"An oligarchy," says Wikipedia, "is
a form of government in which power effectively rests with a small
elite segment of society distinguished by royal, wealth, intellectual,
family, military, or religious hegemony. The word oligarchy is
from the Greek words for 'few' and 'rule.' Such states are often
controlled by politically powerful families whose children are
heavily conditioned and mentored to be heirs of the power of the
Go back more
than two decades and you find politicians like Nixon, Carter and
Reagan who built their own political base; politicians such as
Truman, Johnson, and Ford deeply rooted in conventional politics;
Kennedy, whose family's oligarchic inclinations were cut brutally
short and FDR, who was hated by many of the elites. Beginning
in the late 1980s, however, national American politics became
almost universally a game of inside ball in which the public had
Those of both
parties who get to the top have done so primarily because of their
ability to satisfy an elite with the money to overcome the obstacles
of traditional politics. Given the huge increase in private campaign
financing and consequent mass media manipulation, ordinary democratic
politics at the national level has virtually disappeared.
A chart by Open Secrets tells
part of the story. The figures are in millions of dollars:
Between Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, albeit not
corrected for inflation, presidential campaign spending increased
ten times. Between 2004 and 2008 it almost doubled. Note also
the huge increase in the percent of funds raised during primaries,
as candidates auditioned for the presidential role.
And the intrinsic ability of the elite to buy politicians
has also increased. The top one percent share of the wealth went
from 36% to 29% between the 1930s and the 1970s. Since than it
has more than reversed, reaching 39% in 2008.
One of the beneficiaries of this shift has been
Michael Bloomberg, who spent more of his own money on his past
two New York mayoral campaigns than all the presidential candidates
did in 1980 and almost as they did in 1984.
Other beneficiaries have been George W. H. Bush,
his heir George W, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Each one got
to the top primarily thanks to an elite that bought and called
most of the major political decisions. This was, of course, far
easier for the Bushes, born into high places, than it was for
a Clinton or Obama who had to audition for the job. But the end
result was much the same.
this has occurred during a period when America was also suffering
an unprecedented economic, constitutional, political, cultural,
diplomatic and social decline. Barack Obama's first year indicates
the trends continue and are clearly joined at the hip.
Some readers are undoubtedly already
mumbling about conspiracy theories. That's not surprising in a
country where the educated are taught to believe that history
is primarily the work of great and evil individuals. The idea
that a culture or constitution can fall apart without a specific
plan or plot seems alien, but, in fact, history is far more the
result of choices by important subcultures than we generally realize.
Where would religion, sports
teams or pop music be without the unprescribed (albeit heavily
manipulated) preferences of the many? Why should Yale alumni be
exempt from the law of averages any more than Michael Jackson
fans or an extended family of Orthodox Jews? If we presume Muslims
to hold certain views and behave in certain ways, why not Harvard
grads as well?
To be sure there
are Ivy Leaguers, myself for one, who become, as Bill Mauldin
put it, fugitives from the law of averages, but then you can't
have a bell curve without thin edges as well as a big hump.
Each of our four oligarchic presidents
attended Harvard or Yale and the least competent, George W, actually
went to both. Here's another interesting similarity: George the
Elder was head of the CIA with connections far preceding that
post, George W was his son, and both Clinton and Obama fell within
the CIA penumbra early in their adult life.
Now consider the interconnections of some of the
Elder named Robert Gates as director of Central Intelligence and
George W asked him to be director of national intelligence, a
post he declined. He then became Secretary of Defense for both
George W and Barack Obama, serving three out of the four oligarchic
Paul Volker, who
chairs Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, was head of the
Federal Reserve under Carter and Reagan and under secretary of
the Treasury under Nixon.
Geithner worked for Henry Kissinger's consulting firm before joining
the Treasury Department under George W Bush. He was under secretary
of the Treasury under Clinton. His maternal grandfather worked
for Dwight Eisenhower and his father, Peter Geithner, was head
of the Ford Foundation's microfinance programs in Indonesia being
created by Barack Obama's mother. The Ford Foundation, incidentally,
has long had ties to the CIA. Joan Roelofs writes of John McCloy,
its chair in the 1950s, as thinking of the foundation as "a
quasi-extension of the U.S. government. It was his habit, for
instance, to drop by the National Security Council in Washington
every couple of months and casually ask whether there were any
overseas projects the NSC would like to see funded." Roelofs
also writes that the Ford Foundation financed counter-insurgency
programs in Indonesia and other countries.
Even ex-Skull & Boner Dana Milbank, in a 2005
Washington Post story, took note of the closed culture at the
top: "With at least 18 senators, dozens of House members
and several administration officials boosted by family legacies,
modern-day Washington sometimes resembles the court of Louis XIV
without the powdered wigs. . . At least seven of the 41 new House
members are relatives of prominent politicians. These legacies
take office along with the newly reelected president, who is the
grandson of a senator, son of a president and brother of a governor.
. . According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 45
women have been elected to Congress to fill vacancies created
by their husbands' death."
of this comprises a conspiracy, but definitely sketches a culture.
Fifteen years ago, in a book on Bill Clinton, "Shadows of
Hope," I tried to explain how the system worked in the capital:
How one comes to matter in Washington politics is guided by few
precise rules, although in comparison to fifty years ago the views
of lobbyists and fundraisers are far more significant than the
opinion, say, of the mayor of Chicago or the governor of Pennsylvania.
This is a big difference; somewhere behind the old bosses in their
smoke-filled rooms were live constituents; behind the political
cash lords of today there is mostly just more money and the few
who control it.
Thus coming to
matter has much less to do with traditional politics, especially
local politics, than it once did. Today, other things count: the
patronage of those who already matter, a blessing bestowed casually
by one right person to another right person over lunch at the
Metropolitan Club, a columnist's praise, a well-received speech
before a well-placed organization, the assessment of a lobbyist
as sure-eyed as a fight manager checking out new fists at the
local gym. There are still machines in American politics; they
just dress and talk better.
There is another
rule. The public plays no part. The public is the audience; the
audience does not write or cast the play. In 1988, the 1992 play
was already being cast. Conservative Democrats were holding strategy
meetings at the home of party fund-raiser Pamela Harriman. The
meetings -- eventually nearly a hundred of them -- were aimed
at ending years of populist insurrection within the party. They
were regularly moderated by Clark Clifford and Robert Strauss,
the Mr. Fixits of the Democratic mainstream. Democratic donors
paid $1000 to take part in the sessions and by the time it was
all over, Mrs. Harriman had raised about $12 million for her kind
of Democrats. . .
The appeal of
Clinton to these matchmakers went beyond mere political calculations.
Clinton was not only politically realistic, he was culturally
comfortable. He projected the image of an outsider, yet had adapted
to the ways of capital insiders.
-- including government, media and the lobbies -- functions in
many ways like America's largest and most prestigious club, a
sort of indoor, east coast Bohemian Grove in which members engage
in endless rites of mutual affirmation combined with an intense
but genteel competition that determines the city's tennis ladder
of political and social power. What appears to the stranger as
a major struggle is often only an intramural game between members
of the same club, lending an aura of dynamism to what is in truth
The Yale law
degree, the Rhodes scholarship, the familiarity with the rhetoric
of the policy pushers all helped Clinton fit into the club. But
perhaps most of all, Clinton knew when to stop thinking.
as the Soviets tolerated free thought only within the limits of
"socialist dialogue," so debate in Washington is circumscribed
by the limits of what might be called Beltway discourse. Ideas
that adjust or advance the conventional wisdom are valued. Those
that challenge it are ignored or treated with contempt. 
Obama rose to the top in
record speed in no small part because - as with Clinton - it was
clear that he would fit into this ecology extremely well and,
besides, he was the first charismatic black politician that the
elite had come across who lent some shade to white male hegemony
without endangering it. Like Bill Clinton, he projected the image
of an outsider, yet had adapted to the ways of capital insiders.
And he was willing, in a phrase
a Washingtonian once used to describe how ethnic hiring worked
at DC law firms, to be "the Negro at the front door."
But while the party elite - led
by the smug Democratic Leadership Council - was in a braggadocio
mood during the rise of Clinton, things subsequently became more
complicated. For example, Ari Berman wrote in the Nation that
"Al Gore's promising New Democratic candidacy turned sour
for the DLC when Gore, a DLC founder, switched to a populist strategy
after trailing in the polls."
after journalists Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford revealed in 2003 that
Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama had been named by the DLC
as one of its "100 to Watch" that year, Obama asked
to be taken off the list.
Dixon noted, "DLC endorsement is the gold standard of political
reliability for Wall Street, Big Energy, Big Pharma, insurance,
the airlines and more. Though candidates normally undergo extensive
questioning and interviews before DLC endorsement, Obama insisted
the blessing of these corporate special interests had been bestowed
on him without these formalities and without his advance knowledge,
and formally disassociated himself from the DLC. But like Hillary
Clinton, and every front running Democrat since Michael Dukakis
in 1988, Barack Obama's campaign has adopted the classic right
wing DLC strategy."
other words, whether Obama had asked to be vetted by the DLC or
not, he was acting as though he had. He simply understood that
the DLC's image conflicted with his own myth-making and didn't
want to bear the burden of its logo.
Bits and pieces of the truth would come through, however.
Paul Street of Z Magazine wrote: "Obama has lent his support
to the aptly named Hamilton Project, formed by corporate-neoliberal
Citigroup chair Robert Rubin and other Wall Street Democrats to
counter populist rebellion against corporatist tendencies within
the Democratic Party. . . Obama was recently hailed as a Hamiltonian
believer in limited government and free trade by Republican New
York Times columnist David Brooks, who praises Obama for having
'a mentality formed by globalization, not the SDS.'"
Even after disassociating himself
publicly from the Democratic Leadership Council, Obama still had
as his major economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, who was also chief
economist of the conservative organization. Noted Doug Henwood
of the Left Business Observer, "Goolsbee has written gushingly
about Milton Friedman and denounced the idea of a moratorium on
Henwood also reported
during the presidential campaign, "Top hedge fund honcho
Paul Tudor Jones threw a fundraiser for [Obama] at his Greenwich
house last spring, 'The whole of Greenwich is backing Obama,'
one source said of the posh headquarters of the hedge fund industry.
They like him because they're socially liberal, up to a point,
and probably eager for a little less war, and think he's the man
to do their work. They're also confident he wouldn't undertake
any renovations to the distribution of wealth."
And then there were the numbers. Obama raised substantially
more funds from the financial and health industries than did John
McCain. And his top ten campaign fund sources included those working
for Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase & Co. All
of this, of course, was hardly mentioned by the larger media.
The most fascinating thing
about Obama's rise was that it involved moving from a state senate
seat to the White House in just four years. Other than a military
hero soaring on public enthusiasm, the most logical explanation
for such a rapid elevation was that the candidate had been chosen
by those able to make it happen. After all, Obama was not only
no hero, he had been an undistinguished state senator and an equally
uninteresting member of the US Senate. If you go back and read
his vaunted 2004 convention address, you'll find nothing exceptional
about it, provided you want something more than safe cliches from
a safe black candidate. Obama's campaign addresses would be similarly
unimpressive, yet hailed in the elite media for their rhetoric
despite the fact that if you asked anyone to quote Obama, the
best they could come up with was "hope" and "change."
What really mattered was described
by Ken Silverstein of Harper's in 2006, "If the [convention]
speech was his debut to the wider American public, he had already
undergone an equally successful but much quieter audition with
Democratic Party leaders and fund-raisers, without whose support
he would surely never have been chosen for such a prominent role
at the convention."
October 2003, five years before Obama's presidential election,
"Vernon Jordan, the well-known power broker and corporate
board-member who chaired Bill Clinton's presidential transition
team after the 1992 election, placed calls to roughly twenty of
his friends and invited them to a fund-raiser at his home. That
event marked [Obama's] entry into a well-established Washington
ritual-the gauntlet of fund-raising parties and meet-and-greets
through which potential stars are vetted by fixers, donors, and
also been among those - including Robert Rubin and Katherine Graham,
who were called to Washington's F Street Club in 1991 as part
of a similar effort by Pamela Harriman on behalf of Bill Clinton.
C. David Heyman in the 'Georgetown Ladies' Social Club,' writes
that Harriman was seeking to get Rubin's Goldman Sachs involved.
She succeeded: Goldman Sachs became Clinton's largest source of
funding. (It was only in second place for Obama but brought in
nearly twice as much money).
account of Obama's vetting came from Paul Street in 2008:
Drawing on his undoubted charm, wit, intelligence, and Harvard
credentials, Obama passed this trial with shining colors. At a
series of social meetings with assorted big 'players' from the
financial, legal and lobbyist sectors, Obama impressed key establishment
figures like Gregory Craig (a longtime leading attorney and former
special counsel to the White House), Mike Williams (the legislative
director of the Bond Market Association), Tom Quinn (a partner
at the top corporate law firm Venable and a leading Democratic
Party "power broker"), and Robert Harmala, another Venable
partner and "a big player in Democratic circles."
liked the fact that Obama was not a racial "polarizer"
on the model of past African-American leaders like Jesse Jackson
and Al Sharpton.
soothed by Obama's reassurances that he was not "anti-business"
and became "convinced. . . that the two could work together."
a reasonableness about him," Harmala told Silverstein. "I
don't see him as being on the liberal fringe."
account, the good "word about Obama spread through Washington's
blue-chip law firms, lobby shops, and political offices, and this
accelerated after his win in the March  Democratic primary."
Elite financial, legal, and lobbyists contributions came into
Obama's coffers at a rapid and accelerating pace.
news" for Washington and Wall Street insiders was that Obama's
"star quality" would not be directed against the elite
segments of the business class. The interesting black legislator
from the South Side of Chicago was "someone the rich and
powerful could work with."
Obama biographer and Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell, in
late 2003 and early 2004:
Obama's rising star was now spreading beyond Illinois, especially
through influential Washington political circles like blue chip
law firms, party insiders, lobbying houses. They were all hearing
about this rare, exciting, charismatic, up-and-coming African
American who unbelievably could win votes across color lines.
. . [His handlers and] influential Chicago supporters and fund-raisers
all vigorously worked their D.C. contacts to help Obama make the
rounds with the Democrats' set of power brokers. . .
Mendell, Obama now cultivated the support of the privileged few
by "advocat[ing] fiscal restraint" and "calling
for pay-as-you-go government" and "extol[ling] the merits
of free trade and charter schools." He "moved beyond
being an obscure good-government reformer to being a candidate
more than palatable to the moneyed and political establishment.
of anonymity," Silverstein reported two years ago, "one
Washington lobbyist I spoke with was willing to point out the
obvious: that big donors would not be helping out Obama if they
didn't see him as a 'player.' 
Early in life, Obama had hints that he was among
the chosen. David Mendell recounts that "His mother really
built up his ego when he was a child. I think she felt like, here's
this African American child, growing up in a white family, whose
father has left him. He may suffer from some self-esteem issues.
So she built his character up from the very beginning. She told
him he was from almost a superior race of people and that he had
this extraordinary intellect, that he was someone very special.
And he was taught from the time he was a small child that he was
a special person, to the point that he seems to still believe
that today. He would tell people, 'I'm descended from kings,'
and stuff when he was a kid."
one of the interesting things about Obama is the number of times
the carefully prepared fairy tale goes astray.
For example, Bill Blum recounted, "In his autobiography,
'Dreams From My Fathers', Barack Obama writes of taking a job
at some point after graduating from Columbia University in 1983.
He describes his employer as 'a consulting house to multinational
corporations' in New York City, and his functions as a 'research
assistant' and 'financial writer.' The odd part of Obama's story
is that he doesn't mention the name of his employer.
"However, a New York Times story of 2007 identifies
the company as Business International Corporation. Equally odd
is that the Times did not remind its readers that the newspaper
itself had disclosed in 1977 that Business International had provided
cover for four CIA employees in various countries between 1955
and 1960. . . .
book, not only doesn't Obama mention his employer's name; he fails
to say when he worked there, or why he left the job. There may
well be no significance to these omissions, but inasmuch as Business
International has a long association with the world of intelligence,
covert actions, and attempts to penetrate the radical left --
including Students for a Democratic Society -- it's valid to wonder
if the inscrutable Mr. Obama is concealing something about his
own association with this world."
Obama would not have been the first or last young
Ivy League type seconded to the agency. As Lyndon Johnson said
to an aide, "Just remember, the CIA is filled with the Yale
and Princeton graduates whose daddies wouldn't let them into their
brokerage firm." Some of these relationships would turn into
a career, some were only a passing experience - but even the latter
added to one's credibility in dealing with those in high places.
And once again Obama had a
good precedent. Bill Clinton, according to several agency sources
interviewed by biographer Roger Morris, worked as a CIA informer
while briefly and erratically a Rhodes Scholar in England. Although
without visible means of support, he traveled around Europe and
the Soviet Union, staying at the ritziest hotel in Moscow. During
this period the US government was using well educated assets such
as Clinton as part of Operation Chaos, a major attempt to break
student resistance to the war and the draft.
While Clinton got a free trip to Moscow complete
with an expensive hotel room, the similarly fiscally strapped
Obama - shortly before working for BIC - took a three week jaunt
to Pakistan, again a fact almost totally obscured during his campaign.
As ABC's Jake Tapper remarked in April 2008, late into the campaign,
Obama's sudden incidental reference to the trip to Pakistan "was
news to many of us who have been following the race closely. And
it was odd that we hadn't hear about it before, given all the
talk of Pakistan during this campaign."
Questions have been raised about Obama's time at
Columbia as well. Politico noted that "There's not a whole
lot of information available about Obama's time at Columbia University
in New York, which he attended for three years after attending
Occidental College in Los Angeles for one year and from which
he graduated in 1983."
News contacted 400 Columbia University students from the time
Obama was there and none could recall him. Wayne Allyn Root, who
ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket, also graduated
in 1983 and says, "I don't know a single person at Columbia
that knew him, and they all know me. . . The guy who writes the
class notes, who's kind of the, as we say in New York, the macha
who knows everybody, has yet to find a person, a human who ever
met him. Is that not strange?" Root added that, like Obama,
he was "Class of '83 political science, pre-law. . . You
don't get more exact or closer than that. Never met him in my
life, don't know anyone who ever met him."
The NY Sun noted another anomaly: "Contributing
to the mystery is the fact that nobody knows just how well Mr.
Obama, unlike Senator McCain and most other major candidates for
the past two elections, performed as a student.
"The Obama campaign has refused to release
his college transcript, despite an academic career that led him
to Harvard Law School and, later, to a lecturing position at the
University of Chicago. The shroud surrounding his experience at
Columbia contrasts with that of other major party nominees since
2000, all whom have eventually released information about their
college performance or seen it leaked to the public. . .
"In contrast with the rest
of Mr. Obama's life story, little is known about his college experience.
He attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years before
transferring to Columbia in 1981. The move receives only a mention
in Mr. Obama's 1995 memoir, 'Dreams from My Father,' which instead
devotes that chapter to his impressions of race and class struggles
in New York."
In any case,
Obama moved on to Harvard Law School.
Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker described the Obama of
the time: "Before [Obama] went off [to Harvard], he said
to some of his community-organizing buddies he needed that credential,
that Harvard Law degree, to access the corridors of power and
to have that credential because he wasn't going to get that as
a community organizer in Chicago."
He had already made some headway along those lines,
as Mendell told PBS: "Folks like [former judge, U.S. representative
and University of Chicago professor] Abner Mikva and [lawyer and
former Federal Communications Commission chairman] Newton Minow
had taken him under their wing and really thought a lot of this
guy. They saw the potential that he had. . .
"Harvard Law, I think in his own mind, really
helped him establish himself as an elite person in our society.
It taught him that he could manage various worlds. . . "
And Obama played the card well.
Professors and fellow students at the time he was at Harvard Law
remember Obama rising above mere human conflict to a purportedly
higher level of bipartisanship and avoidance of cultural conflict.
Keith Boykin recalled, "Barack
was always supportive and sympathetic to our campaign for faculty
diversity. He spoke about it at one of our rallies. But he was
not actively involved in the protest movement. Nor did he need
to be. His presence alone made the case. And even if he agreed
with the cause of the movement, he didn't need to be involved
in the more radical protests we launched because our tactics were
controversial on campus."
Boston Globe article in 2007 reported:
"While other students were determined to prove
the merits of their beliefs through logic and determination, Obama
preferred to listen, seek others' views, and find a middle way.
"Classmates recall an especially
emotional debate in the spring of 1990 over affirmative action,
which conservative students wanted to abolish.
over an assembly of 60 mostly white editors in a law school classroom,
Obama listened to impassioned pleas and pressed conservatives
to explain their reasoning and liberals to sharpen their thinking.
But he never spoke about his own point of view or mentioned that
he believed he had benefit ed from affirmative action.
"Obama was so evenhanded and solicitous in
his interactions that fellow students would do impressions of
his Socratic chin-stroking approach to everything, even seeking
a consensus on popcorn preferences at the movies. 'Do you want
salt on your popcorn?' one classmate, Nancy L. McCullough, recalled,
mimicking his sensitive bass voice. 'Do you even want popcorn?'"
But what works for the editor
of a university law review impressing a bunch of powerful professors
and fellow future lawyers seldom adds up to leadership in politics.
It's a style that has been called OTOH BOTOH - on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-hand.
It is a politics of endless safety valves and of constantly adjusting
to the crowd. But OTOH BOTOH Obama wasn't elected president to
represent both sides of an argument, especially not by those of
his black and white liberal constituency that worked so hard on
his behalf. If his campaign rhetoric had been a label on a food
package, the product would have been removed from the shelves
by the FDA.
of Harvard Law School days seem a perfect prelude to Obama's handling
of the healthcare legislation, one of the worst examples of leadership
on behalf of a major positive issue of any president in the past
And here is one
of the big problems with the elite club approach to selecting
future leaders. The insiders pick people who won't cause any trouble
and can be counted to find positions where nothing much happens
so the pickers can continue with their game. But because truth
and wisdom are rarely to be found in the mushy middle, you often
end up with one more seemingly competent chosen one actually botching
things up. And the public, having been sold a bill of goods, ends
up wondering what the hell happened, with some of them getting
Some will deny
that an oligarchy exists. But consider a few more examples. The
Vietnam war was escalated and mangled with an extraordinary degree
of help from members of the Harvard faculty. The current fiscal
crisis and subsequent sweetheart deal with the banks owes much
to people like Robert Rubin, who went to Harvard and Yale; Ben
Bernanke, who went to Harvard; Larry Summers who not only went
to Harvard grad school but became president of the university;
Austan Goolsbee who went to Yale and was a member of Skull &
Bones; Peter Orzag, ex of Princeton; and Paul Volker who went
to Harvard grad school.
once again, Clinton provides a model. Parked at Little Rock's
Central Flying Service during Clinton's first big economic meeting
had been more than 50 corporate jets. This amounted to about one
corporate jet for every seven participants, not including those
company planes waiting at other airports around town. It would
also turn out that Clinton's cabinet, while diverse in color and
sex, was remarkably uniform in other respects. In the fall of
1993, Knight-Ridder published an analysis that found that 80%
of Clinton's first 518 appointees were from the Washington-Boston
corridor or the west coast. More than half came from DC or its
In my book on Clinton
Politics used to be about remembrance. The best politicians were
those who remembered and were remembered the most -- the most
people, the littlest favors, the smallest slights, the best anecdotes
tying one's politics to the common memory of the constituency.
was also about gratitude. Politicians were always thanking people,
"without whom" whatever under discussion could not have
happened. . .
Above all, politics
was about relationships. The politician grew organically out of
a constituency and remained rooted to it as long as incumbency
Today, we increasingly
elect people about whom we have little to remember, to whom we
owe no gratitude and with whom we have no relationship except
that formed during the great carnie show we call a campaign. 
We could change all this
if we got mad enough. We could demand public campaign financing.
We treat any contributions over a certain amount as the criminal
bribe that they are. We could favor candidates with histories
we know and who have actually helped us rather than those who
just suddenly appear in our lives like a new American Idol contestant.
We could do things to strengthen third parties and make major
parties more responsive - such as instant runoff voting. We could
emphasize - as the right has done - issue politics, forcing pols
to pay attention to things they would rather ignore. We could
help Congress become an equal member of government again and give
more power to state and local government where the influence of
ordinary citizens is far greater.
as long as we submit willingly to the icon con - tying our future
to a fantasy candidate instead of engaging in a real politics
of issues and ideas - the oligarchs will keep arranging political
marriages between the public and candidates about whom we know
little and to whom we owe nothing, and we will keep on losing
every major election