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Defining a Dirty Word: Establishment

Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor
Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor

In the United States, politics is often, if not always, divisive. Those in positions of power typically define and divide people into groups based on ideology, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, cultural origin, etc. While this is done for various reasons, separating people into groups enables those in power to maintain their dominance by dividing and conquering the populace. By keeping people focused on what are often inconsequential differences, those in power are able to offer small incremental changes to policies that do not threaten the overall system, thus maintaining their control.

In spite of the divisiveness, there are a few words that commonly describe those in power across the political spectrum. One such word currently used more commonly in Republican circles is "establishment." Calling somebody part of the establishment is generally intended as a pejorative insult, rarely used without negative connotation, and for good reason. So, what is the establishment? Why is it important? What makes somebody part of it?

In simple terms, the establishment is a group of people who currently hold power and seek to maintain that power by controlling our nations public and private institutions. A recent study by Princeton and Northwestern universities has reached the conclusion that although the US is structured as a constitutional republic with democratically elected leaders, it actually functions as a pluralistic oligarchy, where the desires of the elite and special interest groups prevail over those of the voting public (article). The oligarchy is pluralistic in the sense that small but different groups of powerful people control different sectors of society, yet nearly all of them seek to exert control and maintain power through common government influence.

Why is this important? The US constitution is supposed to grant everyone a level playing field with liberty and equality under the law. The establishment seeks to subvert the constitution by giving themselves undue advantages not available to the general public. Legislative examples of these advantages include targeted private sector subsidies, bailouts, anti-competitive regulatory legislation and preferential treatment when awarding government contracts. This favoritism enriches establishment interests with public tax dollars or gives them competitive advantages over others in the market, allowing them to use their profits to continually reinvest in the system of corruption.

To maintain control, the establishment uses many different tactics. On the electoral front, the establishment seeks to suppress grassroots participation that does not serve their agenda through party rule changes, election participation requirements and other exclusionary policies. On the media front, voters are constantly fed biased hand-crafted coverage designed to shape a narrative that protects establishment interests. In the education sector, curricula, like common core, are structured to prepare students for participation in the work force, not to promote critical thinking, and by extension, questioning established norms or challenging authority. In big business, it is not only seen as normal, but desirable to do everything possible to turn the wheels of power to create competitive advantages, the free market be damned.

So, what makes somebody "establishment?" Being part of the establishment is incredibly simple; one must simply seek to maintain the interests of those exerting unjust power in any given sector of society by supporting their agenda. Whether it's a politician taking campaign money from lobbyists and special interest groups in return for political favors, or the political activist who supports said politician, both are part of the establishment. Unfortunately, many well-meaning, otherwise intelligent people are part of the establishment without even knowing it. Many of them simply do not understand that the policies or candidates they promote typically mask their true intentions and support the very system they fecklessly set out to change.

Recently, the battle between the establishment and the people has been openly fought in the Republican party. The differences between the factions are stark. Establishment Republicans claim to be pro business instead of pro free markets. Establishment Republicans support needless foreign intervention to increase spending for their military benefactors. Establishment Republicans seek big government security and surveillance in place of individual freedom and liberty. Establishment Republicans are defenders of the oligarchy, instead of the constitution.

I commonly see people who take part in the establishments' agenda insisting that there is no such thing as the establishment. They posit that anybody who is currently serving in elected office is part of their group. They insist they are no different than anybody else and that we should all unify as a party regardless of policy or candidate. They are wrong.

Down with the establishment.

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