Before I try to answer this question, I apologize for my absence from this blog for the last few weeks. My father was in the hospital which required that my attention be directed first and foremost toward him. Now that he is back home and improving, I can deal with other issues like the one in the title of this piece.
The short answer to the question in the title is that the Democratic establishment’s support of incremental change has maintained the status quo and done very little for most Americans over the last 30 or more years. According to Slate.com, income for the top 20 percent of Americans has increased since the 1970s while income for the bottom 80 percent declined. In the 1970s the top 1 percent received 8 percent of total income while by 2007 they were receiving 18 percent. Now it’s an even greater amount. During the same period income for the bottom 20 percent had decreased 30 percent.
As I point out in my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, “between 2009 and 2012 the incomes of top 1 percent of citizens climbed 31.4 percent — or 95 percent of the total gain –while incomes of the other 99 percent grew only .4 percent.”
Since members of the Democratic establishment, for the most part, are in the top 20 percent which have seen their incomes increase over these last 30 years, they don’t feel an urgency for bold initiatives like Sen. Sanders proposes to reorder a system that has served them well. Like Secretary Clinton, they are fine with incrementalism. While many of them recognize various degrees of unfairness in the status quo, they don’t want to rock the boat too much for fear it might spring a leak or even capsize, causing significant harm to their relatively safe positions.
As Brent Budowsky writes for The Hill, it is Sanders’ growing popularity that seems to have ignited the establishment’s backlash against him: “Virtually the entire Washington and Wall Street establishments are now in a state of panic about the possibility of a [Sanders] victory in the Iowa Democratic caucus next Monday,” Budowsky writes. “What the insider Washington Democratic establishment fails to understand is that the issues Sanders raises have great appeal to the broad nation.” Moreover, the establishment’s pushback exposes their lack of conviction for a truly fair and just society.
The great majority of Americans who represent “the broad nation” and are on the lower decks of our economic ship feel they are in danger of drowning as their financial boat takes on more water. Incrementalism will not save them or their children. Sen. Sanders’s calls for strong measures to redirect America’s economic and social policies gives them hope that they can yet land on solid ground.