The term "anti-establishment" has become modern American politics' holy grail, capturing the imaginations of ideologues on the Left and the Right alike and hypnotizing the haunted, I mean vaunted, American press. Anti-establishment forces coalesced on both ends of the political spectrum behind Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump respectively in 2016, and the media's obsessive love affair with Trump's anti-establishment nature was a key factor in delivering the White House to the man who badly lost the popular vote.
Then came the reality of the anti-establishment being in real power - with Donald Trump being sworn in and Republicans assuming control of the entire legislative apparatus of the federal government on the hind legs of the Tea Party. Trump proceeded to stack federal departments with foxes that would be in charge of guarding their respective henhouses, instituted unconstitutional bans on travel based on religion, and created a dark cloud of fear among immigrants, documented and undocumented alike.
That would have been destructive enough to the character of our country, but all of it turned out to be small potatoes compared to a president who is not just being exposed for his Russian benefactors but whose campaign is under direct FBI investigation for collaborating with Putin to affect the result of last year's elections.
It was that same administration and that same undivided Tea-Party controlled Republican-dominated Congress that tried over the last fortnight to strip 24 million Americans of their health care coverage, and hundreds of millions more of protections that make health insurance meaningful. Even the fact that they failed spectacularly to do so was partly due to the Tea Party who believed the cruelty of the Republican proposal was simply not cruel enough.
So now, Donald Trump is left with approval ratings hovering around the ages of women he likes to grope, his first legislative test lies in ruins thanks to those in his party even more "anti-establishment" than he, and an unprecedented scandal approaching treason within the administration and more than likely within the White House itself.
This is the reality of anti-establishment. This is the reality of having no establishment that can beat back fringe ideologues inside of a political party and enforce stability and order.
As we have discussed numerous times, Donald Trump wasn't made yesterday. In their hatred of President Obama, Republicans welcomed the openly racist, outwardly violent, stridently ideological fringe within their party in an attempt to win elections. And they did win elections, thanks to the depression in turnout spearheaded by the Left's own component of ideologically strident, outwardly belligerent, and not so-subtly racist fringe that viewed President Obama as weak, his unsurpassed leadership in the face of the worst economic catastrophe in nearly a hundred years as badly insufficient, and his monumental accomplishments as compromised and impure.
But as the GOP won elections on the backs of their far-Right fringe, they only grew their destructive power. With Barack Obama sure to beat back their legislative cruelty, they passed bill after bill to strip away health care, knowing it would have no consequence except energizing their hateful base. They never learned constructive government, even as for years under President Obama they had either full or partial control of Congress. Why is it any wonder then that the destructive Tea Party that brought the GOP to the dance would refuse to accept anything short of a complete destruction of health care protections, or of the government itself?
Opposition and destruction are the only things an "anti-establishment" ideologue faction ever knows, both because of true believerism in the idea that if you burn it all down, some sort of an ideologically perfect phoenix will rise from the ashes, and because - as the Republicans have proven this past week - forging progress is incalculably more difficult than tearing it down.
Democrats were able to make progress under President Obama because we had an establishment (yes, that dreaded word) led by President Obama who beat back our own destructive ideological faction in the interest of making a difference in the lives of ordinary people. President Obama led the way with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to change course to bring America back from an economic freefall, improve health insurance and insure tens of millions of more Americans, institute the most significant re-regulation of the financial sector since FDR, and help students and workers. At each step they were told by our own "anti-establishment" ideologues that none of it was good enough, soon enough, strong enough, but they had the strength to brush it aside and move forward. And because they did, even red America went wild when Republicans tried to take away Obamacare.
And yes, because the Democrats had a fair establishment and voters who nominated the most qualified presidential candidate in history, we won 3 million more votes than the Russian agent in the White House despite Putin's meddling, the media's obsession over emails (!!!) and ideological hatred of our nominee (from both sides).
The reality of no establishment is Donald Trump and his Russian puppetmaster. The reality of no establishment is Paul Ryan and his "freedom" caucus. The reality of anti-establishment for sake of anti-establishment is chaos.
We all must ask the question: if the reality of anti-establishment for the sake of anti-establishment is Donald Trump and the Congressional GOP and the reality of a well-constructed and executed establishment is Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, which do we really want?