GUEST OPINION: Outside Representation

By on September 15, 2015

To protect its working class, Jackson Hole will have to chase a growing global trend

If you’ve been following national and international politics, you’ve probably noticed a shift exemplified by politicians such as Bernie Sanders in the U.S., Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Alexis Tsipras in Greece and Pablo Iglesias in Spain.

For the most part, these are progressive, left wing politicians. They espouse revoking power from the corrupt and wealthy elite who have dominated the political spheres of their respective countries — people who rule from a corrupt center, which serves primarily to sustain and enrich those who already have money and power.

There is a rapidly growing realization in the United States and in the rest of the world that neoliberal socio-economic policies are a fraud. The idea is that they serve primarily to transfer massive amounts of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the global elite who rule their nations, those who have an insatiable appetite for amassing wealth and power at the detriment of working class people. These policies include slashing key social services and lifting regulations designed to protect the rest of us from the worst abuses committed by those in power. Constant war, disregard for the environmental costs of all of the above, near-total immunity for those with power who commit crimes and the exploitation and disregard for the suffering of millions are also among the policies.

Here in the U.S., the prime architects and enablers of these thoroughly discredited policies are the political elite of both parties, as well as the media that serves them. And voters are starting to realize it. All the talk about gridlock and how the Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on anything is an illusion designed to project that that there is some real difference between the two. But there really isn’t much difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Or Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Both are totally committed to policies that will enrich those that support them — bankers, CEOs, military contractors, etc., while the interests of the average voter are, at best, an afterthought, and more likely treated as a nuisance. And while there are differences on social issues, these are often conjured up to divide the rest of us.

A 2014 Princeton University study illustrated conclusively that the preferences of ordinary voters in the U.S. have no measurable independent influence on U.S. government policies. Read that again. According to Princeton University, the U.S. is in no sense an actual democracy. Sure, voters can choose between candidates A and B, but those candidates have (until now, at least) belonged to the same party  – the party of the elite. You aren’t invited to that party.

Finally, after constant exclusion, voters are starting to understand this. Barely half of citizens even bothered to vote in the last presidential election, and just 36.4 percent voted in the last congressional election. So why bother when you don’t matter anyway?

It’s clear that this disgust with insider politicians has fueled the rise of the outsiders. Bernie Sanders, an independent, has come from nowhere to lead Clinton – a consummate insider – in New Hampshire and Iowa. Similarly, Donald Trump, a man who doesn’t bother to make rational arguments but is at least perceived as an outsider, has run away from the field in the Republican race.

Little-known outsider Jeremy Corbyn, who barely made the ballot and was widely considered unelectable three months ago, just blew away the field in the United Kingdom Labour Party leadership election, taking more than three times the votes of his nearest contenders.

In Spain, the left wing anti-establishment political party Podemos, meaning “We can,” was founded a little more than a year ago and is now the second-largest political party in the country.

People around the world are rejecting politicians who are compromised. They look at leaders whose circle of friends include bankers, CEOs and the extremely wealthy and understand that the average person’s well being or opinion doesn’t matter to these politicos. Indeed, the curtain has been raised on backdoor deals struck between politicians and their financial backers.

Voters in Jackson are similarly appalled. We live in a small community, and people talk to one another. They know what the prevailing public opinion is. And they make it known. Yet they feel that time and time again decisions are made with little or no regard for public opinion. Local electeds say the right things sometimes, but the actions don’t match the words. Everyone knows that out-of-control growth and the housing crisis are the most important issues to working class people here. In the public lens, local politicians agree, but at the end of the day all we get are excuses and more of the same policies that benefit the wealthy. Voters are treated like babies and handed a pacifier instead of food. We’re flattered with lies about how important our needs are, and then in the back room, treated like obstacles. We’re told we need to compromise, but there is never any compromise from the other side. We’re told we need politicians that work well with others, but that’s just code for politicians that can be told how to vote, or who have little experience or knowledge and who can be easily manipulated.

With the exception of a few electeds (town council member Jim Stanford in particular), I see little hope for improvement. If you’ve spent your life in politics or in a profession that requires you to make all sorts of promises and owe innumerable favors, you’re compromised. If you’ve taken campaign money from people who are in bed with special interests, you’re compromised. If you’ve eaten the food and drunk the wine of those in power, you will not tell them, “No.”

We need elected officials who will stand up to the Jackson Hole elite. The problems of low-and middle-income people in Jackson Hole cannot be solved if we can’t tell the wealthy that we have had enough. The tides are turning; the supporters of Sanders and Corbyn and Iglesias and Tsipras are showing us what’s possible. Now it’s up to Jackson Hole to do the same. PJH

Pete Muldoon is a 15-year Jackson resident. He is a small business owner, musician, writer and valley advocate. Read more of his musings at

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