Archive for March, 2016
All the talk is about Cruz and Trump these days, but I don’t see either of them getting the Republican nomination. Trump seems to be imploding. He’s falling in the polls and his reality TV like gig is starting to wear on the American people. Unless he mounts some kind of come back, he is looking less and less likely to go into the GOP convention with enough delegates to win the nomination.
Ted Cruz may be the “main challenger” to Trump now, but he’d need to win 80% of remaining delegates to come to the convention with the nomination in hand. He is not going to do that. And while he will claim he is the “top alternative” to Trump, he doesn’t have a strong argument. After all, if it’s OK to deny the guy with the most delegates the nomination, it’s certainly just as legitimate to deny the nomination to the number two guy!
More important, Cruz has strong negatives against him. First, the GOP establishment (i.e., almost all of the Senate) dislike him. He is neither respected nor trusted. Second, if Trump is denied the main role, there is a real danger that he’ll do and say things to try defeat the eventual nominee. The Republicans will want to find a way to convince him to support the party. One conditions is almost certain: the nominee can’t be Ted Cruz. Trump has too much animosity towards him. Indeed, Trump may be given the role of acting as the king maker, “voluntarily” removing himself from the running to endorse Kasich. That way, he also saves face.
Why Kasich? So far, except for very early in the campaign, Kasich has avoided engaging Trump directly. He’s remained the adult – and I’m betting the Republicans will find a way to get Trump to call on his delegates to support Kasich. Revenge against Cruz might in part motivate such Trump graciousness.
The case for Kasich will be stronger if he’s teamed with another major candidate – Marco Rubio. Rubio may not have been ready for prime time in the Presidential ring, but he’s exactly the kind of Vice Presidential candidate someone Kasich would need. Kasich is a midwest white Governor who is 64 years old. A young hispanic Marco Rubio from Florida would be a perfect balance.
After all, what two states were the most consequential in the last four elections? Yes – Ohio and Florida!
Such a ticket would have numerous advantages. First, it could win. Hillary is licking her chops eyeing both Trump and Cruz, two candidates with a track record that leaves them wide open for attack over past positions and statements. Trump is, well, Trump. Cruz is a bit creepy and not very likable.
But what about the conservative base? A few ardent Cruz supporters will be incensed that the establishment got their way, but Kasich is definitely a true conservative. Yes, he’s pragmatic – that means he can deal with liberals and isn’t driven by ideological zeal. But looking at his record over the years he is one of the more conservative politicians in the Republican party. My bet is that a focus on his record will convince most who now would oppose Kasich to embrace him. After all, once the heat of the campaign is underway their choice will be Kasich or Clinton (perhaps Sanders)!
Obviously this prediction seems a long shot. Yet it seems increasingly unlikely that either Trump or Cruz will be the nominee — their constant exchange of insults belittle both of them. Kasich is the best positioned to not only get the nomination but to win in November.
So that’s my March 30, 2016 prediction: Kasich-Rubio will emerge from the convention in Cleveland to represent the Republican party in November.
If you read the pundits, there are two prevailing arguments: 1) Bernie can win, and it’s a conspiracy of big media and the Democratic establishment to say Hillary is inevitable; or 2) Hillary has math on her side, and it’s hard to deny math.
So who is right, does Sanders have a chance? Rather than rely on abstract arguments, conspiracy theories or dueling pundits, let’s get into the numbers.
As of March 27, 2016 the official total is Clinton 1712 vs. Sanders 1004. That includes super delegates however – leading Democratic officials who have a voice at the convention – and those people could change their mind. So removing super delegates it’s 1243 – 975. Needed to get the nomination: 2383.
The super delegates currently pledged to Clinton are not going to be swayed easily – but the strongest argument for them to switch would be if Sanders would get the majority of pledged delegates going into the convention, meaning that the super delegates, if they choose Clinton, would be defying the voters. They would be loathe to do that.
Here are the up coming primaries/caucuses:
Tuesday April 5: Wisconsin, 96 delegates
Saturday April 9: Wyoming caucus, 18 delegates
Tuesday April 19: New York, 291 delegates
Tuesday April 26, Connecticut 70, Delaware 31, Maryland 118, Pennsylania 210, Rhode Island 33 delegates
Tuesday May 3, Indiana 32 delegates
Tuesday May 10, West Virginia 33 delegates
Tuesday May 17, Kentucky 61, Oregon 73 delegates
Saturday June 5 – Sunday June 5, Virgin Islands 12, Puerto Rico 67 delegates
Tuesday June 7: California 546, Montana 27, New Jersey 142, New Mexico 43, North Dakota caucus 23, South Dakota 25 delegates
Tuesday June 14: District of Columbia caucus 46 delegates
Next, turning to the polls, the only recent polls that show Clinton with a large advantage are ones a bit over a week old from Pennsylvania and New York. Those are delegate rich states, and Clinton has leads of nearly 30 points in each. In Arizona, a state Clinton won by 16 points, she had a 26 point lead in a poll near the election. So these polls have to be taken with a grain of salt – she also had a big lead in Michigan (27 and 17 points), a state she ended up losing!
Given that volatility, it seems obvious that Sanders still has a chance. I thought her sweep on March 15th was decisive, especially when she won Ohio, but Sanders has bounced back from those loses.
Still, Sanders’ strength has been in caucus states – and almost all the delegates to come are chosen in primaries. Right now the odds still favor Hillary, but it’s like a team sitting on a lead in the NCAA tournament – the longer you allow the other team to stay in the game, the greater the odds of an unexpected come back.
Sanders path to victory: Sanders has the Millennials, generating levels of support from young people that go beyond what Obama accomplished in 2008. He has to generate at least some of that enthusiasm from older voters and minorities, something he has yet to do with any consistency. Assuming Sanders can win the Wyoming caucuses, Wisconsin is fundamental. A Sanders victory in Wisconsin, especially a decisive one, will force the media and pundits to reassess their calculation that Clinton is all but inevitable.
If he wins in Wisconsin, he’ll have two weeks to campaign in New York state, riding 5 straight victories, 7 of the last 8. If he can make New York close, denying Clinton the decisive victory everyone expects, then the race will be razor thin. (If he wins New York, Clinton will suddenly look like Northern Iowa against Texas A&M).
If Clinton wins New York only narrowly, then we have another Super Tuesday on April 26th. Of the states up that night, Pennsylvania and Maryland – two states which should be favorable to Clinton — will be center stage. If Sanders wins CT, DL and RI, then he need only be close in those states. A victory in either would be huge.
If Sanders does that – wins most states and holds Clinton close in NY, Penn and Maryland – then May will not be decisive, they’ll likely trade victories and the big showdown will be in California on June 7th. If Sanders wins that – so late in the season – he’ll likely have the majority of delegates and the super delegates will be in exceedingly dangerous territory if they were to deny him the nomination. Shorter version: Sanders MUST win Wisconsin, and then fight close contests in states Clinton is expected to win. If Sanders wins either New York or Pennsylvania, he becomes the favorite. California may decide it.
Clinton’s path to victory: Winning Wisconsin would be huge for Hillary – it would deflate the Sanders campaign and make it easier for her going into her home state contest in New York. If she loses Wisconsin she has to win BIG in New York, and later Pennsylvania. If she does that, the math should be on her side going into May. Still, unless Sanders under performs the rest of the way it’s likely to be June before she would have the nomination in hand.
Bottom line: This election is much closer than most people think, and closer than I expected it to be just a couple weeks ago. The campaign matters and while Clinton remains the favorite, the fact she’s even in danger at this point underscores her problem. She’s hasn’t convinced or inspired most Democrats yet.
Hillary Clinton must be feeling very confident these days. She has beaten back the Sanders insurgency and the Republican party is in full scale civil war as they grapple with the possibility of nominating Donald Trump as their Presidential candidate. Indeed, conservatives are attacking other conservatives, there are calls to “blacklist” anyone who dares support Trump, and the Republican party is in complete disarray. Once they touted a “deep and talented field.” Now Trump’s main opposition is Ted Cruz, a man almost just as hated by the party elite.
Conventional wisdom says that this is all very good news for Hillary Clinton. After all, the GOP is divided now – and may end up with a brokered convention or even riots. Certainly that will dampen GOP enthusiasm in the fall, and one would expect the Democrats to be motivated to defeat Trump.
Still, while Democratic Schadenfreude – joy caused by the suffering of someone else – is understandable, it is premature.
Donald Trump may be a con man, he may be crude, he may even be destined for defeat, but it’s not like he is masterfully manipulating an otherwise satisfied public. The reason Trump is so popular is that he tapped into something real – something that turned strong Republican candidates into losers, and which Hillary might find far harder to defeat than expected.
Starting in 1985 the phenomenon of globalization begun to shape the world economy. A mix of technological advancement and economic deregulation allowed investors – global capital – to transcend borders. Where once large corporations belonged to a country, now they had subsidiaries in many countries, with no true home. If you bought a Toyota in 1980 it was likely made in Japan. Now you’ll find it’s made in the US or Mexico. Is a Ford made in Poland more American than a Nissan made in Tennessee?
Accompanying this was a proliferation of free trade agreements – NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, and others globally. The European Union made European borders all but irrelevant with 19 states giving up control of their national currency in favor of the Euro.
For a long time the critics of globalization were on the left. They disrupted the meetings of the G8, even causing riots against the WTO. As the economy seemed moving onward and upward, with Walmart offering ever cheaper foreign goods, most people were content. Those anti-globalization folk are simply anti-capitalist, and capitalism is working!
Then in 2008 insane trading of over the counter derivative bonds fueled a housing bubble. When the bubble burst the resulting crash of mortgage backed bonds yielded the worst economic collapse since the 1930s. Wall Street used its political connections to fight off any serious regulatory attempts, and the market is near all time highs.
The middle class, however, did not recover after the collapse. Instead, their standard of living, their job security, and prospects for the future are more in peril than ever. The jobs that left as global capital raced to invest in places with low wage workers never came back. Factories closed. Mills closed. And the service sector jobs that seemed to be replacing them – albeit at lower wages – dwindled after the collapse. Many Americans see a future that looks bleaker than the past, and they don’t like it.
Who to blame? The foreigners first, of course. Build a wall! Win against China! Don’t let Muslims in the country! People often fear what is different so attacking foreigners or minorities at home works. Second: attack the politicians as being in on the rigged game. The politicians don’t do anything, they live in a gilded cage where they get a piece of the action and wink and nod at special interests even as they tell the public they’ll fix things.
Blaming foreigners/minorities is not fair. Blaming politicians is. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have realized how much anger is brewing. Not all the anger is justified. Some people are angry about demographic and cultural change and want the world to revert to what it was like when Reagan was President. That’s not going to happen. But economic insecurity is rational, and Trump is taping into that.
Therein likes the danger for Hillary. Trump isn’t winning because he’s Trump, he’s winning because the conditions are right for someone with his style and tone. Sanders challenged Hillary more powerfully than anyone imagined for the same reason – he speaks to the same concerns (albeit much more rationally).
Politics as usual was not enough for to beat Trump in the GOP primary. It may not be enough for Hillary to beat Trump in the fall. Both parties have to come to grips with the fact that globalization has restructured the national economy and is now provoking a populist uproar. Trump is not the answer. But it’s not at all clear that Hillary truly understands the problem.
When Jerry Springer approached Donald Trump with his idea of a Republican primary reality show, Trump was intrigued. His “Apprentice” show was getting stale, and the idea of a political reality show seemed brilliant – look at the popularity of “House of Cards.” Moreover, the Republicans were willing to move their primaries back to April, recognizing the futility of a long campaign. As GOP Chair Reince Priebus noted, “after the chaos of a reality show primary, people will be relieved to find out Mitt Romney is again our candidate.”
Unlike past reality shows, which aired only an hour or so a week, this would air on the main news channels. CNN, FOX and MSNBC would start airing the show in the summer of 2015, and if the ratings were good they could increase coverage. Not only did they do that, but Springer has been able sell rights to air the reality show to other TV stations. By September virtually every major media outlet signed on, earning Springer hundreds of millions of dollars.
In recent weeks, however, the popularity of the show has been overshadowed by the fact that many people believe it IS reality – that Donald Trump is actually leading the Republican primary field ahead of a Joe McCarthyesque creepy Texan who Springer originally thought wouldn’t be realistic as a Presidential candidate.
Trump is amazed but enjoys the publicity. “I love it,” he said. “It makes me think I might run for real someday!” Then he smiles. “Just kidding.” Trump studied footage of Benito Mussolini in order to play a “political boss.” “My role is to be a bully, to attack and get reactions from the contestants. Apparently I’m very believable.”
Ted Cruz, played by gay rights activist actor Laurent de Silva said that his role model was Joe McCarthy. “What scares me when I’m out in public is how many people come up and agree with my character. I tell them I’m gay and they get a shocked look and walk away. Hilarious.” De Silva thinks the people fooled into thinking the show is real are ‘low information voters.’ “They just turn on the TV and assume whatever is on is the truth.”
Jeb Bush, who played himself in a kind of cameo, said it was fun to be on stage. “I enjoyed it, but certainly didn’t take it seriously. They wanted me to stay on longer but I really had things I wanted to do.”
Former hip hop star Tyrone Three Chains said he loved playing Ben Carson. “Man, a black brain surgeon who talks like he’s on Quaaludes and takes outlandish right wing positions one expects from stuck up white Jesus freaks – gotta love that role. I honestly don’t think I fooled anyone, I mean, I was going for humor!”
Many reporters covering the reality show are upset that they are fooling people into believing a farce. “I’m a real news woman,” said Meagan Kelly of Fox. “But the ratings are so good and they doubled my salary to play Trump’s nemesis so…it is a business first, after all.”
As the show nears its climax next week, we’re told to expect violent protests, renewed in fighting, a scandal and some scuffles with the media. “It’ll be lots of fun,” insisted Springer, “with a few surprises.”
Trump, who has put his actual support behind the Bernie Sanders campaign, says that when the show is over he expects a lot of confusion from people who were fooled. “I do reality shows good because I play myself. Yes, I’m a con man. We’ve done everything to go over the top with it, including parading products I don’t even sell any more – that were failures – and people eat it up.” Trump shakes his head. “It sort of scares me.”
Hillary Clinton, who is running in a real primary scoffs off the hype. “More people are engaged in the reality show than real politics and that should worry us. Still, Donald is a friend of mine and I’m hooked. It’ll be disappointing next month when we have to deal with the real Republican campaign.”
In November 2007 Time magazine had Hillary Clinton on the cover, proclaiming that she was the certain Democratic nominee. She had the money, the endorsements, and it was her time. Less than two months later Barack Obama surprised her with a win in Iowa and after a long hard fought primary he was destined to become the 44th President.
Fast forward eight years. Again, Hillary appears to be riding high in 2015. Most potential Democratic candidates chose not to take on the Clinton machine – Obama had been a fluke, they reasoned, a product of American unease after the Iraq war. Only the obscure New England Social Democrat Bernie Sanders and bland Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley joined the race. Sanders at 74 was seen as undertaking a quixotic journey, making a statement with a late career Presidential run with no chance of success. O’Malley was positioning himself for the future. It was Hillary’s to lose.
She hasn’t lost yet, and this time probably won’t. Despite Sanders’ Michigan shock, the math and the map seem to favor Hillary. Yet Democrats are uneasy; Hillary is not a strong candidate.
Hillary Clinton is seen as honest and trustworthy by only 37% of the population. People are tired of her and the Clintons; it’s been 27 years since they entered the realm of Presidential politics. For that entire time she’s been hammered by the Republicans, usually unfairly, but often effectively.
Right or wrong, she’s associated with Wall Street. She was a New York Senator, after all, and any New York Senator, including presumptive Senate Democrat leader Charles Schumer, has to support Wall Street to some extent. But Bill Clinton’s 1990s economy was built on a Wall Street bubble, and while she waxes poetic about how great things were during his term, most people realize that the economy was built on a house of cards, and we’re still recovering.
Moreover, even in the 1990s there were rumblings of discontent over NAFTA, globalization, and the shifting of wealth away from the working class to a smaller elite, what Sanders might call an oligarchy. The same kind of populist Angst and anger over an economy that seems to be crunching the middle class that propels Trump also powers support for Sanders.
As Hillary said herself in this week’s debate, she’s not a natural politician. To be blunt, she wouldn’t be where she is if her husband had not been President of the United States. I’ve talked with more than one young female who thinks that alone makes her an inappropriate choice to be the first woman President. But more to the point: she is more a policy wonk than a candidate. She doesn’t have the ability her husband had to connect and inspire.
That doesn’t mean she’ll lose – Richard Nixon was never an inspirational figure, but he won. Yet it should give the Democrats reason to worry. The current discord among the GOP does give Clinton supporters hope – Hillary should be able to defeat Donald Trump, and a divided Republican party is likely to emerge in any event. But Sanders has shown that she still has the weaknesses that doomed her 2008 candidacy. It is becoming painfully obvious that both the Democrats and the Republicans need to retool their message. As it stands in March 2016 there is unease in both parties, worried that their Presidential nominee, whoever they will be, may not be what is needed this time around.
Robert Reich, driven in part by the use of a Nazi looking salute at Trump rallies, has decided it is appropriate to use the “F-word” – fascist – to describe Trump.
Fascism as an ideology is little understood by most people. It is unlike any other ideology in that fascism does not rest on the use of reason and rational thought, but instead relies on emotion. Fascism does not go for the head, but for the gut. It seeks to motivate people by creating “enemy images” of others. It is anti-intellectual, anti-rational, and usually involves hero and leader worship as well as a strong sense of being part of a “movement” bigger than oneself. It embraces a kind of collective empowerment that can be used to rationalize violence (e.g., roughing up reporters or protesters).
Fascism is not necessarily racist. Because there are no core principles – just a will to power and appeal to emotion – there are no core beliefs and assumptions. Socialism, capitalism, communism, libertarianism, and other ‘ideologies’ are reason-based, resting on assumptions and principles that yield a particular world view. Fascism is considered “far right” because it evokes an irrational appeal to tradition, custom and nationalism. Conservatism traditionally rests on a view of society as a kind of organic collective, held together by tradition and custom. All ideologies of the left (as well as classical liberal views like capitalism and libertarianism) base themselves in reason. But it is not conservative because it warps the customs and traditions it claims to defend.
In a real sense, fascism is anti-ideology. This means fascists pick and choose how to defend their appeal. Hitler was avowedly racist and militarist. The Nazis felt that war shaped the national character and was necessary to keep a people or state vibrant. But Francisco Franco of Spain did not. Though a General, he stayed out of World War II and embraced a very conservative form of fascism that glorified the traditions of the Catholic Church. Benito Mussolini joined the war, but he didn’t have his heart in militarism; he preferred the pomp and spectacle of grandiose Italian nationalism.
Latin American fascists like Juan Peron and Getulio Vargas used emotion to generate support for the people so they could stabilize society and get broad support for a scheme of elite power sharing and control — bread and circuses to keep the masses occupied while big government and big business ran the show. They saw that as more effective than a messy, unstable democracy that could be co-opted by socialist and radical movements.
So what about Trump? His movement contains aspects of fascism. He appeals to emotion, has the macho tough guy image, and many of his fans are “followers” – people who want a leader and admire someone with raw, passionate power who goes after what he wants without regard for what others think.
This appeal has been linked to the “authoritarian personality,” a kind of masochistic desire to yield oneself completely to the power of another in order to experience the thrill of total obedience – experiencing a sense of power and exhilaration through the act of submission.
But fascism so defined is not what most Americans think of when they use the “f-word.” They think of concentration camps, the holocaust, war and racism. They think of Hitler, and equate fascism with National Socialism. Nazism was fascist, but fascism is not Nazism. Fascism is what the leader makes of it. Trump is not a Nazi. He has not embraced militarism – quite the contrary, he’s the only Republican unabashedly critical of the Iraq war. So-called neo-conservatives threaten to support Hillary if Trump is the GOP nominee because she seems more militarist than he does.
Trump certainly appeals to emotion, and disses the educated elite as being the equivalent of out of touch pansies, something that his crowds love. Yet his message is reminiscent of Ross Perot – the US is suffering due to globalization as good jobs are outsourced and the elites get wealthier as the middle class declines. Trump certainly has never questioned democracy. In fact, he argues (much like Sanders) that Washington elite fear democracy and want to protect a kind of oligarchy.
Fascism connects the meaning of life with loyalty to the state and its leader. For Mussolini Italy was to recapture the glory of Rome. Trump is a nationalist, but his rhetoric does not suggest that people need to submit to the state and authority in order to have meaning in life. Again, he’s addressing working class Angst over the way the global economy has threatened the American dream.
So is Trump a fascist? His movement and rhetoric at times have attributes shared with fascism, but I ultimately answer the question with “no.” Joesph Goebbels, propaganda leader for the National Socialists famously said that he learned everything he needed to know from Madison Avenue – the street in New York City home to the big advertising agencies. The appeal to emotion is shared by marketers, and Frankfurt School theorists Adorno and Horkheimer even hinted that the emotion-driven emerging consumer society in the West had fascist attributes.
Trump is using similar tactics to market himself to the people, but his rhetoric and bravado borrows more from pro wrestling than Hitler. It’s the choreographed show with trash talk and calculated political incorrectness designed to drive home the point he is not a traditional politician. Yet at base I think Trump is simply marketing Trump, and is not motivated to try to reshape society into a fascist style system. He wants attention, adoration, and respect – but isn’t planning a nefarious power grab.
So I’ll avoid the f-word in describing Trump, and stick to the “populist” label.
The Drudge Report had near the top of its banner a line that Obama was snubbing Nancy Reagan’s funeral to attend a film festival.
Clicking the link to the story and one could find comments filled with rage. Obama shows no respect! Sending his wife instead of going himself is an insult! What a horrible human Obama is!
Ronald Reagan did not attend Bess Truman’s funeral. He sent Nancy.
President George W. Bush did not attend Ladybird Johnson’s funeral. He sent Laura. Barbara Bush was there too, but not George the Elder.
President Bill Clinton did not attend Patrica Nixon’s funeral. He sent Vernon Jordan.
President Jimmy Carter did not attend Maimie Eisenhower’s funeral.
President Obama did not attend Betty Ford’s funeral. He sent Michelle.
The only exception to this universal rule of Presidents NOT attending the funeral of a former first lady is when Bill Clinton attended Jackie Onasis’ funeral. The reason? He was invited to give a eulogy.
So if anyone tries to claim that the President is being disrespectful and petty for “skipping” the funeral for an event long planned, don’t get mad. Media outlets like the Drudge Report like to whip people into an emotional frenzy, and getting ire up against Obama is a kind of sport as far as they’re concerned.
No, smile. Say that you understand why they might have that reaction but luckily it’s not a snub, but actually tradition. Inform them that even Ronald Reagan sent his wife to the funeral of a first lady. Run down the list.
“Disgusting. Crude. School yard brawl. Shameful.” Those are some of the words Republicans have used to describe the March 3rd Republican debate in which Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz ganged up on Donald Trump in an insult laden often childish “debate.” Only John Kasich remained above the fray, refusing to take the bait to join the free for all.
This bizarre debate illustrates the Republican dilemma. On the one hand people like Mitt Romney speak for a Republican establishment horrified at the idea of Donald Trump as the GOP standard bearer. Conservatives doubt Trump is a “real” conservative; Cruz and Rubio insist he’s a con man pulling off the ultimate sting – gaining the Presidency through lies and manipulation. Yet Trump has won the most votes and primaries, and leads in the polls. There is a very good chance he’ll be the nominee. Last night’s fiasco was a desperate attempt to turn things around before it is too late, but it may have done the Republican party more harm than good.
I’m not a Republican nor am I a Trump supporter. Yet I’m convinced that the best strategic choice for the GOP would have been to embrace Trump, not alienate him. Trump has the potential to defeat either Democratic candidate by winning over voters feeling alienated by both parties. He’s probably not a true conservative (whatever that means), but despite the humorous comparisons, he’s also not a Mussolini or even a Juan Peron. Even if he were, the American political system has more checks and balances than any other advanced industrial democracy.
If the GOP followed the leads of Chris Christie, Paul LePage and Jeff Sessions, they’d have been able to build momentum going into the fall. It would represent a chance to hold the Senate and keep a strong majority in the House. Sure, it would irk them that an outsider came in and grabbed the role it seemed Jeb Bush had been destined to play, but it would likely be their best possible outcome.
Now what? Let’s say they stop Trump. Would a so-called “Cruz-Rubio unity ticket” be the answer? No. First, Trump supporters would never get behind the two men that assaulted their candidate with what amounted to an attempted character assassination (regardless of whether or not their charges are true). Cruz and Rubio are both young, either would need a seasoned, experienced running mate to have a chance, and such a ticket would have no balance. It would be exceedingly weak in the fall.
A brokered convention yielding perhaps a Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney candidacy? Again, Trump supporters would balk, feeling that their man had been robbed, especially if rule changes and behind closed doors deals seemed to rig the game.
Perhaps the best possible outcome for the GOP would be for the one candidate who impressed last night, John Kasich, to get on a roll and legitimately have a shot to challenge Trump. Trump supporters wouldn’t view Kasich as having been as bad as Rubio or Cruz, especially if Kasich continues to avoid the mud wrestling match. Even that would be a long shot, dependent on Kasich staying on good terms with Trump.
No, by piling on Trump and attacking him, the GOP establishment has earned the worst of both worlds. They are still unlikely to stop Trump, but if they do he’ll be fuming and his followers will stay home and the Democrats could have a big election night. If Trump wins the nomination anyway, the attacks both will depress Republican turnout and give the Democrats plenty of fodder for the election campaign. Hillary won’t have to insult him herself, her PACs could simply use Republican soundbites against him: “Here are what Republicans say about Donald Trump….”
So really, the best move for the GOP would have been to embrace Trump and learn from this election cycle just why their other candidates couldn’t gain traction. After last night, though, it’s probably too late for them to make that choice. By piling on the one candidate that has excited Republican primary voters, the GOP may have wounded itself far more than it hurt Trump.
Today Mitt Romney is set to call out Donald Trump as a phony, and urged Republicans to grab this “moment of choosing” to shift the party back to the path of traditional Republican ideals. Meanwhile Bernie Sanders, stung on super Tuesday, continues to excite young Millennials who often show as much disdain for Hillary Clinton as they do for Donald Trump. This political cycle is not playing out as people predicted, confusing and alarming the political class. Journalists and comedians, however, have hit pay dirt!
So what’s going on, America? Why do things seem so topsy-turvy in politico-land? There’s been a lot on Trump, so let’s start with Sanders. I remember hearing about him back in 1990 as he ran for Congress in Vermont strongly opposing the build up to the Iraq War. As his career continued he was talked about as a “socialist” or “leftist” who reflected ideas outside the political mainstream – a maverick. The idea he would be a serious contender for the Presidency never entered my mind, he was too far out there.
So why has he captured the hearts and minds of not only Millennials, but many Democrats who fear that the establishment has sold out to big money? Perhaps foremost is the belief that wealth is increasingly flowing disproportionately too the very wealthy, weakening the middle class. Though the “occupy Wall Street” movement fizzled, the arguments, statistics and frustration that gave rise to it have not gone away. There is reason to be skeptical of a system whose greed brought the global economy to its knees in 2008 – with both the Clinton and Bush administrations taking deregulating Wall Street in a way that made that possible.
With the Cold War over, fear of socialism is obsolete. The label doesn’t conjure up visions of communist parades. Indeed, Sanders views are mainstream in Europe. He’d be a center-left politician in Germany, a country that is an economic powerhouse with the Socialists sharing power in government. His views aren’t dangerous, even if one doesn’t consider them feasible. Beyond that, Hillary’s been around a long time, has been constantly attacked by the GOP, and seems to represent the politics of the past rather than of the future. Sanders may be five years older than she is, but his message is fresh.
Yet it’s more: Sanders supporters often have a kind of messianic zeal to their cause, including a real dislike of Hillary. Many say they’d never support Clinton, some believing that Trump would be better than Hillary because he’d at least break with old practices.
Trump supporters, on the other hand, are driven more by nationalism, and a sense of loss – that the America they remember isn’t the America they experience now. They want a strong leader who can cut through special interests and entrenched elites to bring fundamental change – to make America great again, as he puts it. He speaks to those alienated by the cultural and demographic changes in past decades, who think America is broken and need a Bonapartist figure to put things right.
Just as Clinton cannot count on Sanders supporters to swing to her camp, Trump’s fans are not likely to support anyone else from the GOP, especially if it comes from an establishment coup meant to wrestle power away from primary voters intro the hands of the those behind closed doors.
I think both movements reflect something fundamental: politics is not what it used to be. Barack Obama’s rise, challenging Hillary and then easily beating once popular John McCain was the first sign of this change. The election of a black man named Barack Hussein Obama would have been unthinkable thirty years ago; it would not have happened if the demographics of the country were the same now as they were in the 1980s.
Then came the tea party – a reaction to the “strangeness” of Obama that swept conservatives into power in Congress in 2010, and whose stalwarts often now make up the Trump base. They weren’t so much ideologically conservative as culturally alienated. From gay marriage to Rudy Guiliani being appalled by Beyonce’s performance at half time at the Super Bowl, they feel that nefarious forces are turning the country into something different, something strange.
So Sanders supporters represent the new, progressive, 21st Century objection to the politics of old, while Trumps’s reflect the nostalgic embrace of fading cultural values. Each see the political elite as the enemy, out of touch with reality playing their own power games.
I believe this is a watershed year. The Republicans see that their approach of the last decade has failed; they need a new message to connect with voters. Democrats need to recognize that the support Bill Clinton got from Wall Street in the 90s – which at that time made him appear a responsible Democrat – now gets associated with an economy that increasingly favors the already rich and powerful. Both parties are dragging twentieth century ideas into a very different twenty first century. Trump and Sanders are making that painfully obvious to party leaders.