Without directly acknowledging the four primary driving forces just described, virtually everyone now seems to feel there is something wrong with the way society is organized and operates—i.e., with The Establishment. We just differ wildly on what we think The Establishment is.
For liberals, the malevolent controlling forces are typically corporate or military. For conservatives, the problem lies in an amalgamation of government, academia, and the media.
Whatever it is that we oppose, public figures from across the political spectrum have been casting themselves as revolutionaries for decades, from Jerry Rubin and his 60s counterculture cohorts to Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America, and on to Donald Trump and his unique brand of populism.
As a pose, being a revolutionary has an appeal that few other things today can match. It projects a compelling sense of cutting things down to size, and of re-establishing the dignity of the individual. It also sounds intriguingly dangerous and real and connected, in an age that offers few opportunities for these qualities.
Of course, real revolutionaries tend to live in constant fear for their lives. But if Jerry Rubin and Abbey Hofmann and the rest of their 60s cohorts ever seriously believed themselves to be in this kind of peril, it was only the product of whatever exotic chemicals they may have been ingesting at the time. And Newt Gingrich? He didn't even have the drugs.
In the bizarre logic of our times, being “revolutionary” has actually become about as mainstream as marketing strategies get.
Even George W. Bush, the scion of a patrician New England family, Yale- and Harvard-educated, son of a President, and never far removed from high-level government connections for his livelihood throughout his life, was able to successfully market himself as an "outsider."
Unfortunately, coming up with a villainous “they” to assign responsibility for our sense of things being out of whack has proved a lot more politically exploitable than trying to peek under the covers at whatever might actually be wrong.
Even acknowledging that there might be some sort of systemic problem has been known to end careers. For example, when Jimmy Carter mentioned a sense of “malaise,” he was promptly clobbered by Ronald Reagan and his message that it was “Morning in America.” No mainstream politician dared to proclaim it to be anything but morning for decades afterward.
Yet wouldn’t the combination of being constantly relegated to the less fulfilling roles of spectator and consumer, feeling small and insignificant, seeing prestige increasingly defined as getting away with absurdly undignified and idful behavior, and having it constantly insinuated that simply enjoying the gender that's on your birth certicate indicates something retrograde about you be enough to instill a sense that something is fundamentally out of whack (not to mention an urge to cut things down to size)?