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From Populist Rage to Revolution

Americans clearly are capable of being outraged. Missing, however, is a sustained, vibrant demand for deep reforms of our political and government system. You hear a lot about populist rage these days, especially connected to the AIG bonus debacle. But populist rage as a reflection of class conflict and anger about our economic meltdown does not necessarily make a political revolution. The saddest thing about Obama winning the presidency was that his change message drained what might have been sufficient national energy for true revolutionary political reforms.

With the Bush-corrosion of our Constitution and collapse of the economic system after it had been exploited by the rich and corrupt, what better time for revolution? Instead, we got a president with a glib tongue, a terrific smile and a deep commitment to the two-party plutocracy and corporate state. Obama is no populist, not even close. Nor is he a genuine reformer. At best, he is a master exploiter of populism.

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We've all become aware of the festering rage which many Americans, primarily among the middle class, have against the current financial bailout, especially in the case of AIG and its blatant arrogance in paying their top executives multi-million dollar bonuses for essentially looting and robbing the American people.

And there's a disturbing aspect of this rising public anger which many in government have overlooked -- the nation's widespread and deeply felt anger (which has been generated primarily by and among the middle class; few working-class Americans have vented their outrage over the bailouts due to their almost total demoralization and discouragement) at financial capitalists and capitalism remains the new and dominant fact of the country's political life.

So far, neither Washington nor Wall Street seem to have fully grasped just how deep and widespread this political sea-change has become, or figured how to deal with it, and their failure to grasp that the American middle class have become "mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore" could very well sound the death-knell for the Obama Administration.

However, while some people have noted that the outrage against the bailouts in the U.S. population cannot be blithely ignored, there's also another factor at work here, and it's this ... while there have been manifestations of public rage over the bailouts, it's become "all sound and fury, signifying nothing", primarily because the anger was dissipated in acts of political theatre designed as TV news events, such as the people who marched to the Connecticut home of AIG's CEO carrying pitchforks, in an imitation of a pitchfork-waving Stephen Colbert. Yes, the middle class are sliding into the ranks of the downtrodden, and they're reacting like the downtrodden, but their anger wasn't translated into immediate political mobilization.

Why? The answer is simple -- over the last forty-six years, since the murder of President John Kennedy, the American people have been subjected to countless political betrayals by the Federal government, and these betrayals have generated a mindset of cynicism, distrust, suspicion and hostility among the American people.

What will make any serious mobilization of the American people by the President to deal with economic issues can be boiled down to two things -- the desire of too many Americans for a quick fix to solve the crisis while their "comfort zones", which were created and maintained almost entirely by consumer credit, are left untouched, along with the "If we can't trust you, Mr. President, then you can't trust us to support you" mindset.

A political revolution demands active, long-term participation by the people, by channelling their anger into revolutionizing both political parties through stepped-up involvement in the political process, including challenging the established political status quo by running against it and refusing to play political games by the "established rules", instead going into uncharted territory in order to fine solutions to the crisis we face.

It's becoming clear that the American people don't want the status quo. They want a new status, but the question is will they accept a new status which will require them to dramatically change their attitudes about economics, finance, society, government and start becoming inclined to go to work building bridges?

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