Balloons in blazing colours billow down the ceiling of the Democratic Convention arena in Philadelphia. Then the cameras pull back, enveloping the Obamas and the Clintons in a shower of confetti, as they walk away from the carnival.
A similar show had ended the previous week in Cleveland where Donald Trump became the Republican nominee. In both instances, it was the razzle dazzle of democracy in the television era.
Narendra Modi’s campaign in 2014 had these trappings too. A total convergence of the media in his favour made it the most expensive campaign ever. It gave him a powerful tail wind. The trio of Mother, Son and Manmohan Singh by contrast looked limp. The Indian establishment had made up its mind. Modi won.
The world’s most powerful establishment has been working overtime not just to plug a hole but to block a torrent – what Bernie Sanders calls “The revolution”. And it has succeeded in keeping the choices to the Right of Centre. There were many in Philadelphia who, in their detail, are indistinguishable from those gathered in Cleveland.
In recent years, two movements surfaced in the United States: The Tea Party, a conservative ginger group within the Republican Party, and Occupy Wall Street, a quasi Socialist wail against inequality.
Trump is the Tea Party candidate. He has leapt over precisely 16 candidates before being crowned in Cleveland. Who could be a stouter pillar of the Republican establishment than the Bush family. Jeb Bush was knocked out flat early in primaries.
In other words, Trump has come through a trial by fire. All the dirt thrown at him in Philadelphia had already been hurled at him by fellow Republicans in their attempt to block his way up the nomination ladder. It did not work. Why would “muck” thrown at him in Philadelphia stick?
It is an easy story but it requires a little research. When did the Democratic Party set its heart on Hillary Clinton as the Presidential nominee? Come wind come weather, the Democratic establishment had made up its mind. The rule book and the rigmarole about super delegates just came in handy.
Even in the Democratic Party there was continuous chatter that Hillary was “untrustworthy”, “dishonest”, that the ghost of ambassador Christopher Stevens would haunt her from distant Benghazi, that investigations on her use of personal computer for “top secret” work would not leave her untainted and so on ..
All of this would be ammunition in the hands of the Republicans. Why then would the Democratic Party go to such lengths despite risks for the November outcome? So faithful to rules was the party that it would risk losing the election to Donald Trump? Most opinion polls suggested that, in a direct contest, Bernie Sanders would beat Trump. Hillary would lose.
There is an overlap in the ruling classes controlling Republican as well as Democratic Party affairs. The picture is not dissimilar to the one in India – Britain, Spain, Italy, Indonesia everywhere. Corporates in Mumbai have in their hands strings to the ruling party as well as the opposition – heads we win, tails you lose.
It turns out that a “socialist” like Sanders was anathema to the controlling elites of both the parties which work in conjunction in the face of such threats as Socialism. The spirit of Joseph McCarthy can be resurrected, not of Edward Murrow, Clarence Darrow and Arthur Miller. The irony is that the Death of a Salesman still draws full houses on Broadway as well as the West end. Possibly the greatest play of the 20th century could well be a contemporary parable on the American Dream and its delusions. And it has massive audiences.
It was frustration and anger at its peak: someone printed Hillary Clinton’s name in the commode at the men’s toilet in the convention arena.
The most poignant moment at the convention was the chant of “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie” by delegates, some crying copiously and waving Sanders placards, when he stood up to endorse the party’s nominee.
When Hillary Clinton won the nomination, the camera cut to Sanders who had earlier endorsed her in the spirit of Democratic decency. I could not help noticing a wave of sympathy which occasionally erupted in tears. The audience here was in sympathy with the candidate who apparently lost because of institutional machinations.
Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary within the framework of the Democratic Party does not necessarily result in his supporters augmenting Hillary’s vote share.
Film maker Michael Moore has advanced the theory of the “depressed” voter who may drag himself to the polling booth but will not have the passion to persuade, say, five other voters to do the same. He would have persuaded 10 for Sanders.
This “depressed” voter is not angry with Trump. He is angry with the pro-Clinton Democratic machine. If he is 20, or 24 years old today, he can wait until he is 24 or 28. He was for constructive change under Sanders. In his frustration, he may begin to see merit in the other anti-establishment candidate – Trump, not because he likes him but because that would stir things up. And four years will pass just like that, in a flicker.
(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on email@example.com. The views expressed are personal.)