We have our candidates. For better or for worse, the democratic process has spoken.
If you are a Republican and can’t admit that Donald Trump is your candidate, I’d ask you to take a look at this past Tuesday’s results-if you haven’t already. He swept Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware. In a three man race, no one came within 30 percentage points of him. That’s on the heels of winning New York by 35 points. These are reasonable states. Not the kind chronically on the wrong side of political history like Alabama, Mississippi or South Carolina. He won those too by the way. He already has 200,000 more primary votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012. And he’s probably going to amass the most in history. How’s that for a case?
If the Republican party leaders believe that they have their own case to deny him at the convention if he doesn’t reach the required 1,237 delegate votes, then they’ve made a mockery of their own democratic selection process. Don’t bring up Lincoln in 1860. There was no popular vote in the primary then. It’s a bad argument. As much as it pains me to say it as an American and one time Republican, Trump’s your guy.
If you don’t like Hillary because she’s so superficially unlikable-she is and it’s a problem-then perhaps you can take some solace in the fact that she’s the most qualified Democrat to run for office as a non-incumbent in a very long time-maybe since FDR. That may sound crazy but Al Gore is a distant second. John Kerry maybe a distant third. It’s been a long time since a Democratic candidate came with the type of pedigree she does. Even the winners, like Barrack Obama and Jimmy Carter and Clinton 42 were nobodies from the global political perspective. Hillary’s resume is impressive. She was married to the most successful president of the last 25 years-which is a weird and unique qualifier but it matters. She was a Senator from the massively relevant state of New York and the Secretary of State as recently as 2012-which means she was the president’s right hand when we were dealing with the global issues we are today. And as Mr. Trump pointed out, she’s a woman. And we’re over due for that.
And there’s one other thing-something remarkably Conservative about her-she’s a war-hawk. Mark Landler quote’s intelligence analyst Bruce Riedel in his book Alter Egos,
“I think one of the surprises for Gates (fmr Sec Def) and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-center administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues.”
She’s no light weight.
If you’re hung up on Benghazi and the email scandal, then that’s fine. It’s not that they don’t matter. After thousands of man hours of scrutiny on both, the worst that will likely come from it is proof of episodic poor judgment. And if after 30 plus years under the unblinking eye of rabid opposition, that’s all you’ve got, you’re a little light for your efforts. Most of America gets that it’s not Watergate. If you want to check out disqualifying executive scandal, go read a book on that. This isn’t it.
And now that The Donald has the nomination locked up, having sufficiently stirred up the rural conservative base through xenophobic rhetoric, he’s probably going to start to sound slightly less ridiculous. Which still makes him more ridiculous then anyone else. But it’s a move in the right direction. I guess.
Somehow it all still feels so horrible though. I wrote article after article trying to shout down Donald Trump-stirring up fears of Hitler and Mussolini. Hillary, at some point was getting her tail handed to her by an 80 year old socialist that sounded like he was about to tell the screaming kids at his rally to get off his lawn. Partly because of his message and partly because no one likes her. It feels like a massive train wreck. And it kind of is. But thankfully, not for America.
It’s a train wreck for our existing party system. Which, maybe counter-intuitively is actually a good thing for America. Because every forty years or so, we throw them out. And we’re a bit over due since the Civil Rights debate of the sixties ushered in the last system-our sixth as a nation. Here’s why.
This purge is an especially acute one and it’s manifesting itself most obviously in the Republican party. But they’re not alone. The Sanders platform moved the needle too. But the needle doesn’t get moved unless it was willing and ready to be moved. This is democracy remember. So how did it happen?
Let’s look at the GOP to start. Two things were happening at about the same time to drive the old GOP off it’s tracks. The first was the great recession and the frightening PR problem that it caused for the shining tower of last world Republicanism-lubricated capitalism. There’s a sharp residual sentiment among Americans that says that small government and free market powers drove us off a cliff. At least that’s the narrative. It’s not entirely true but this is politics. Truth is a distant second to how people feel. And there’s a fall-out from it that makes advocating on the behalf of corporate America and big business a hard sell right now. It’s not that the argument is any less compelling in a factual rational way. It’s just too hard to lead with it after the mess that came from the corporate greed of the last decade. So they lost some wind in their sails there-and a go to rallying cry they’ve relied on for 50 years.
The real killer was good old fashioned neglect though. Without the shiny object of free market capitalism bolstering your small government arguments, the Republican party was really left with one task. Take care of the socially conservative, working class Americans that actually make up the numerical majority of their constituents. The stated demands of these people were simple. They wanted to get their income back. They wanted to feel safe. And they wanted to feel like they mattered in the American cultural debate. And while their income shrank-unlike corporate elite, it was down significantly from 20 years ago, terrorist fears were plastered all over the media and social progress steamrolled over their beliefs, the leaders of the party they identified with did nothing. Literally, as a strategy-nothing.
While middle America was hurting, party leaders were trying to shut down the government to force spending cuts. No one gave a rip about spending cuts. They wanted jobs. And Mitch McConnell, 74 years old now and serving as one of Kentucky’s two Senators for the last 32 years, was saying things like “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Add some other fun things like refusing to replace Supreme Court justices and letting cases be ruled as a 4-4 tie while we wait for their bad PR agendas to sort out.
None of this has anything to do with getting working class income back, keeping people safe or making them feel like they matter. And now the best opposition that the party can muster up is Ted Cruz, who apparently is as horrible up close as he is on television-former Speaker John Boehner yesterday referring to him as “Lucifer in the flesh” and “the most miserable son of a bitch he’s ever worked with in congress” (PS Boehner is a Republican. PPS why wasn’t he this interesting while he was speaker?)
For the better part of a decade, the Republican establishment has abandoned their kids to get drunk with their buddies after work in the crappy pool hall down the street. And it was only a matter of time before one day, they turned 16 and ran off with the shady “misunderstood” kid down the street who’s been telling them that they’re special and that he’ll take care of them. Who also called Tanzan-I-a, Tan-ZANi-a yesterday in his second ever teleprompted speech. But that’s another article all together.
It’s a dumpster fire. But there’s a silver lining here. It’s this. The middle class has it’s voice again. Even on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders had momentum. Why? Because he’s arguing the other side of the same coin that Trump is. Sanders is pandering to kids and the extreme poor. Because they’ve got the problem of being blocked from entry into the middle class. On the Republican side, the working class folks are seeing their middle class status slide right out from under them. The Dem base can’t get into it. And so as painful as this election has been, and it’s really just starting to get cooking, it’s going to send both parties one painfully clear message.
Even two un-electable political lightweights like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders can get something going by speaking to the middle class. And the middle class and those trying to get into the middle class will get out the vote because they are scared to death of their place in the country. In a way they haven’t been for a long, long time. And nothing else matters. Not campaign financing-not the media-not experience-not “presidentiality”. All you have to do is talk to middle class America, tell them what they want to hear and you can win. And that’s a good thing. Because eventually demagoguery comes with the burden of producing, or you go the way of your predecessors. Because loud middle classes make for great countries. Lousy countries don’t even have them. Which is where we’re heading. Let’s hope the unwashed, minimally informed masses keep it up. Maybe we won’t end up there. And we’ll look back at the clown show that was the 2016 election as the turning point. Or maybe it won’t and we’ll ride our government right into the ground Slim Pickens style. I’m hoping for the former.