Have you ever been in a situation at work when you were frustrated with your boss over something that you believed was not the right thing to do? Have you ever thought to yourself? “I wish I could tell my boss what I really think.” But you knew that saying anything would upset the boss, so you held your tongue because you were beholden to the boss for your job. Unfortunately, this subtle use of power is the normal way of life in business, and its intent is to protect the status quo, consolidate power, and cower those who are beholden to the system for their very livelihood. And as a result, this force of intimidating acquiescence to the power of the establishment causes blindness to change, stifles debate and suppresses innovation.
Imagine how emboldened you would be to state your viewpoint, challenge the status quo or expose mistakes being made, if you were not beholden to the established power of the organization for your future. Unfortunately, because we are so often dependent on a company for our very livelihood, few of us ever have the freedom, opportunity or courage to challenge entrenched power. That’s too bad, because calling-out the establishment is often just about the only way to bring about needed change. The truth is that if you felt free to be candid, open and honest about the good, bad and ugly of the establishment, not only would you feel better about yourself, but you would become a power in-and-of-yourself and stand a better chance of being successful.
Gaining Power Over Power
It’s hard to know if either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders would be a good president, but they both have a unique advantage that is rarely seen in politics and almost never in business. Neither one of them is beholden to the established powers in their Party, the media, the ultra-wealthy or the kingpins of business for their success. This empowers Trump and Sanders to say and propose what they think is needed and right. In a strange reversal of fortune, with the rise of Trump and Sanders, it is the establishment powers that seem to be in fear for their future.
Trump and Sanders are the only candidates in the race who have not sought and do not receive support from wealthy donors or heavily funded Political Action Committees. Trump is quick to brag about his ability to “self-fund” his campaign. He points out again and again that, unlike other candidates, by not accepting power-broker money he is not beholden to them and thus immune to any pressure they most surely would want to exert on him. Likewise, Sanders constantly reminds anyone who will listen that his funding comes from millions of small donors who give on average $27. Sanders likes to point out that because he does not have to crawl to Wall Street for support, he can stand up the abuses perpetrated by Wall Street.
Trump and Sanders are trying to make the point that because they are not dependent on the big-money establishment, they are free to say and do what each thinks is right. Contrast that with the other candidates who depend on big-money contributions to keep their campaign going. Those who know that if they don’t say the right thing, those funds will dry-up and disappear, as will their campaign. Unlike Sanders, Clinton is forced into a delicate balancing act trying to appeal to those who feel they are being ripped-off by the Wall Street moguls, while trying to assure those on Wall Street who fund her campaign, that she is really their friend.
Another thing that emboldens Trump and Sanders to speak out is that they are not beholden to the “establishment” of either party. Indeed, the establishments of both the Republican and Democratic Parties are throwing a hissy fit and doing all in their power to defeat Trump and Sanders. Squadrons of establishment Republican leaders have come out in an effort to blitzkrieg Trump’s campaign; not to mention the nearly $50 million dollars that has been spent by Republican PACs on negative attack ads against Trump. As for Sanders, the entire apparatus of the establishment Democratic Party is firmly resisting him.
The reason the political establishments of both parties are so deeply engaged in fighting Trump and Sanders is because their own power is at stake. These entrenched Party big-wigs know that if either one of them does happen to get the nomination or is elected president, they will lose their power, because neither one will be beholden to the Party.
There is another advantage that Trump and Sanders will have if either is elected president. Unlike the other candidates, they are not dogmatically appealing directly to the organized “special interest” factions of their particular Party. This means that as president they will not be beholden to any particular “special interest.” This will give them the freedom and flexibility to deal with all interests on an evenhanded basis, affording a better chance to reach compromise and make progress. Can you imagine how ham-strung Cruz – who is beholden to rock-ribbed conservatives, the Tea Party followers and Evangelicals for his support – would be when it comes to being flexible and willing to compromise in order to make progress?
It has Happened Before
There is a parallel in politics that might give us a glimpse of the unique power Trump and Sanders might have if elected. In 1998 the former Navy Seal and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was seeking publicity for his local radio show in Minneapolis and on a lark decided to run for governor of Minnesota as an Independent. He was laughed at, ridiculed and rejected by the Minnesota media, the business establishment and both the Republican and Democratic Parties.
And yet, employing a totally reform-oriented anti-establishment campaign, he won the election going away. As surprised as the establishment was by his victory, they were not as surprised as he. The only advantage Ventura had entering the governor’s office was that he was not beholden to any of the Minnesota political or business establishment for his election.
This freedom allowed Ventura to challenge the sacred-cows of the establishment; and he did so with verve. During his term Ventura was able to push through reforms in property tax and implemented sales tax rebates. He successfully challenged the budgeting of the state university system, cut business and individual income taxes and begun construction of light rail service for Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The establishment never accepted Ventura, but they did have to admit that he accomplished more than either of the establishment candidates he defeated could have ever hoped to do; even if they wanted to.
Trump is like Jesse Ventura on steroids and Sanders is like Ventura, but with an intellect. There is no telling whether Trump or Sanders would be successful as president, but wouldn’t it be great if, just for once, we elected a leader who is not beholden to special interests, the ultra-wealthy or the political establishment? There might be a clue to the answer of that question by noting that this scenario is just what the establishment fears most.