy on 12 April 1959 at the Convocation of the United Negro College Fund. It’s wrong about Chinese, but right about the nature of crises.
The shift from buracratic political leaders to charismatic ones naturally accompanies the other new trend: the rise of populism.
Election 2016 offers us an opportunity to take a first small step to reforming America. This might be the beginning of a historical moment when previously fixed aspects of society come into play — open to change.
Such moments of crisis offer danger and opportunity. Each of us gets to help choose the outcome. You cannot make a difference. I cannot make a difference. Organized together we can change America. Act soon. Events are in motion, as people realize that we can select a President from outside of the establishment’s offerings.
“Although Nero’s death had at first been welcomed with outbursts of joy, it roused varying emotions, not only in the city among the senators and people and the city soldiery, but also among all the legions and generals; for the secret of empire was now revealed, that an emperor could be made elsewhere than at Rome.”
— From The Histories by Tacitus (~56 – 117 A.D.).
Other posts about Trump and the new populism
See all posts about Trump and the New Populism, especially these…
- In August I wrote The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning.
- Background: Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
- Trump’s hope: a recession might put him in the White House.
- The four keys to a possible Trump victory.
- Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary.
- Important: Max Weber explains how charismatic leaders replace bureaucratic ones.
- Hillary Clinton, the establishment’s nomination for leader of the US bureaucracy