If Epstein’s initial plea deal was a particularly horrifying example of that dynamic, then his new arrest seemed like a final chance at justice. No matter what sort of elites you hated—Democratic, Republican, financial, academic, technological, coastal—they were all connected to Epstein. Not only that, but his connections offered the tantalizing possibility that his trial could bring down many others. Accordingly, his apparent suicide represents one final act of impunity, depriving his victims of a chance to hold him to account.
David A. Graham: Arresting Epstein is just the start
The 2008 financial crisis, with its combination of disastrous misbehavior from elites and lack of accountability, helped spur large-scale social movements, from the left (Occupy Wall Street) and the right (the Tea Party). While both of these movements lost outward momentum over the course of the Obama administration, their heirs made themselves heard during the 2016 campaign.
On the left, there was Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, which morphed from a de facto protest candidacy to a genuine threat to Hillary Clinton’s expected coronation. On the right, an overstuffed slate of small-government, pro-business Republicans heralded as the smartest in decades was toppled by Donald Trump, a political outsider whose campaign morphed from a joke into a juggernaut while discarding GOP dogma, instead offering skepticism of trade and support for social-insurance programs.
As it happened, Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, formed a perfect target for anti-elite anger. Over the course of decades, a combination of their own missteps and a vast right-wing media effort had created a long dossier with which to attack them. This included flimsy accusations (Whitewater, Travelgate, and so on) as well as some genuine scandals, most notably Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct. After Bill Clinton left office, the Clintons became wealthy, earning vast sums of money from speaking engagements on Wall Street and elsewhere and jetting around the world with famous friends—including Jeffrey Epstein. Former Clinton officials found top jobs in banks that then had to be bailed out in 2008. Critics were convinced that the Clintons could get away with anything—even murder, some conspiracy theorists claimed.
Hillary Clinton’s newfound wealth and connections to Wall Street made her a perfect foil for Sanders’s leftist campaign, and once she had locked up the Democratic nomination, everything else made a good foil for Trump. The controversy over her use of a private email server, and especially its abortive reopening in the final days of the campaign, arguably cost Clinton the presidency. While FBI Director James Comey concluded that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring ... a case,” Trump was able to tap into a sense that the Clintons were once again getting away with something for which ordinary people would have gone to jail.