POLITICS-This 2016 election cycle will certainly be one for the history books, and one for the historians, sociologists and political scientists to evaluate and study for decades to come. But while no one can really encapsulate the "Trump" phenomenon in a single bullet point, here's a talking point to consider: Donald John Trump's original flirtation with presidential politics was with the 2000 presidential election ... as a Reform Party candidate.
The Reform Party ... as in Ross Perot. Yes, THAT Ross Perot--the man who hated former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his clan so much he helped President Bill Clinton get elected ... twice ... and who was virtually made irrelevant in his failure to prevent the passage of the NAFTA trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
So is Donald John Trump the living revenge of Henry Ross Perot, that same Perot who once stated that "War has rules, mud wrestling has rules - politics has no rules"?
Do both Republicans and Democrats in very large numbers regret the election of both George Bush the Elder in 1988 and George Bush the Younger in 2000?
If NAFTA could be repealed today, and was up for a vote to that effect in Congress, would it be repealed?
Numerous third party presidential and other movements have been tried and failed for virtually the entire history of the United States, but as with the Progressive Party of 1912 (also known as the Bull Moose Party) of Teddy Roosevelt the Republican Party was and is split among those who were fiercely pro-American with respect to economic and political power, but wanted more economic competition and welfare for the needy.
And a split Republican party led to the election of Democratic Woodrow Wilson, whose terms in office have been both praised and derided aplenty to this very day.
Hence we have a Republican "Establishment" (hated by the Republican "Base" as being too much in the pocket of Wall Street) that is now in shock and panic mode with the fall of the Bush Family and is scrambling to do anything (ANYTHING!) to gather behind one candidate...who will probably be Marco Rubio.
Close your eyes, listen to the screams of the anti-Wall Street/Establishment cries of the Tea Party and pro-Trump crowds, and it might sound frightfully similar to the complaints of the Occupy Movement.
Open your eyes, and you'll see that these same crowds despise the socialism and leftist extremes of the Occupy and Bernie Sanders movements: these crowds are ardently anti-Wall Street but equally ardent pro-American and pro-capitalism.
Which can be confusing as heck to anyone trying to figure this out--even "The Donald" was confused when MSNBC anchor described to him the description of a candidate who appeared to be Trump himself ... but was actually Bernie Sanders!
So is Donald Trump a closet Socialist, a male version of Hillary Clinton, and a secret, wannabe Democrat with "New York Values" as promoted by his Republican detractors?
Hardly, if anyone's read his writings over the course of his entire life. He despises socialism but hates crony capitalism and wants a fair playing field. He's repeatedly threatening to prosecute Hillary Clinton for breaking the law, and his hatred of the Bush Family mirrors that of the aforementioned H. Ross Perot.
And his unwavering support of American exceptionalism and American worldwide hegemony goes beyond that of Ronald Reagan to the principles of Teddy Roosevelt.
So IS the ascendancy of Donald Trump merely an attempt to achieve a Republican Party that is more akin to the Reform Party of Perot? Certainly, the colossal waste of money and effort to promote Jeb Bush's failed candidacy is emblematic of an out-of-touch GOP leadership that apparently forgot that former President G.W. Bush was persona non grata and out of sight at both the 2008 and 2012 GOP Presidential Conventions.
Furthermore, the willingness to achieve reform in this nation--first within the GOP, and with "Exhibit A" being the Iraq War, which proved to be such a painful drag on the nation (and especially within the Republican voting base)--reform is a phenomenon that is hard to ignore.
Everyone appears to believe in one way, shape, or form that "reform" is needed, and that "business as usual" just won't be tolerated during what appears to be a Second Gilded Age.
(And for those who never learned post-Civil War History, the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century was an era of political and economic excess that created horrific income inequality and ushered in the union era ... look it up.
So it appears that the GOP is being dragged kicking and screaming on its way to a historical cleansing that will be one for the ages.
But if Trump does win the GOP nomination, then one can look forward to him taking "reform" to the Democratic Party next--because as Iraq was to the Bush Administration, "Obamacare" is to the Obama Administration.
The "Affordable Care Act" is set to die an unavoidable death on its own economic unsustainable principles, and if it is not repealed then it will inevitably be gutted and undergo dramatic revisions--and for President Obama to hope for a sensible health care debate once he's gone is commensurate to concluding that his very presence and tone with Congress prevented a sensible debate during his tenure.
Perhaps President Obama was so desperate to have ANY form of health care reform that he was willing to have such an acrimonious passage of the ACA and force the issue to finally be confronted by Congress, but the ACA is anything but "affordable" and is perceived by so many to be economically harmful that we might see Congress remain Republican because of the ACA blunders in the same way that Congress became Democratic because of the Iraq blunders.
Which may lead many Democratic and other political analysts wishing that--with the fall of the Bush Family--there was a better and more successful option for toppling the Clinton Family than the well-meaning but potentially unelectable Bernie Sanders.
Because the Democratic Party inevitably needs reform, too.
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)