Bob Dylan’s lyrics capturing the turbulent 1960s—“Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”—resonate today with the enormous shift in American politics brought center stage by the upcoming Presidential election. Now, as in the ’60s, the establishment represented by Mister Jones just doesn’t get the depth and intensity driving the rebellion threatening the elites’ grip on the social order.
When Dylan introduced Mister Jones in “Ballad of a Thin Man,” those who didn’t “get it” were too old and settled in their ways. “Never trust anyone over 30” was the mantra of students spearheading the free-speech and antiwar movements. These days young people from coast to coast are again in clear revolt, but many are showing unexpected support for 74-year-old “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders. According to a cumulative analysis of primary exit polls, Sanders won 65% of New York voters under the age of 30.
The Democratic revolt has extended to male, white blue-collar workers who feel be trayed by their party’s abandonment of its natural base in pursuit of Wall Street contributions. But the Republican revolt has surpassed that of the Democrats, as demonstrated by billionaire Donald Trump’s startling sweep of the GOP primaries. Make no mistake about it, this bipartisan rebellion has been driven by America’s glaring and growing economic class divide.
That is particularly true for the many white folks whose incomes have been stagnant for the past three decades, belying “the rising tide lifts all boats” malarkey that has befogged American politics for the past half century. The defining lesson of both major parties’ 2016 primary elections, no matter how it is resolved in the general election, is that we have a lot of angry people who have a right to be angry.