It's becoming clearer that the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are based on two sides of the same argument: the idea that the unwritten, unspoken contract between the elite and everyone else in America has broken down.
In Trump's case it's the contract between the angry base and the GOP establishment; in Sanders’ case it's between the angry employees and their high living employers. Both are David and Goliath battles, and they will be shepherded by their respective leaders to very different ends.
We know how it used to work. That contract used to stipulate that the elite shared some responsibility for the well being of those below them; that they would take their share and make a profit but ensure that those below would at least have a shot a comfortable life and otherwise be able to make ends meet.
You can grouse that this contract never existed, but if that were true then how would you explain the sense of grievance and betrayal that is everywhere in American life now, the sense that things used to work much better, that the future once held promise, but that future has turned out to be an illusion, because that future has been snatched away?
During the Ronald Reagan era the last vestiges of that longstanding contract with the American worker ebbed away the blatant exploitation of Clinton global economy, the low wage retail economy and the explosion of prison employment.
But the fury of the American worker seeing wages stagnate as costs rose was displaced by 9/11, the Iraq war, the culture wars, illegal immigration rhetoric, gay rights battles, all the things that divided their attention as their pockets were picked.
Given that the baseline issue for national wellbeing is economic wellbeing, can we claim to be surprised that despots and blowhards are suddenly among us, or that white, black, evangelical or Catholic are suddenly willing to give them a serious hearing? The breakdown of the contract means that all bets are off, and when all bets are off we are all in danger.
America’s working class is in pain. The wound has been enflamed by governmental indifference to their plight and now the most aggrieved are in search of someone to blame for their long humiliation, their decades spent in the economic wilderness, after the false promise that they were the top dogs has been thoroughly exposed.
It's a cause for wonder that the “elites” inside the Beltway and their mouthpieces in the expensive broadsheets are in shock over the rise of Herr Trump. All the signs have been in place for decades.
Remember how the Tea Party cleaned up Senate primaries. Remember how rootin' tootin' Sarah Palin was selected as a viable vice presidential candidate.
Fox News has traded on conservative resentment over social and political change and has even hawked conspiracy theories for over a decade, inflaming an already angered base. The endless shutdowns of the government added to the sense of crisis, as did the debt ceiling hostage taking.
Centrist Republicans like John Boehner were hounded in office or purged in the primaries. And along the way politics, a game of compromise, gave way to a hardening of the mind that contends that politics and politicians are actually the problem.
Republicans run for political office now contending that they hate politics. They volunteer to lead while reminding us all leaders are liars. They bite every hand that feeds them, including their own.
The rise of Trump is a consequence of the collapse of the contract with America. The termites have actually been working on the GOP for decades and now the party has finally collapsed. Instead of a great victory the dumpster may be coming in November.
Trump, master of the hostile takeover, has picked up what's left of this floundering party in a fire-sale. At the moment it's most high profile achievement seems to be to prevent the transgendered from using the restroom. The party of Lincoln has fallen low indeed.
Trump is a gambling man. When you own a casino, you live to spin the roulette wheel. When you are a reality TV star, you realize you can do the reshoots that real life denies.
You can even tell people your plan is to make the country great again, all the while aiming to line your own pockets. Because when the contract has been torn up, all bets are off.