Tuesday, March 15th is known throughout political circles as the Ides of March. The term originated more than 2,000 years ago and marks the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E., transforming the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. In a sense, we're faced with a similar situation in the current political environment. We are witnessing the end of an era in which the two major parties are desperately trying to hold on to the power they've acquired over the American public; and, it is we, the voters, who are ringing the establishment's death-knell.
The great American experiment in democracy now teeters on a knife's edge with equal chance of reestablishing progressivism or becoming an all-out oligarchy. Since the infection of the public sector by private capital under the Reagan administration, the power of the people to influence our representatives has been concentrated in ever smaller groups of moneyed interests. The United States government, once by the people and for the people, has since been permeated by career politicians concerned only with personal aggrandizement. In 2016, a new leader will be chosen to move our country forward at their discretion, and the contrast between the paths the candidates have prescribed could not be more stark.
The leftward path is being led by New-Deal Democrat, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). His progressive, populist agenda harkens back to the glory days of the post-war era, one of the greatest periods of rising standards of living in our country's history. Taxes on the wealthy and corporations were high, income inequality was low, and our national infrastructure and education systems were the envy of the world. All of it was achieved by a radical shift in public policy away from the interests of the robber-barons of the gilded age to those of the impoverished working-class. Bernie wants to lead us back to that prosperity by once again changing our national priorities to focus on the economic needs of the shrinking middle-class and underemployed working-poor. He is an authentic and forthright public servant, a quality alien to most in the modern political arena. His vision for America is one gleaned from former democratic socialists FDR, JFK and Martin Luther King Jr.
The middle path is being led by Third Way Democrat, Sec. Hillary Clinton. Hers follows in the footsteps of neoliberalism originally imprinted by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton with a twist of neoconservatism emblematic of George W. Bush. She is the embodiment of the Democratic establishment status quo, which is perpetually late to evolve on social issues and early to adopt a corporatist agenda. Hillary wants to lead us further down the road of "tranquilizing gradualism" which has meandered slowly but steadily to the right for the past 40 years. Hillary's continuous repositioning during the campaign to appeal to the progressive grassroots movement has brought into relief her duplicitous nature as well as her willingness to say anything to garner votes, leaving the public to wonder if she would ever act on her rhetoric once elected.
The rightward path is being led by Plutocratic Demagogue, Donald Trump. He has successfully hijacked the Republican Party whose electorate is so disillusioned by their own establishment they would rather have a billionaire conman represent them than anyone who's ever held elected office. His strongman persona is the spitting image of Benito Mussolini and and his hyper-xenophobic stance toward immigrants is eerily reminiscent of Adolf Hitler. He purposefully obfuscates his policy proposals, presumably to allow himself a form of despotic autonomy. His policies, which have been independently analyzed, display a level of incompetence and irrationality unseen in the history of modern politics. A racist bully and pathological liar, Donald will utilize politics of divisiveness to stoke populist anger, incite hateful bigotry and satisfy his wealthy self-interest.
Americans have a clear choice in the 2016 election: democracy or oligarchy. While there are two candidates who would lead us to the latter, one slowly and one swiftly, there is only one candidate trying to return us to the principles of democracy we have all but forgotten: one person-one vote, political activism, peaceful protest, social justice and equality of opportunity. We can make the changes our country and our people need to thrive once more so long as we continue to fight and do not give up hope. The world's first great republic, and the model for our nation's founders, started down its path to eventual collapse following the Ides of March, let us never allow our representative democracy to follow the same path.