What we are seeing this election season, with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, is two political outsiders trying to take political power away from the Oligarchy. I want to say this as neutrally as possible because I know that Oligarchy is a loaded word, almost always in the negative. In this case, however, I don’t mean it to be. I’m using Oligarchy in the strict definition of a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution, and that is not always bad (or good).
The United States was founded as an Oligarchy with only property-owning white men being able to vote. That was not an oversight, it was done to limit the power of people. In terms of the form of our institutions, we have become more Democratic since then. First the property owning qualification was eliminated giving all white men the vote, then black men were also given the vote by the Fifteenth Amendment. Finally, 130 years after our founding, women were given the right to vote with the Nineteenth Amendment. Still, there has always been the subtext of limiting what seemed like the people’s power, with literacy tests, poll taxes, picture ID requirements, Citizen United, and in the Democratic Party, Superdelegates.
I don’t want to give the impression that I think the Oligarchy is monolithic, I don’t, however they do have common interests and Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is a threat to those interests and the Oligarchy is fighting back.