(for a message of some sort or another.)
This has been the craziest US Presidential election in the thirty years I’ve followed them. The cycle of Hope and Change (TM) has turned, except now it’s Make America Great Again, which is a far better but equally vacuous slogan.
Every one of these elections brings up the eternal battle between Good and Evil, touched with the circus element that draws the horriﬁed fascination of a good chunk of the rest of the world. You can search back two hundred years and ﬁnd the same thing, with the most bloodcurdling claims made; my favourite being the one stating that the result of electing Thomas Jefferson in 1800 would be that: … murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will all be openly taught and practiced … (people Tweeting pictures of Donald cuddling his daughter Ivanka be warned)
But there’s no question that the 2016 election has a genuine tinge of desperation to it. There is a sense that something awful is drawing closer, but it’s hard to describe or identify. If Communists or Nazis were the guys holding up the stagecoach, the feeling now is more that the vehicle is slowly moving forward in fog and darkness while the passengers hold knives behind their backs and eye each other nervously. What is it exactly that is going wrong? Why does it feel that America is rolling ever closer to the edge of an abyss, and why are the drivers so distrusted, even as one after the other is replaced in the driver’s seat by the rowdy crowd below.
Takin’ it again. Again! Again! Takin’ it again.
This feeling exists on both sides of the American political fence. Democrats feel they’ve compromised too much: private health insurers still stalk the land, as do the giants of Wall Street, Obamacare and Dodd-Frank having empowered both. While the usual suspects still proclaim the Lightbringer that is Barack, behind the scenes is annoyance and even bitter angst that things have not turned out as they were supposed to. Ideas such as The Stimulus and Obamacare, and Ending Foreign Wars with Smart Power, were supposed to have made things better at home and abroad.
But the world is on ﬁre – no more so than in the Middle East, where Obama actually helped start a Smart War in Libya – while at home the Stimulus seems to have simply washed into the sand and Obamacare remains as unpopular as ever, reduced to being simply another government program that stutters brokenly along. The idea that bipartisanship would take hold as it could not under the “divisive” GW Bush, was also refuted, as the people who so eagerly threw the GOP from the House and Senate in 2006 waited barely four years to put them back in charge of the former, and then increased the majority in 2014 while adding Senate control! But even in areas of total Democrat control, such as California and Chicago, there is a feeling that things are slowly spinning out of control. The latter is an almost perfect minature of the Democrat nomination race, with Mayor Raham Emanual having moved from being hated and feared to just being hated –
Aside from their Federal success, the GOP now controls almost twice as many states as the Democrats. Yet the GOP voters are angrier than ever, turning on people like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, whom they hailed as challengers to the status quo just a few years ago. But one can hardly blame them when they’ve seen things like Rubio’s leadership of the Gang of Eight on immigration and the Omnibus spending bill passed before Christmas, a package so stuffed with Democrat goodies that Pelosi and Reid openly taunted the GOP about it.
Well now… no, no… now, we ought to be mad at the government not mad at the people.
It’s the easiest trap to fall into, but the terrible truth in a democracy is that the government really is the people, for all the fuming about “elites”. Many who are concerned about a $19 trillion debt are barely aware of the $50-60 trillion of unfunded liabilities that is the Social Security System and Medicare/Medicaid. Annual deﬁcits of half a trillion dollars that were condemned as the end of the world a decade ago are now the new normal, not worth talking about. There is no point sneering at politicians who dare not confront the necessary tax increases and spending cuts required to make these systems solvent long-term: they know they’ll get killed by the very people who tell them they’re compromising sleezebags.
Both Democrats and Republicans feel let down by their respective parties, the GOP voters with more reason as the GOP establishment has begged for their vote and then done nothing with the power or done what the Democrats wanted anyway, especially in the budget. But the establishment would argue that they’re facing reality: no US government will take over every hospital and clinic in America, or hack into Medicare.
No will whatsoever. No will whatsoever! Absolutely no honor. No will whatsoever. No will whatsoever! Absolutely no integrity.
American Leftists who demand that the US adopt the myriad systems of Europe are encountering more pushback than ever, as Europe looks less peaceful, advanced and progressive by the day. The ﬂesh is still willing but the spirit is most deﬁnitely weakening.
But GOP voters also like their pork. Cruz was condemned by the long-time GOP governor of Iowa, for opposing the ethanol mandate that pours money into the pockets of Iowa farmers. Funnily enough this mirrors Season 6 of The West Wing, but I doubt Cruz will ever gain the respect from the left that was the implied promise of Sorkin’s script. It’s yet another tribute to Cruz that he won running against this rort and a black mark on his opponents who did the required pandering. By the same token, to observe Huckabee cuddling up to Trump and bitterly and jealously sticking it to Cruz on matters of religion was to observe the meaness and pettiness that politics can reduce people to.
I haven’t seen any any any citizen over there stand up and say “hey, just a second.”
The problem is that citizens are effectively pointing at eachother in saying this. The result is the deadlock of swings and roundabouts observed for almost two decades now. The Democrats have won the argument on goverment spending, the GOP on keeping taxes low: the mutually exclusive gap between them is being ﬁlled by the Federal Reserve – for the moment.
I mean, yeah, well… wha… what’re you gonna do?
You’re going to pump up Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, two candidates who supposedly represent the extreme wings of each party but who have a frighteningly similar set of policies (yay, bipartisanship!).
Bernie is the real thing, a genuine believer. No more private sector compromises. More money to be spent on all that crumbling infrastructure somehow left untouched by the trillion dollar Stimulus: Wall Street and health insurers ﬁnally put to the sword. Free everything. Yet the sad truth is that Hillary and Bernie, two ancient white vessels, are the best the Democrats could produce this time. So much for the youthful, diverse future that would burst forth from the Obama era, as it is always supposed to for Progressive movements. It’s been both sad and amusing to see the Democrat media try to turn them into people who are hip, cool and down with the technology, with the bottom scraped when the woeful SNL used Larry David to portray Bernie as Your Cuddly Socialist Uncle Who’s Fun To Be With.
Trump is merely Trump. He speaks for whatever gets the headline of the day. A master media manipulator with an Obama-type cult following perfectly evolved for the age of the 140 character Tweet. The further construction of Brand Trump, with the GOP as his next Chapter 11 bankruptcy victim. Many of his supporters argue that it’s already bankrupt: whether they would say this with seven Liberal judges on the Supreme Court, among other things, is another question.
America is waiting ….
To talk of three candidates emerging from Iowa is to talk about the horse race. I’ve said for months now that Trump has a ceiling and will fade (though like everyone else I expected this to have already happened), and that as others drop away Rubio will more likely pick up their voters than Cruz or Trump. My bet remains on a Rubio-Cruz ﬁght the longer this goes on, given their organisation, campaigning skills and money, and that Rubio will win with his optimism and unity themes. Cruz can’t fake sincerity as well.
But the bigger question is whether any of these candidates – and I include Hillary and Bernie in this – truly have what America needs and will respond to. I don’t think any of them do, but that probably says more about America than about the candidates.