2021: The Year of the Elites vs. the Populists

Written by Philip Mauriello Jr., Managing Attorney of Arete Law A.P.C. and host of the California Underground Podcast

2021 is still in its infancy and still has much to offer. Around this same time last year people were gearing up for big Super Bowl parties across the country. Large gatherings in homes, at bars, and restaurants, but this year none of that is to occur. The CDC released guidelines telling people how to celebrate the Super Bowl this year, and Dr. Fauci has already warned Americans that this is not the year to be hosting big parties. Likewise, local officials like Supervisor Nathan Fletcher have told people this is not the year to celebrate and that if we just hold off this year, we can “do more” next year.

Supervisor Fletcher skirted around saying “things will be back to normal next year” and instead said we can “do more.” What does that entail? Hard to say because allowing one or two households over next year for Super Bowl would certainly be “more” but far from normal.

But so far in this young year, with a new administration in place, 2021 is gearing up to be the showdown of the elites versus the populists. The most recent battle between the two was the Gamestop trading that occurred on Wall Street last week.

To give a quick synopsis of what happened, a group of retail and amateur traders on Reddit saw that a lot of hedge funds were shorting the stock for GameStop. This meant they were betting on the stock price to continue to go down. The Reddit traders saw this opportunity and told their followers to buy into GameStop. The price skyrocketed without warning and now all these billionaire hedge fund managers were scrambling to cover losses as the price soared upwards of $400 a share. This caused panic on Wall Street and trading platforms like Robinhood to halt trading of the stock.

The result was a shot across the bow from the little people to those in their ivory gold-encrusted towers. The pushback from those in power signaled something even more menacing to the “little guy”, only big elites are allowed to manipulate and trade like that, not peons like you. Of course, the pushback then caused a rallying cry across the globe with investors pouring more money into GameStop. Most of the amateur investors don’t care about making any money. As long as they hold a higher position than those hedge funds started their short at, they are losing money and lots of it. In the words of Heath Ledger’s Joker, “It’s not about the money, it’s about sending a message.”

Janet Yellen (the first female Treasury Secretary if anyone cares) who was paid $810,000 in speaking fees from Citadel, the company investing in Robinhood, somehow skirted around ethics violations to figure out to put down the Reddit Rebellion. Senator Warren, once a self-proclaimed champion of the little guy, showed her true colors when she came out and defended the hedge funds. Op-ed pieces were now claiming the Reddit Rebellion was akin to the “Capitol Insurrection” and these traders are nothing more than “domestic terrorists.”

Newly minted President Biden has certainly not helped his cause to show he is out to help the little guy. He appointed mostly well-connected lobbyists and former Obama swamp creatures to his Cabinet. Political lifers like Pete Buttigieg who knew next to nothing about Transportation was appointed Secretary of Transportation. His only qualification is that he is a loyal Democratic Party stooge willing to toe the line. The progressive populists of the Democratic Party were left out in the cold.

Here in California, soon to be recalled Governor Newsom had an incredibly tone-deaf moment when he replied to a question about suffering businesses in California by saying “Ask the billionaires here, they seem to be doing really well.” Governor Newsom misses the entire point here because the businesses the reporter was referring to were not billionaire tech companies, but rather small Mom and Pop businesses that are suffering under his lockdowns.

Of course Governor Newsom only cares about billionaire tech companies. Facebook recently did him a solid by removing all ads about the recall effort. A legitimate, constitutionally protected right of Californians, was denied access to advertising on Facebook. There was no incitement to violence or harassment, Facebook just does not like the recall effort.

As 2021 continues to unfold, we will continue to see the coalition of Big Government, Big Tech, and Big Hedge Funds colluding to keep the little guy in their place. Pushing a populist platform like the one President Trump won on in 2016 is not to be tolerated. You will be called a domestic terrorist, a traitor, and squashed. All the while Biden supporters will cheer on their new overlords as saviors of Western civilization. All while patting themselves on the back and say they are the “outsiders” pushing for radical change in our country.

What we have left to see is if populist pushbacks like the Reddit Rebellion will continue. Whether or not the people still have some recourse against further encroachment. I believe the more the Big Three continue to crack down on the little guy, the little guy will fight back even harder. That is why even in such a young year, I foresee this year as the year the Elites and Populists square off to determine the future of this country. How this faceoff ends will radically determine how our country is run for generations to come.

Photo via Center for the Study of Statesmanship