I love talking politics. Rarely do so on this blog because the last thing I want is for this blog to devolve into some sort of political debate forum. We’ve all seen the vicious comments which are endemic. I really hate that kind of discourse. It’s both unproductive and uncivilized, yet fully protected by the first amendment. (I support that part of rowdy forums!)
But I will, from time to time, offer a little analysis of what I see going on, and this U.S. election cycle is setting itself up to be some kind of interesting! Both sides of the aisle are bracing themselves for epic mudslinging. We all know the dirty nature of politics, but this is on a collision course for a new level of nasty. Should be really fun!
What I have found fascinating are the people who don’t understand why Trump is getting so much traction. Really? It’s not so hard to understand.
And Bernie Sanders, cranking in the early buzz on the Democratic side is also not surprising. Does anyone actually think that Hillary Clinton has put any real effort into her campaign so far? I mean, really. Lackluster is perhaps too nice. And as she is now being dogged by email server questions with the FBI getting involved, Sanders just keeps on climbing.
Even renowned John Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson seems to be hitting his stride after the first Republican debate. He’s been having to upgrade the speaking venues as his crowds are continually growing.
So why are these three making their marks on early in the presidential race? Simple. They all have an anti-Washington, outsider message that is resonating. The electorate (at least at this time) is clearly sick of the standard political rhetoric.
Of course, outside voices are nothing new in politics. Americans have elected a wide variety of individuals who spoke differently than the entrenched politicians. That’s how Ross Perot garnered nineteen million votes in 1992. Jessie Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger rode their name recognition and thin political resumes to victory in gubernatorial races in Minnesota and California respectively. Even established politicians who have fashioned themselves as Washington outsiders used their fresh-sounding voices to presidential victory. Governors Carter, Reagan, and Clinton all come to mind.
With Congressional approval ratings at perennially low levels, and a country which seems even more divided during the Obama era, many people are just fed-up.
And so when Trump spouts off his mouth in a decidedly unpolitical way and a most politically-incorrect way, many people applaud. Trump is also unique because he’s like a circus show all to himself. He sucks the air out of the room, and people can’t seem to take their eyes off of him (whether they think he’s loathsome or not). It’s difficult to say whether the Trump phenomenon will have lasting power. Conventional political wisdom would say not.
Sanders is in a different category than Trump. Sanders, of course, has been the long serving independent Senator from Vermont. As a self-described democratic socialist, his message would seem out of place in almost all American political cycles except this one. His agenda is large and stark: take on the big banks, drastically raise taxes on the rich, slash corporate profits. It’s a type of populist socialism that appeals to the folks who think they’ve had a raw deal in the face of a large class of wealthy executives who seem disconnected and uncaring. His is a promise of big government (massive, really) and what we might call equity of outcome. It’s classic western European, big-state socialism. It’s the kind of message which seems counter to the rugged individualism which America has long been known for. But his message is resonating, and it will be interesting to see if he can pick up steam. (He certainly may if Clinton continues to stumble.) Conventional political wisdom says that Sanders has no chance to become the president of the United States. Anyway you slice it, the word “socialism” doesn’t play well in the American heartland. But one never knows.
Carson is fast becoming a folk hero for the conservative wing of the Republican party. His logical, faith-based rhetoric is a refreshing break for many people from the political speak typically coming out of Washington. Him being a brilliant surgeon doesn’t hurt on the respect scale, either. He has a legitimate outsider claim that few in the race can match, and he’ll be able to ride that for quite sometime. How far and how long remains to be seen.
Looking at the race at this early date, it’s difficult for me to see a run of the mill Clinton-Bush battle. It seems that America is ready for a new voice, and this race certainly has its share of them. Clinton has been the presumptive nominee for the Democratic party for so long that I think many people have trouble seeing what may lie beyond her. She may indeed prevail, or we could have a Democratic surprise. The Republican side may too, at some point, gravitate back to its core political base and choose a more established politician. But I must say, wouldn’t a Trump – Sanders battle be entertaining?
Whatever happens, it’s clear that the electorate is ornery, and the billion dollar campaign season has hardly even begun.