Friday, March 4, 2016

Thoughts on the 2016 GOP Nomination Race

In my last post, I wrote about the Democratic Primary for President, and now I will focus on the Republicans. Where there was once 17 candidates for President, there are now four - Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. Weirdly enough, from my perspective, the leaders of the primary are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. John Kasich, who is both extremely conservative, but presents himself moderately (and thus, terrifying to Democrats) is way, way behind.

For the past twenty years or so, Democrats have largely thrown around pejoratives towards Republican candidates like fascist, racist, xenophobe, ill-tempered, warmonger, etc. But with that said, it is actually strange to see a candidate actually be all of those things explicitly. Donald Trump is all of those things and more. He advocates committing warcrimes, building a wall around the Southern border (a bigger one than the one currently in place, I guess), requiring all Muslims to be registered by the federal government and/or expelling them, passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy, and eliminating Obamacare. In response, both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz argue that Trump doesn't actually mean what he says, that they are the ones who will actually commit the warcrimes, etc., and that Trump has small hands. Or something.

This last part is key - they don't attack Trump for any of his proposals, because they agree with them - but rather, they argue that Trump is lying about supporting such an agenda. Given that Trump decided to enter the stage because he's a birther, and that minority voters are violently expelled from Trump's rallies, I would say that a good portion of what he says, he believes. Still, it is weird to have a candidate for President explicitly talk about his penis on a debate stage. It's also weird that both Cruz and Rubio can call Trump a con artist, but will back him if he's the nominee.

Okay, its not all that weird. For the past 8 years, the Republican Party has played up the insanity factor. From Louie Gohmert to Michelle Bachmann to Steve King, to Mike Lee, there have been a fair number of Republican officeholders who have espoused crazed conspiracy theories. In fact, the sole reason Mitt Romney wanted Trump's endorsement in 2012 was due to Trump's support of birtherism - the belief that Obama wasn't born in the U.S.  And this is a GOP that mostly believes Obama is a secret Muslim, that he was born outside of the U.S., that he is trying to tear the country apart on racial grounds (not sure how), that Obamacare is unconstitutional and evil (ironic, since its the Heritage Foundation's plan), etc.  The page for Obama is filled with all sorts of craziness by the Right. Is it any wonder that the guy who espouses all the craziness is the frontrunner? Or that the guy in 2nd hits the frontrunner as someone who doesn't believe the craziness he espouses?

The result is pretty terrifying, since Trump has shown a willingness to exhort his crowds to violence, and he has shown a disregard for various institutions of government. If he doesn't get enough votes for the nomination, and the GOP screws him at the Convention (which is looking more and more possible), things may get uglier, fast. Let there be no mistake, 2016 is an ugly year for American politics. 

Further Thoughts on the 2016 Elections (Democratic Side)

For the past several weeks, I have been unemployed for the first time in nine years, and its been strange. Luckily, I have a new job lined up, and that means that I probably won't be blogging much in the future (not like I've been blogging all that much now. . .), but it also means that I've spent the last few weeks watching cable news, and following the election a bit closer than normal. And, I have a few thoughts:

On the Democratic side, the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is mostly over. Sanders will be able to fund his campaign until the Democratic National Convention, but he won't have the delegates to win. And, by and large, that isn't a terribly surprising result. One thing we've learned since 2004 is that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has money, and will fund candidates they like. In 2004, that was Howard Dean. In 2008, that was Barack Obama and John Edwards (before it was revealed he was a slimeball). So, its no surprise that Bernie Sanders is pulling in gobs and gobs of money. 

But, and this is the key point, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is not as big as it thinks it is. Because of the perceived/real racism of the Republican Party, most minority voters - African Americans, Latino/Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans - vote Democrat. Now, as anyone who's been around these voters can tell you, not all of them are liberal. In fact, many African Americans and Latinos are fairly conservative. George W. Bush and Karl Rove recognized this, and tried to woo them over to the GOP, only to be undermined by the large number of racists in the Party. That leaves a fair number of minority voters in a pickle - vote for the candidate who's views are more liberal than their own, or vote for the candidate who seems a bit too comfortable with racists. Add to that the fact that Republicans are actively seeking to prevent minority voters from voting, and the fact that a fair number of minority-majority districts aren't all that competitive, and you get crappy voter turnout. What made Obama so initially successful was his ability to mobilize the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and also mobilize minority voters.

But outside of Obama, minority voters represent the Democratic Party's "Peoria Test." If you think back to the old days of Hollywood, studio execs would ask, "but will it play in Peoria" as a way to determine if a movie would be successful or not. Since minority voters aren't necessarily liberal (though many are), being able to play to those voters is key.

The one thing that we've seen over the past several primaries and caucuses is that Bernie Sanders isn't playing well in Peoria. He has a strong pull with the Party's liberal wing, but outside of that, he just isn't getting the kind of traction with minority voters to beat Clinton. Keep in mind that when Obama ran in 2008, he generated record turnout. Sanders just isn't cutting it.

And from my perspective, that's not terribly surprising since Sanders has never been a star on the national stage. He's been in Congress for over 25 years, and outside of him being a Socialist, and being from Vermont, there hasn't been much to say about him. 

But with that said, Sanders has managed to do one thing very well - he's pulled Hillary Clinton to the left. For the past thirty years, the Clintons have been moderates and have pulled the Party to the right. By and large, they've done that because that's where the votes are (more on that below). In fact, when the Clintons tried to go with a big government plan, they were annihilated - Hillary especially. And much of their other conservative legislation - DOMA, Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the Crime Bill - was largely created to head off a much worse conservative bill. And this legislation existed in an era of swing voters. Those days are over, and now both Parties know that to turnout is key to winning elections. Moving to the left helps Clinton, and Sanders is pushing her leftward every day. 

Lastly, for those of you who are upset that the Democratic Party can't put forward any better candidates, I have a quick word for you - if you don't vote, candidates who share your preferences don't get elected. Liberals and moderates got killed in the elections of 2010 and 2014 because people didn't turn out to vote. So, we're stuck with a Congress that refuses to do anything. That's on us.