PITTSFIELD >> Bernie Sanders is right. The political system in rigged in favor of wealthy oligarchs. But, based on the Democratic Party presidential primary results so far. not enough voters yet understand that, as matters now stand, it likely will take a political movement like the one Sanders is creating to change the system.
Howard Fineman, a veteran political journalist and television commentator, in a speech in Pittsfield several years ago, correctly called out Congress for its culpability in rigging the system. He said that its members acted like a "bunch of lobbyists" for the wealthy.
Struggling 99 percent
Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winning economist and nationally syndicated New York Times columnist, wrote that wealthy Americans benefit "hugely" from this system "rigged" in their favor. It is a system that, according to Robert Reich, a former secretary of labor and college professor, is run by an oligarchy of the wealthy.
Those who do not agree with these commentators do not have to do further research beyond noting the well-documented economic plight of the middle class. That group — the so-called 99 percent of Americans — is mired in a grip of stagnant wages, causing many to live from paycheck to paycheck, while still too many are under-employed and unemployed.
On the Democratic Party side, Sanders has made change of the rigged system the major issue in the presidential campaign. His campaign is based on leading a public movement for such change. For this he has been criticized for being an idealist without any detailed plans for dealing with Congress and getting things done in Washington.
Hillary Clinton has campaigned on the basis of having detailed plans, experience and the know-how to get things done on Capital Hill. But the federal government is in gridlock. Today, no important legislation that would involve government's progressive participation in dealing with such matters as making a college education affordable, expanding health care, equality for women, ensuring collective bargaining for labor unions, gun regulation, tax increases, and regulating Wall Street has a change of being passed by Congress as it is composed today.
Clinton and Sanders have similar views on all or most of these matters and would suffer the same legislative defeat with their similar proposals Reich has noted the one real major difference that exists between these two candidates. Clinton, he wrote, "Is the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have." But Sanders "is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he's leading a political movement for change."
Those who scoff at Sanders' call for a peaceful revolution to change a rigged political system seem to have forgotten an important part this nation's history. Many significant changes for the betterment of Americans have occurred because of periodic movements by the people to change what the nation had become to what the nation should be.
The abolitionists led the way to abolish slavery. The woman suffragettes led the way for the right of women to vote. The progressives led the way to change the old ways of dealing with what had become the exploitation of labor, price gouging and unsafe products by monopolies, and the opening of government to more citizen participation by such changes as the election of U.S. senators by a direct vote of the public and subjecting state governments to the public's right to make laws by an initiative and referendum system.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the way for a New Deal to counter the Great Depression. The civil rights movement led the way to President Lyndon B. Johnson's successful push for laws to end discrimination.
Unfortunately Sanders will likely not be a president to lead his movement because not enough Democrats have joined his enthusiastic and energetic group of followers to win the requisite number of delegates for the party's presidential nomination. This is unfortunate because as things now stand it is going to take such a movement to get rid of the gridlock and the rigged system.
But the nation's past movements for change took time to achieve their goals and I hope Sanders maintains and continues to build his movement to a point, the sooner the better, where it will have enough popular support to force a functioning government to unrig the system.
Trump isn't answer
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, a widely diverse group of primary voters, from extreme right wing conservatives, such as birthers and white supremacists to moderate conservative, long-time party members, upset with the dysfunction of the federal government, have joined to make Donald Trump their frontrunner for that party's presidential nomination.
Trump, so far, has been able to convince a majority of this group by hints, winks, nods, "dog-whistle" quips, and bombast, that based on the dint of his personality and business acumen, he can make this entire group not only happy, bur also "Make America great again."
This is not a time in America to elect a crowd pleaser to try to change a rigged political system, instead it is time for a popular movement to do it.
Robert F. Jakubowicz is a regular contributor to The Eagle.