Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?
I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.
A Democratic operative I’ve known since the Bill Clinton administration told me ‘now that she’s won the nomination Hillary is moving to the middle. She’s going after moderate swing voters’.
Presumably that’s why she tapped Tim Kaine to be her vice president.
Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.
In fairness Hillary is only doing what she knows best.
Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 – signing legislation on welfare reform – crime – trade and financial deregulation that enabled him to win reelection in 1996 and declare ‘the era of big government’ over.
In those days a general election was like a competition between two hot-dog vendors on a boardwalk extending from right to left.
Each had to move to the middle to maximize sales. (If one strayed too far left or right the other would move beside him and take all sales on rest of the boardwalk.)
But this view is outdated.
Nowadays it’s the boardwalk versus the private jets on their way to the Hamptons.
Hatred of the establishment is the political force of our times.
But will anybody now own up to being in charge?
In a recent laudatory newspaper profile of Boris Johnson the Leave campaign’s leading spokesman was described as fighting ‘the forces of the establishment’.
The newspaper which saw fit to describe the old Etonian MP and former mayor of London this way was that nest of chippy radicals – the Daily Telegraph.
These days even the establishment is anti-establishment.
Two weeks ago, Iain Duncan Smith – Conservative MP – former lieutenant in the British army – until recently a cabinet minister – also complained about the establishment in the course of an address to the members of a private club in Belgravia.
Jeremy Corbyn rose to the Labour leadership because his supporters believed him to be the only politician with the integrity to take on the country’s ruling class.
The journalist Owen Jones has written a popular book called simply The Establishment, in which he pins the blame for the country’s troubles on a largely unaccountable self-serving clique whose members rule Whitehall – the City – the law and the media.
It is traditional for the left to decry the establishment but these days the right also rages against the machine.
Nigel Farage – stockbroker, alumnus of Dulwich College – has built a successful political career on his anti-establishment credentials.
Across the Channel Marine Le Pen is doing something similar.
Hatred of the establishment is one of the few unifying forces in an age of polarisation.
Anti-establishment leaders from either end of the ideological spectrum pay coy tribute to one another.
In America both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have achieved outrageous success by running against their respective party establishments.
A perennial aspect of human society is the tendency of the majority to rally around antipathy to an out-group – or enemy within – whether it’s witches communists or immigrants.
It is an oddity of the current moment that the out-group is the in-group.