I remember, back when I was a kid, my dad responding to a claim being made by Leftists that there were free elections in the Soviet Union. “Yeah, they have free elections,” he said. “You’re free to vote for whatever Communist is on the ballot.”
Fast-forward to America, 2016.
The Democrat and Republican parties are both working to ensure that populist candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders can never be their party nominees going into the general election. The Democrats are being quite open about it, having designated overwhelming numbers of “super delegates,” those whose job it is to back the candidate that the party elite prefer — in this case, Hillary “My speaking fees cost more than your house” Clinton. The GOP has far fewer outright super delegates, but the party leadership recently made it clear that the party chooses its own nominee, not the voters.
In keeping with this, the GOP elite are doing everything they can to ensure that Donald Trump does not meet the delegate threshold required for securing the party’s nomination on the first round of voting, after which the party convention could rapidly deteriorate into something resembling a political version of WrestleMania. They’re even floating the idea of nominating candidates who have not participated in debates or the primary process and have, as of now, zero public backing. House Speaker Paul Ryan appears to be at the top of their short list, with Mitt Romney hovering somewhere in the shadows not far behind. And while outrage appears to be steadily building amongst the rank-and-file, the sad fact of the matter is that the American people are notoriously fickle and apathetic; they let things go easily and refuse to pursue fundamental change. Undoubtedly, the elite believe that this unfortunate track record will continue, hence their boldness in declaring their intent to hold something more closely resembling a coronation than an election.
Corruption in American politics is nothing new, but it has never quite been this brazen. Essentially, what you and I want means nothing. The party bosses intend to do everything in their power to force us to support the candidate of their choice. The GOP did something similar with Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, in that party elites and their partners in the media tried to act as though he didn’t exist — and went right on promoting the daylights out of their preferred choices, thereby giving many in the public the impression that Congressman Paul wasn’t a “serious candidate.”
In politics, perception is everything. Note the difference in the 2012 and 2016 primaries. When Ron Paul won second place in New Hampshire in 2012, his victory meant nothing in the eyes of the party and the media. But when John Kasich won second in New Hampshire this past February, it was virtually a sign of the Second Coming. Why? Because Kasich is acceptable to the elites and their allies. In other words, he’s one of theirs, he plays ball. Contrast this with Donald Trump, who, in the words of Newt Gingrich, is “…an outsider, he’s not them, he’s not part of the club, he’s uncontrollable, he hasn’t been through the initiation rites, he didn’t belong to the secret society.”
Whether you like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders is not the issue here. The issue is the fact that the elite of both parties are treating the political system like their own private fiefdom and the voters like so many addle-brained serfs. In the words of former president Jimmy Carter, they have transformed America into an “oligarchy,” in which “unlimited political bribery” is “the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president.”
The question of the hour then is: Now that we’re finally getting a good look behind the curtain of this elaborately staged bit of political theater, will we allow it to continue? Will we knowingly aid and abet the elite’s formal takeover of the process?
To me, the fact that both major political parties are undergoing the same sort of unprecedented grassroots upheaval at the same time seems almost providential. It suggests that we are turning a corner as a country, that we’re being given the necessary light by which we must make a choice. The pretense is falling away. The system is being unmasked. We can no longer plead ignorance or hope the problem will work itself out in time. No, we’re staring institutionalized corruption in the face, and we must decide whether to confront it or to become its willing accomplices.
Robert Hawes is the author of One Nation Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution, as well as In Search of God: A Look at Life’s Most Essential Question. As a writer, he focuses on history, politics, science, philosophy, and faith. Originally from Northern Virginia, he now lives in South Carolina with his wife and three children. He is available for hire for freelance writing projects and may be contacted at [email protected].