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Public fed up with gov't dysfunction

Network (1976) starring Peter Finch, directed by Sidney

Network (1976) starring Peter Finch, directed by Sidney Lumet. Photo Credit: Photofest / MGM

Can you see it? It's anxiety on people's faces as they sense their economic well-being slipping away.

Can you feel it? It's fear, deeply rooted, that the digital world is passing them by, that its language and institutions are things they cannot understand.

Can you hear it? It's a scream in the dark, stoked by the steady drumbeat of public corruption and the feeling that their elected officials are not watching out for them.

Dissatisfaction with politics and politicians is swelling, and that profound discontent is what's playing out in the 2016 presidential race. Sen. Bernie Sanders and billionaire developer Donald Trump have emerged as the middle fingers of American politics. Seen as outsiders, they're drawing attention as they tap into our anger and our angst.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are the insiders, unable to relate to the rest of us. Clinton is shackled by her family foundation, a multimillion-dollar nexus of government and business, and an email controversy that reminds us she plays by her own rules. Bush is viewed as the epitome of crony capitalism after making millions as an adviser to Lehman Brothers and Barclays. They were seen as parts of a banking system that drove our economy into the ground before being rescued by a huge government bailout.

The alienation people feel is bipartisan and it's everywhere. It's 10 state legislators forced out of office on various charges and convictions since 2012, such as Malcolm Smith of Queens. It's the federal corruption indictment of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan, and his defense attorneys saying that what prosecutors call corruption is really just the way government works in Albany.

The incidents are part of a larger fabric cloaking our political scene like a moth-eaten suit. People on the outside see a system gamed by those in it at the public's expense.

Many officials do walk a straight line. And, yes, some of what goes on might not be illegal. But it is wrong.

Politics has long been a bit of a friends-and-family enterprise. But in tough times, when so many folks are struggling, it feels like the tipping point is near. People are rejecting business as usual. And they've started screaming.


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