My attempt to explain the 2016 U.S. election.

Way back at the start of March SEB reader Dave out of the U.K. sent me the following via email:

Hi Les i would love to know what you are thinking about the current presidential campaign and especially what you and your family are making of Trumps lead on the Republican campaign.  I’m from England and am not sure we’re getting a true picture of what is happening.    Thank you

Since then I’ve started at least a half dozen blog entries and I ended up scrapping every one of them because shit keeps changing and things I thought would never happen ended up happening. Still, I promised him a blog post so I should probably post something. Keep in mind that I am no expert on Politics; or much of anything really.

The best I can say, Dave, is that the Republican party has finally lost their goddamned minds. When Trump first announced his intention to run for President most folks, and this includes many Republicans, laughed it off as a publicity stunt. There have even been a couple of people who worked with Trump in his early days who said as much later, but no one realized that the subset of the Republican base made up of poor, racist, angry white people was as large as it turns out to be. Large enough, apparently, to turn Trump from a joke into the presumptive Republican nominee.

Ladies and gentlemen, the best the Republicans have to offer as President.

Ladies and gentlemen, the best the Republicans have to offer for President.

As much fun as it’s been watching the Republican establishment eat itself alive trying to stop this train wreck from happening, there’s a frightening reality that tribalism will assert itself and even the “reasonable” Republicans will fall in line because they can’t countenance the idea of ever voting for a Democrat no matter how terrible their own nominee happens to be. If Trump is the nominee (and there’s no reason to expect he won’t be at this point) there’s a real danger he could end up President. It might be unlikely, but then I thought the same thing about him clinching the nomination and I was horribly wrong about that so I worry about the general election.

As for the Democrats, I would prefer that Bernie Sanders gets the nod as I like a lot of the policies he advocates for. Sure, the chances of some of them ever actually happening in his term might be small, but that’s no reason not to try. That said, if Hillary ends up as the nominee, as it appears she will, I will vote for her because for all her faults she’s still a damned sight better than Trump. I’m not happy with some of her ties to Wall Street and I think she’s more right of center than I’d prefer, but Bernie has dragged her more to the left and hopefully that’ll stick.

So what if the worst happens and Trump manages to win the general election? Well, that’ll be nerve wracking to be sure, but I won’t go so far as to say it would be a death knell for the United States. We’ve survived some pretty bad presidents over the years and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if both Congress and the SCOTUS kept him in check. Not that he wouldn’t do a great deal of damage however long he’s in office, but I think we’d somehow manage to survive it. I don’t expect this to actually happen as I think between Democrats and Independents there’s enough sane people left in this country to insure he doesn’t win, but I’ve been wrong before.

I don’t know if this answers your question, Dave, but it’s what I’ve got to offer. If you have any followup questions I’ll try to answer them in the comments.

7 thoughts on “My attempt to explain the 2016 U.S. election.

  1. If Trump is elected I’m leaving the country. Oh, wait, I’ve already left….

  2. I have a few other thoughts…specifically about some seeds being planted over the years and how they got us to this point.

    At some point, most explicitly in the 90’s, the Republicans pushed a very strong “throw the bums out” agenda, designed to capitalize on general dislike of the way things were, and promising that new people would do better. The intent of this was to throw out Democrats, and replace them with any other party that happened to be around.

    Related, there was a hatred of “establishment” politicians…and a desire to bring in young firebrands who were there for their ideals, not because it was a career. This resulted in term limit laws in many states. It also exploded with court decisions and policies that allowed massive spending on elections. This led to the ouster of incredibly powerful Washington fixtures.

    Also, things have gotten SO contentious and hateful in Washington, that nobody is willing to work with anybody else. No compromises with the evil others, no backing down from promises that never should have been made. No backing down from election-time rhetoric that is supposed to soften once people get into office. And so…nothing gets done to make things “better.”

    Finally, we had an economic crash in 2009. And now in 2016, we are recovered, which means that rich people are doing okay, and “average” people are making something like $0.75 on the dollar from what they were earning 7 years ago.

    So now, in 2016, we have two major players: Trump and Sanders. Trump, with his vast money, can (and does) tell the establishment to go hang themselves. Some love his hate-speech. Some just love someone who isn’t beholden to the special interests that seem to govern, especially when a significant fraction of the legislature is still in diapers. And Sanders is established, but isn’t playing the establishment game. He’s playing the young firebrand game, and promising to try to create change, and undo everything that’s happened in the last 10 to 20 years to keep the poor down. Both messages are very strong.

    And yes, Hilary is winning the Democratic votes, but not by the popular margins she’d like. And her “huge” margin is because of a delegate system that makes people feel that they’ve been right all along about how horrid the parties are. This leads to the bizarre situation where people who are clear Democrats, might vote for Trump, because he bucked HIS party, and so is the better candidate.

    So ultimately, the Republican party might appear to be in ruins right now, but both parties should be VERY scared of this election–because no matter who wins, those sentiments are still at the front of many voter’s minds.

  3. Unfortunately, we’re facing the possibility of a fucked up president here in Austria now too. Norbert Hofer, the Freedom (neoconservative, neonazi) Party candidate, might really win. Luckily, the president doesn’t have much power here. But it would be a black eye for the public image of Austria.

  4. The guy they just elected in the Philippines is being compared to Trump. I’ve only heard a little about him so far, so I don’t have a handle on whether the comparisons are fair. It makes me wonder if there is a growing market for candidates who talk tough and violate many of the social conventions we have come to expect from politicians. If so, I wonder if the whole thing doesn’t boil down to people being tired of politics as usual and wanting something different. It seems like this could at least partially explain the popularity of both Trump and Sanders.

  5. Thank you Les for an interesting article , we seem to be on a helterskelter ride of uncertainty. We in the UK are voting to stay in or come out of the E U no one is really sure if thats a good idea or not , we have elected a Muslim mayor of London despite current problems. Interesting times .

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