Saturday, May 21, 2016

Some Election Thoughts: What Next?

Politics is the best show in America. I love animals and I love politicians, and I like to watch both of 'em at play, either back home in their native state, or after they've been captured and sent to a zoo, or to Washington.
- Will Rogers

A confession: As an old political science major I have been saying how disgusting this year's election cycle has been. An understatement. But it's like watching a slow motion train wreck or 45-car pile-up on the Interstate. You don't want to see it, you know it's awful, but dammit, you just can't take your eyes off it. I love to listen to the pundits and the analysts (sort of different) and the partisan spinning. I have a more difficult time listening to the candidates themselves since they all say the same things over and over. You pretty much know what each one is going to say in each situation.

Except for Donald Trump who never seems to stay on whatever track he's been on. He derails regularly in often spectacular fashion. I know I can count on the news media on all sides to make sure I hear what he said. The media and my conservative friends on Facebook never fail me.

So for a couple of weeks I have been pondering this particular post as we are getting near the end of the road in the pre-convention season. It started with the following when a USA Today editorial after Indiana a few weeks ago summed up the two front-runners: (Link )
  • To say Trump is bad for the Republican Party is like saying a flood is bad for your basement. He stokes white resentment at a time when the party needs to attract minority voters. He demeans women when they, too, are vital to the party’s future. His intolerance turns off Millennials. And he labors under the opinion that his deep infatuation with himself is shared by a majority of voters.
  • Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has been less than stellar. Going into Indiana... she had lost 17 states to Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old “democratic socialist” from Vermont who was once dismissed as token opposition. Her favorable ratings have sagged.
In the weeks since then Trump has begun to backtrack his actions in regard to the establishment of the GOP although anything can still happen. The GOP is warming up to him, sort of. If they don't work together, they know they will lose the election. That would be even worse than Obama as president- it would be an arch-enemy, a Clinton, as president. Maybe they can live with Trump long enough to survive as a party. Maybe they can find ways to co-opt his off-the-wall approach and use it for their advantage. Their advantage is ALWAYS to retain power and keep the Democrats, especially THESE Democrats out of the White House.

On the Democratic side the in-fighting has taken on an appearance of the good-old-Democratic suicide machine, working hard at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Bernie's followers have begun to attack Hillary in ways that look like backing away from supporting her if (when) she wins the nomination. Sanders, for his part, is working the angles of keeping his supporters motivated while trying to move the party and its platform to a more progressive agenda. He will probably get some kind of concessions at the convention which, we all know, will be forgotten after the election anyway.

Hillary is, of course, very much a part of the establishment of the Democratic Party. She has been waiting for this, within the established order, for 8 or more years. The goal of winning the White House and setting all kinds of historic precedents is at the top of the list for her and her supporters. She and the establishment also want to maintain power and support while hopefully undermining the GOP in the Senate and House.

Politics has become so expensive that it 
takes a lot of money even to be defeated.
-Will Rogers

Author James McBride in Kill 'em and Leave, a book on musician James Brown, had this to say about politics in a different setting, but still relevant to what we are seeing this year.
The entertainment world and politics are more similar than most realize. Every time I go to Los Angeles I am astounded by the similarities between Hollywood and Washington, DC: Money. Power. Influence. Sex. Scandals. Parties. Phoniness. Posturing. Communication as an aphrodisiac. The only difference, it seems, is that in LA the folks are prettier, whereas in DC, they pick your pocket with one hand while saluting the flag with the other. But the basics are the same: business and power.
Without even thinking about the fall campaign (which at this point is extremely painful to comprehend or plan for), business (money) and power is what is at work in both campaigns. Sanders and Trump are the outsiders voicing dissatisfaction on behalf of different segments of the electorate. They speak for those who don't feel they have any power or money. They voice concerns for different groups but the underlying issues are the same.

What will be interesting in the next 75 or so days until the conventions are over is how the establishment attempts to bring the outsiders into the center ring of the parties. Trump has the upper hand, of course, as the GOP outsider, but he has been so vague at times while pandering to his electorate on certain issues and ignoring others, that the Party has a lot of work to do. Can the Party leaders bring their voters- an actual majority of GOP voters- to Trump or will they stay home and default the election to Hillary as less offensive or dangerous than Trump? Can Trump move toward the establishment without losing his disaffected voters.

Hillary, on the other hand, has an upper hand and can afford to be gracious to Sanders an his electorate. Sanders speaks for a traditional Democratic demographic, so Hillary has to walk a fine line. She can do that, no doubt. Will Bernie accept it? Can Sanders maintain his charismatic hold on his voters while supporting Clinton? Those are his questions.

This election will go down in American political history no matter what the outcome. It will be one of the most unusual and unpredictable we have ever had. I am of the opinion that absolutely anything can still happen- and much of it might.

I'm buckled-in for the ride. I hope our system can survive it without too much collateral damage.

The more you observe politics, the more you've got to admit
that each party is worse than the other.
-Will Rogers

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