It’s like watching a train wreck about to happen knowing that there isn’t much you can do. The Republicans have been fueling the anger of Americans for the past eight years. Somehow they’ve managed to erase any memory of George W’s involvement in the financial collapse in 2008 as well as his disastrous move into Iraq. Everyone is angry today including people who can’t find jobs, those who are underemployed, students with huge student loans, blacks who feel afraid to drive for fear of being pulled over, and religious fundamentalists who see the world changing and can’t adjust.
So, it definitely is a year when a populist is bound to do well. Promise you’ll fix everything and blame everyone who currently is in office and you’re guaranteed to find voters willing to vote for you. Donald Trump has seized on the public’s angry mood and played voters by appealing to their basest instincts. He’s managed to avoid having to provide concrete solutions because many of his most fervent followers are looking for a strong leader who will do whatever is needed. By shouting over others during debates and using a lot of four letter words Trump has managed to convince his followers that he is strong.
Conversely, 2016 is a terrible year for the political establishment and for political dynasties. Take Jeb! for example. People see him as Crown Prince Jeb, the next anointed member of a family where both his father and brother have been presidents. Americans have a deep-seated fear of dynasties going back to the Constitution’s restriction of two-term limits for that office. Bush never had a chance against a populist opponent because none of the conventional tools work this year. Throw lots of money into ads? That didn’t work. Get lots of endorsements from establishment politicians? That didn’t work either. Bring in his brother and mother? That only made it more apparent that he was a dynasty candidate.
What about Hillary? She’s really a very sad figure. I believe she always wanted to be the first female president and prepared herself for that role. She usually was the smartest and best prepared person in any room filled with politicians because she worked the hardest. Unfortunately she is not just a sad figure, but a truly tragic figure much like one of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes. All of her ability cannot mask or ameliorate her weaknesses as a politician. She’s just plain awkward unlike her gifted husband. When she gives a speech, she brays rather than vary the pitch of her voice. She clearly is not comfortable glad-handing the common folk the way her husband did. She has been so burned by Clinton haters and hostile reporters that she tries to shield herself behind a protective wall. Her need for privacy caused her to make the wrong decision and use her own personal server; that gave the Republicans who own the House and can investigate anything they want a golden opportunity.
The drip drip drip effect of her email investigation will go on forever. At the same time, she has been on the scene so long that everyone has made up their mind about her as a person and as a candidate. She has a ceiling as far as votes because she has such huge negativity ratings. To put it bluntly, around 47-50% of likely voters will not vote for her under any circumstances. Based on recent election demographics, the vote of white women over 45 will not make up for the loss of blue collar white men and women under 45 as well as students. She just doesn’t inspire enthusiasm the way Bernie Sanders does. Her supporters are trying to to portray her as the inevitable Democratic nominee much the same way they did in 2008 against Barack Obama. How did that go?
I would not be surprised if the super delegates, the Democratic establishment, doesn’t start to wonder if Bernie isn’t the only possible candidate who can defeat Trump. After all, what can Trump call him besides a socialist? He can’t attack him personally because Bernie has always been pretty consistent and pretty transparent. Maybe he could infer that the country isn’t ready for its first Jewish president, but that might backfire. So, no Benghazi, no email scandal, no talk of all the old Clinton scandals, no mention of Clinton’s vote on the Iraq war or her decision to push for government change in Libya. Presumably President Obama would rally African Americans to vote to go along with students and others.
Did you notice the dirty little secret of Hillary’s South Carolina landslide? While she received over 70% of the vote and received around 43 delegates, Bernie wound up with around 11 delegates. In other words, the Democratic Party’s decision to make its primary elections proportional allocation of delegates means that it is extremely difficult for one candidate to receive the necessary votes for nomination if the other candidate does a good job in smaller caucus states as well as puts up a reasonable fight in the midwest and east coast states. I would not be surprised if Hillary does not quite get to the magic number, particularly if the FBI begins making noise about their own investigation of her email server.
It would be ironic if Trump triumphs in the primaries and doesn’t have to worry about a smoke-filled convention while Hillary succumbs to behind-the-scene efforts to find a candidate who actually can have a chance against Trump. In other words, I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes a populist to beat a populist and the days of dynasty politics might be over in this country.