The seven stages of establishment backlash


Glenn Greenwald writes that when seriously challenged, the political party establishments react in ways that are similar to the stages of grief, with the relevant stage being proportional to the degree of fear about the strength of the challenge. He lists seven such stages and provides links to elaborate on each.

STAGE 1: Polite condescension toward what is perceived to be harmless…

STAGE 2: Light, casual mockery as the self-belief among supporters grows…

STAGE 3: Self-pity and angry etiquette lectures directed at supporters upon realization that they are not performing their duty of meek surrender, flavored with heavy doses of concern trolling…

STAGE 4: Smear the candidate and his supporters with innuendos of sexism and racism by falsely claiming only white men support them…

STAGE 5: Brazen invocation of right-wing attacks to marginalize and demonize, as polls prove the candidate is a credible threat…

STAGE 6: Issuance of grave and hysterical warnings about the pending apocalypse if the establishment candidate is rejected, as the possibility of losing becomes imminent…

STAGE 7: Full-scale and unrestrained meltdown, panic, lashing-out, threats, recriminations, self-important foot-stomping, overt union with the Right, complete fury…

He then compares the situation in the UK, where the establishment has reached level seven in response to Jeremy Corbyn, to the US, where the response to Bernie Sanders is currently at level five but is likely to rise higher if the Sanders challenge gains even greater strength.

He concludes:

People in both parties, and across the political spectrum, are disgusted by the bipartisan D.C. establishment. It’s hardly mysterious why large numbers of adults in the U.S. want to find an alternative to a candidate like Clinton who is drowning both politically and personally in Wall Street money, who seems unable to find a war she dislikes, and whose only political conviction seems to be that anything is justifiably said or done to secure her empowerment — just as it was hardly a mystery why adults in the U.K. were desperate to find an alternative to the craven, war-loving, left-hating Blairites who have enormous amounts of blood stained indelibly on their hands.

But the nature of “establishments” is that they cling desperately to power, and will attack anyone who defies or challenges that power with unrestrained fervor. That’s what we saw in the U.K. with the emergence of Corbyn, and what we’re seeing now with the threat posed by Sanders. It’s not surprising that the attacks in both cases are similar — the dynamic of establishment prerogative is the same — but it’s nonetheless striking how identical is the script used in both cases.

On the NPR program Here and Now yesterday the host interviewed former Democratic senate majority leader Tom Daschle and former Republican senate majority leader Trent Lott about their book that bemoans that lack of civility in congress now unlike back in their day when they could ‘reach across the aisle, and appeals to both parties to work together for the common good like they say they did.

While they pretend that they are elder statesmen, the fact is that these two are political hacks who, when they got kicked out of Congress, transitioned easily into lobbying careers. While in office, their idea of the ‘common good’ largely consisted of serving the needs of the wealthy. These two did not let disagreements over social issues prevent them from smoothly (or as they would like to describe it civilly) greasing the skids for the oligarchy. They rue the fact that now the anti-establishment insurgent forces in both parties are making it hard for the pro-oligarchy establishment to get the things that their corporate masters want to see done, which no doubt hurts their lobbying practice too.

This kind of lobbying bipartisan tag team is becoming common. Lee Fang discusses how Howard Dean and Newt Gingrich have formed a similar partnership, and the extent to which Dean has sold out.

‘Bipartisanship’ is what the beltway establishment idolizes, along with ‘moderates’ and ‘centrism’ and ‘civility’. These are code words to not rock the boat but to keep things as they always were so that the same people who have been benefiting from the current system can continue to do so.

Comments

  1. says

    whose only political conviction seems to be that anything is justifiably said or done to secure her empowerment

    I <3 Greenwald.

    I just wish Hunter Thompson were alive to write about the Trump campaign, or to go out to hang out with the Bundy clan and bring us back his feverish nightmares about the experience. ((sigh))

  2. brucegee1962 says

    BethC:

    Actually, the Republicans seem to be past stage 7 and into stage 8: abject surrender. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that on the Dem side too, if Hillary starts to look unelectable.

    One thing that interests me is how many Trump supporters claim they voted for Obama — no doubt attracted mainly by the “Change” motto of no more business as usual, which is pretty much the only thing Trump and Obama share. Maybe the pattern here is that desperate voters started as Democrats but felt the party let them down, switched to the Tea Party but felt the Republicans let them down too, and now are seeking out the most extreme candidates on both sides because they are SO desperate for someone to help them.

    Which is kind of the way Democracy is supposed to work, actually. When the minority become too powerful, the majority theoretically have the power to stage a political revolution as an alternative to an actual revolution. It may not be pretty, but it’s more or less a feature, not a bug.

  3. laurentweppe says

    Glenn Greenwald writes that when seriously challenged, the political party establishments react in ways that are similar to the stages of grief, with the relevant stage being proportional to the degree of fear about the strength of the challenge.

    That works only for the left: for the right, you must add step 8:
    Craven capitulation before the demagogue in the hope that he’ll reward their newfound submission with lavish positions in the bureaucracy

  4. says

    unlike back in their day when they could ‘reach across the aisle, and appeals to both parties to work together for the common good like

    Fantasy, all of it. Politicians now are no more or less venal, corrupt, and uncooperative than they were then. “Back in their day” includes Tip O’Neil, then Newt Gingrich, and who the fuck cares to list how many others. They’re all assholes. One of the things I despise is an asshole who hangs out with a group of assholes and then eventually runs away from the group, pointing back over their shoulder, “assholes!”

  5. StevoR says

    @ ^ Marcus Ranum : So what would you rather that (supposed in-your-opinion) “asshole” does then? Stick with the other assholes keeping on being an asshole and /or then doesn’t call them out as assholes if / when they leave? Assholes can’t change their minds and become not-assholes at times?

    Does it not occur to you that even if you think someone is sometimes – or even often – an asshole there just might also be moments when they aren’t being assholes and might be worth listening to as well?

    I’d say it’d be fair to despise people who don’t learn and don’t change their views according to the evidence and who won’t look at the evidence of what others – even those who they think are assholes – are saying.

    But then, what would I know? You probably (& if so very wrongly) think I’m an asshole too. (Hint : Actually I know quite a lot about quite a lot even if I don’t always agree with your opinions. Thing is, I know the same applies to you and others here who I disagree with. You?)

    Besides, aside from the zoologically obvious, how do you objectively define who is an “asshole” anyhow?

  6. StevoR says

    PS. Off topic sorry but ManoSingham – Caught any of the India vs Australia ODI cricket series? If so, what do you think?

  7. StevoR says

    STAGE 4: Smear the candidate and his supporters with innuendos of sexism and racism by falsely claiming only white men support them…

    &

    He then compares the situation in the UK, where the establishment has reached level seven in response to Jeremy Corbyn, to the US, where the response to Bernie Sanders is currently at level five ..

    Er, were Sanders and Corbyn actually accused of being sexists and racists? By who and when and how widely? Plus with what evidence and was it reasonable to do so or not? I must have missed it if so. (Okay, there was something about Sanders vs some Black Lives Matters activist but not sure that’s quite the same thing.)

    their book that bemoans that lack of civility in congress now unlike back in their day when they could ‘reach across the aisle, and appeals to both parties to work together for the common good like they say they did.

    Um, like the hyper-partisanship of the Bill Clinton presidency when the Republicans were trying to impeach the POTUS and shut down the govt over a stained blue dress and consensual affair? Those good old days? Seriously?

  8. Mano Singham says

    As I said in my post, if you click on the link to the Greenwald article, you will find that he gives links to support his claims.

  9. Mano Singham says

    StevoR,

    As to your other comment about the stained blue dress, that just reinforces my point. Such fights are political theater. They do not affect the oligarchy in the least, just like issues such as abortion, guns, contraception, sex, gays, god, and so on. They serve to titillate the public and give the impression that the two parties are deeply antagonistic thus enabling them to hide the reality that they both quietly serve their common masters of the oligarchy.

  10. lorn says

    It might serve to place his commentary in context by remembering that Jeremy Corbyn is not expected by many of the serious political observers to last long. It was a fluke, series of political meltdowns and failures, that he got into office. Expectation is that he will be unable to translate his optimistic reformer tone of reform into deliverables for the people who voted for him. Being king of the political hill without a political party to function as a mechanism to make the changes proposed is to be a useless figurehead. Which will rapidly translate into an object of ridicule and a very much shorter political career.

    But what does this have to do with the presidential race in the US? Bernie could become an isolated figurehead and object of ridicule. Given the most favorable electoral outcome mathematically possible the GOP will still have enough members to shut him down. All they have to do is march in lockstep and say no. Coincidentally that is exactly what the Republicans are best at.

    You could lose very badly in the longer run by getting everything you want in the short run.

    Politics is a system, you have to work the system to gain enough power to change the system. Democrats have to wake up and realize that we are not, and have not been, winning. The last fifty years has been a near perfect record of failure on the electoral front for the Democratic party. Winning the presidency, and every seat mathematically possible in both house of congress, would just be a good start. At this point it doesn’t confer any real transfer of power. Not if the GOP maintains unity and sticks to saying no.

  11. BethC says

    @lorn

    Bernie’s been a politician for a long time, so he’s been working within the system for many years. I expect he would fail at implementation of ALL of his policy objectives, but I also expect him to attempt far more than anyone else would, including Obama. Attempting more may or may not translate to achieving more, but I have been very disappointed by what Obama has attempted in the last 7 years, so I’m ready for someone like Bernie to set higher goals.

    Also, the the GOP seems to be disintegrating. I don’t think unity is something they can pull off anymore.

  12. StevoR says

    For clarity, my comment #13 was directed at #11 Mano Singham about the links. Puzzled as to how my comment somehow got shifted from being #12 originally to later given the respective time-stamps with my comment being earlier by nearly 30 minutes. Wonder what happened there?

    Anyhow, I’ve checked those hypertext links now and found :

    STAGE 4: Smear the candidate and his supporters with innuendos of sexism and racism (1) by falsely claiming (2) only white men support them (you like this candidate because he’s white and male like you (3), not because of ideology or policy or contempt for the party establishment’s corporatist, pro-war approach). (5)

    From the Glenn Greenwald article linked in the OP – italics = hypertext link in the original article. (Original italicisation removed for clarity.) Brackets and numbers added for ease of reference.

    1) Refers to Corbyn compared to a similar Left wing candidate but a black woman who did a lot worse and suggests sexism and racism may play some role in explaining why that is. It also notes sexism and racism are prevalent throughout society with the Labour party being no exception and I don’t think it argues that Corbyn supporters are particularly sexist or racist. I wouldn’t call it a “smear” type article.

    2) Is a quote from a Ben Riley Smith guy again about Corbyn saying “Corbyn gets huge backing from Labour women” with a demographic breakdown showing this to be so. In the right hand side of the same screen below a quote by Modi is a quote by Bernie Sanders that “When you tell a woman that she can not control her own body, that’s extremism.” Nice quote but also a counter example as far from being a smear that Bernie is sexist it is evidence of the exact opposite.

    3) Is an opinion piece on a strawman / anecdotal annoying “Berniebro”character who supports Sanders with one -eyed zeal and seems an exaggerated white and young caricature . Okay I’ll grant that this one is indeed an actual example at least of a smear on Bernie Supporters although not the candidate himself.

    4) Seems to start as an attack on Hillary Clinton saying her audience is too heavily female and accusing her of just playing the gender card noting what I think is a pretty fair point about one of Sanders comments about Hillary supposedly “shouting” reinforcing negative anti-feminist gender stereotypes. This piece by Amanda Marcotte then goes on to also note with photographic evidence that certain crowds of public Sander’s supporters tend to be male contrasting with certain crowds of Clinton supporters. Okay, that’s a generalisation from particular photos and anecdotal material contradicted somewhat in (3) and also in the article itself where it notes :

    Sanders supporters are a diverse crowd, but as Suzy Khimm of the New Republic notes, a huge amount of his support comes from an Internet-savvy, cantankerous crowd of young men. It’s a crowd that’s already swapping conspiracy theories about a media plot against their candidate, as Khimm writes ..

    (Bolding added.)

    A quote from another article then supports that claim of conspiracy thinking and attacks on Clinton by Sander’s supporters. As with (1) this seems a pretty fair and reasonable piece raising some good points and evidence and not a smear to me.

    5) Is an attempted rebuttal of the Marcotte piece using polling data which I always take with a few big rocks of halite. Polling after all can be unreliable, push polling and fluctuates a lot depending on exact time, groups, etc .. So, yeah, not something I find overpoweringly convincing. However, even the first poll used – from October 2015 – showing there actually isn’t that much of a gap in gender support with 3% more women supporting Hillary Clinton and 2% more men supporting Bernie Sanders. The margin of error isn’t given but it looks pretty even and if anything slightly supporting the case Marcotte made. The anti-Marcotte piece here then claims and supports a case for the demographic breakdown being one of age with more young people supporting Sanders. Even there it has to observe that : “Clinton wins among all groups, but it’s clear that Sanders support is coming from young people.” Fair observation although i’m not sure it makes any sort of case that Sander’s is sexist or racist or has much to do with that or smearing him as such at all. If so, its certainly too subtle for me.

    Finally, this Jacobin item does – implicitly attacking Marcotte’s “punditry” – call for serious “takes” “.. to understand why Sanders is managing to pull down so much youth support or why Clinton is managing to attract so many black voters.” I think that last question has the rather obvious answer that Bill Clinton was famously described as the first black President and very popular with them and so there’s the association there. As well, I’d presume, as causative factors including Hillary’s past policies and statements and work and perhaps their contrast with Sander’s apparent clash with the Black Lives Matter activists many months ago.

    Summing up then we have 5 linked articles of which, I think, only one – the “Berniebro” supporter caricature (3) really strongly supports the claim of smearing of sexism and racism against Corbyn and Sanders. The initial Corbyn electoral comparison (1) and Marcotte’s article (4) both struck me as pretty reasonable, balanced and fair assessments making good points and the anti-Marcotte poll driven piece (5) and the quotes (2) contradicted the supposed not really shown “smears” and directly opposed them providing evidence of the opposite being reality.

    So, whilst it may or may not be the case that Sanders and Corbyn have been smeared as Greenwald claims, I don’t find his linked evidence for it terribly convincing. Folks individual milages may no doubt will, of course, vary.

  13. StevoR says

    ^Argh! Typo fix in the link (4) section :

    “Okay, that’s a generalisation from particular photos and anecdotal material contradicted somewhat in (3 (2) and also in the article itself .. “

    I meant that to be referring to the quotes refuting claims of sexism obviously NOT the “Berniebro” socio-political caricature. The anti-Marcotte poll-piece (5) also contradicts that as does Marcotte’s article (4) itself as quoted above.

  14. lorn says

    There are profound limits on what a president can do. If you want performance you need strong majorities in the House and Senate. There is no conceivable way any Democrat will have those even if everything that can go right, does go right. Assuming they don’t start resigning insignificant numbers or offing themselves it doesn’t matter is the GOP disintegrates. Only so many Republicans are up for election.

    Most likely Democrats gain a slim, and, being Democrats, a not entirely reliable, majority in the Senate. Less than that in the House. As long as the remainder hang tough and consistently say no they can block anything the Democrats do. No Democrat under those conditions would be able to advance much of a agenda.

    In prior decades there were mechanisms by which a president could persuade obstinate opponents. He could offer earmarks or threaten to remove government offices or military bases. There were always carrots and sticks that could be used. None of those options remain.

    Outside rhetoric and bluster from the bully pulpit, and decrees and executive actions, the presidency is entirely dependent on congress to get things done. Cruz may be confused as to whether pens have erasers but he has a point. Executive actions are easy to reverse, and, quite often, easy to block through the courts. Particularly since the courts have been systematically stuffed by the GOP for fifty years.

    If progressives want real, substantial, and lasting change they/we need to put a whole lot more effort into the lower end democratic process. We need to win seats on school boards, and city beautification committees, and the mosquito control board, and local voting station management, and … For too long Democrats have ignored systematic capture of the fine-grain regulation and guidance of our society.

    Send Bernie up there unsupported and you are setting yourself up for disappointment. People who are less partisan are going to see four years of Bernie without any deliverables as a betrayal of his promise. Much the way many Democrats see failure of Obama to deliver on his promises, albeit for very good reasons of other things needing to get done and a lack of political power and support, as a betrayal of the cause. Bernie will be the first progressive of modern times. Four years of failure will taint the brand.

    On the other hand Hillary has a set of built in credible excuses and if she gets stymied she won’t hurt the Progressive label. She also has twenty years of experience in hand-to-hand combat with the GOP. She can handle the inevitable investigation and even the GOP loyalists are skeptical of the stories told about her. She has taken everything they could throw at her and knows how to squeeze every bit of progress the laws of physics allows from an obdurate congress.

    With a little luck the midterms won’t be a Democratic defeat and in eight years there might very well be a solid Democratic/Progressive majority in both houses. At which time we could see the whole conservative conspiracy and Overton window moved the opposite direction by a strong Progressive candidate like Bernie. I hope I live long enough to see a liberal/progressive morning in America.

    I’m a liberal and I’ve always been a liberal. But I’ve seen liberal hopes, usually predicated upon individuals and narrow factions holding just a few offices, fail. The Republicans have been quite smart. They invested time, money and built up a coalition and political machine. It has organs for collecting money, getting messages out, developing rhetoric, establishing party discipline and talking points, and a retirement and welfare system for operatives who have to fall on the occasional political grenade. It is a machine that takes care of its own. They put this machine to work at the bottom and worked their way up. Smart. Unfortunately, for both the GOP and America, a key part of that machine is a core constituency of adrenaline addicted bigots, grifters, and religious fanatics who vote every single time.

    I want the Democrats/Progressives to decisively run the boards and have a strong majority in both houses. I just don’t think such an outcome is possible given the electoral cycles. Given the chance that there is a credible way that a Democratic president might fail catastrophically, reaching too far too fast might backfire and set the Progressive movement back a decade or more. going that way seems ill advised strategically.

    Let Hillary take it and watch the GOP exhaust themselves punching. She can take it. In another four years time will be ripe to shift from moderate liberal to Progressive. By them Hillary will be ready to return to her early 70s style liberal roots and back a full-bore progressive. Timing is important.

  15. StevoR says

    As well, I’d presume, as causative factors including Hillary’s past policies and statements and work and perhaps their contrast with Sander’s apparent clash with the Black Lives Matter activists many months ago.

    As referred to by many on FTB among other places. For instance see what Dana Hunter wrote here :

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/2015/08/18/why-bernie-sanders-could-lose-and-how-you-can-help-him-win/

    Plus here with links to & citing others incl. Heina Dadaboy & Kaveh Mousavi :

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/2015/08/11/some-people-of-color-bernie-sanders-fans-would-do-well-to-listen-to/

    As well as Mano Singham on this very blog here :

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/singham/2015/09/13/bernie-sanders-and-the-black-vote/

    That’s what I recall reading and noting at the time suggesting Sander’s may have issues with appealing to African-American voters and clashing with the Black Lives Matter movement which I support now and also supported then too.

    A lot of the comments in these linked FTB articles are – as usual – interesting and include some other good links. Worth re-reading maybe?

  16. says

    They do not affect the oligarchy in the least, just like issues such as abortion, guns, contraception, sex, gays, god, and so on. They serve to titillate the public and give the impression that the two parties are deeply antagonistic thus enabling them to hide the reality that they both quietly serve their common masters of the oligarchy.

    ! The fact that there’s more than one axis of power (race, class, sex/gender, species) means that these are all essential fronts on which to fight. They’re all connected – union rights and minimum wage battles are necessary to women’s struggles, for example. But none is The Fundamental Axis of Oppression.

    The idea that abortion (or any other sexual or reproductive) rights are marginal or secondary because they allegedly don’t affect the oligarchy and merely serve to titillate the public is a big problem. If Bernie Sanders is trying to win votes – including evangelicals who might share some of his economic views – on this basis, that’s outrageous.

    I’m an anarchist, and put no faith in any of these candidates. But I object to any rhetorical strategy that subordinates some basic rights to others. Fortunately, we don’t have to choose, and anyone who suggests that we do is lying, pandering, or deluded.

  17. says

    My comment the other night might have come across as a bit angrier than I wished. I suppose I was angrier than I’d consciously realized and putting down the words brought it to the fore.

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