Director Jacob Kornbluth On ‘Saving Capitalism,’ Robert Reich & Trump Voters [VIDEO EXCLUSIVE]
Jacob Kornbluth co-directed the new Netflix documentary Saving Capitalism, based on a book by economist Robert Reich. Reich’s message is similar to the more familiar left wing figure Bernie Sanders – they both represent the move from establishment politics to antiestablishment politics.
“Sanders has been at it for a good long time as well, so I don’t know if it’s a race to see who was in it first, but it certainly seems that there are elements of this transformation from this establishment politics that were happening for the last few decades to this antiestablishment wave,” Kornbluth told uInterview in an exclusive video. “On the left it was exemplified by Bernie Sanders, and Reich has been very much a part of that movement. I mean, he was part of the [Bill] Clinton administration in the 90s that was sweeping and changed the Democratic party then. But I think over time I’ve seen his personal disillusionment with the way establishment politics was operating, I’ve seen that evolve.”
The director noted how the political climate has changed drastically, even just during the primaries of the 2016 presidential election. “When we started making this film, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were the leading candidates for president on the left and on the right, and we didn’t know that this antiestablishment wave was going to take over this quickly, but I think going back a good long way, in Reich and my conversations, you could see the sense that this was coming,” he said.
Reich served as Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration, and was frustrated that he couldn’t change the way the system was shifting. “I don’t know the specifics of his relationship with Bill Clinton, but I do know that he went into the Clinton Administration with the idea that the system was changing, that the economic system was evolving away form working people, and toward the wealthy, and thought that being in the Clinton Administration was a real chance to course correct for the system,” he said. “And I know that he left the system feeling as though they had missed the opportunity to genuinely change the structure of the economy.”
As for running for office, Kornbluth doesn’t think there’s any chance that Reich would seek election. “I don’t think he has any desire to run for office, and I think it’s because there is so much pressure to raise money in the political system the way it’s organized. He ran for governor against Mitt Romney in the late ’90s,” Kornbluth said, noting that his campaign manager wanted him to take out a second mortgage on his family’s home to fund the race. “He said, ‘This is the house I’m raising my kids in, I can’t mortgage my house and lose my home. What you see is an incredible amount of pressure on people running for elected office to spend a large percentage of their time raising money. And in a simple way I don’t think he’s great at kissing the rear ends of wealthy people in a way that makes it easy to raise money, and I think for that reason he’s probably not a great politician.”
In Saving Capitalism, Kornbluth and Reich both considered the mindsets of voters for Clinton and for Donald Trump, and how the two might have more in common than they think. Mainly, it’s an anger at the current system and a need for change. “It’s an interesting question, how do you reach beyond the choir, reach past the converted, how do you make an impact there. And I’ll tell you one thing that I’ve found traveling around trying to make this movie, is that firstly, if you look at it from a bird’s eye view, you see that there’s about 10% of the economic distribution for whom the economy is working,” Kornbluth explained. “They could be Democrats or Republicans, they live in affluent suburbs, or particular neighborhoods that are doing well, and they don’t agree about anything except they basically feel that their voices are being heard.”
Kornbluth sees some hope for dialogue between left and right, though. “You have this about 90% of the economic distribution that you look at and just don’t know their politics. You would say, ‘they’re frustrated,’ and we saw this in 2008, 2009 with the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movement happening at the same time. We saw it with Bernie Sanders movement coming right alongside the Trump campaign and what you see is that even though they don’t agree about anything at all, you see that there is some commonality in a sense of frustration with a system that isn’t working, when you get below into that bottom 90% of the economic distribution,” he said. “So then the question is, are those differences that they have just totally insurmountable? Is it just that they have too many differences on social issues, on a woman’s right to choose, that they cant see that their economic frustration is the same across the political spectrum, and so far we have seen that there is not enough shared experience between the frustrated left and frustrated right, that they don’t see that crony capitalism that the Tea Party is rallying against might be the same as some of the corporate interests that the left is rallying against. Because everybody is so focused on the social issues, the real and meaningful issues, on which we have so many differences.”
Saving Capitalism will start streaming on Netflix on Nov. 21.