Rigged by Al Sikes


Hope is defining—freedom without hope is illusory. Rigged is the antithesis of hope. Why study or work hard if life is rigged? Why invest if the financial system is corrupt?

Communism was built on a foundation of capitalism being rigged—struggle without hope. It was hard, however, for Communism to survive when open societies thrived. The images brought down the Soviets, and their puppets as communication satellites showed the rewards of freedom. But, freedom paired with democracy is not an easy or sure road.

We have just finished an election contest where Bernie Sanders claimed Wall Street stacks the deck—rigs the system. Hillary Clinton was his target. And now we are in another where Donald Trump keeps shouting that the system is rigged.

I find a billionaire using charges of rigging both ironic and amusing. He claims to understand corruption because he is on the inside. What Trump knows is that if you invest enough in clever lawyers, you can game byzantine tax and bankruptcy codes and delay justice. Fortunately, most people voluntarily obey the law. Trump’s message is corrosive. What Trump doesn’t understand or care about is the consequences of his aggressive effort to undermine the view that America rewards personal efforts and enterprise. He should understand that America has been a magnet for immigrants who will do almost anything to escape rigged systems.

America, while not perfect, has fought domestically and internationally against those who would deny hope. But given our short-term memories and, too frequently, our lack of historical understanding, we are confronted by two candidates who, to Trump’s advantage, are thesis and proof. Trump’s thesis—the system is rigged (and nobody knows that better than me) and Hillary Clinton is proof. How, he invites the public to ask, can a former government official parley her public service into tens of millions of wealth? She, of course, will ask how did Trump escape four bankruptcies largely unscathed?

I am left unsurprised, but nauseous. Washington is filled with former government officials whose main asset is gaining access, and the larger the government gets the more is spent to access those in power. Gaining a prestigious position in Washington is more valuable than a Stanford MBA. And, it is not surprising that aggressive and clever lawyers have served Trump well. If I were a seller and Trump was the buyer, only a cash transaction would be acceptable.

Regardless of humanity’s inability to perfect a system of governance, we should remind ourselves of American progress through our founding documents, and a civil war fought to right a grievous wrong.

We should also remind ourselves that in the broad reach of time, 2020, the next Presidential election year, is not far off. We can begin to correct our current misadventures in 2018 when once again we are given the constitutional privilege of electing a new House of Representatives.

My vote in November will be one of protest while looking forward to leaders who are not proof of rigged systems.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

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