What does the rise of anti-establishmentarianism mean for the future, and would electing Hillary be worse than we think?
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump could not be further apart politically from one another. Sanders is a humanist, environmentalist, and seeks justice for everyone in our society. Trump is a pure capitalist who thinks our torture laws are too strict, fuels bigotry, racism, sexism, violence… etc. They both profess that they will fight for these ideas if elected.
They do share space on some things, however. Primarily, they both think the system is broken.
They both talk about getting money out of politics. Bernie from the perspective of a life-long, marginalized, political outsider; Trump from the perspective of someone who has given LOADS of money to both Democrats and Republicans and can speak very personally about the effect money can have.
They both resonate with the same frustrated place of powerlessness in people. Bernie supporters see the broken system, and so many people who suffer because of it, and want us to do more to alleviate and prevent that suffering. Trump supporters seem to feel their own suffering and want things to be better for themselves, but don’t seem to care as much about other people, and especially don’t care who we have to step on, literally or figuratively, for us to get to winning again.
Bernie and The Donald are both leading major populist uprisings in our country. They both flirt with revolution. Always careful to couch it in softer terms like “democratic” or “political” revolution – a careful dance on the edge of extremism at times, at least on that subject. Trump of course is well over the line on a lot of issues to the point where he’s destroyed the line completely, yet somehow can say whatever he wants – things that normally would completely end a campaign. Remember Howard Dean, or Rick Perry? Dean showed some emotion, and Rick Perry forgot one word – and they both tanked.
Trump and Sanders can both do and say whatever they want. Trump is mostly self-funded so not beholden to any master, most notable and to their chagrin, the leaders of the Republican establishment. Bernie because he’s not even supposed to be here. A year ago he was a joke candidate. The Democratic establishment had already decided who their candidate was going to be, and this adorable old man, a socialist, wasn’t even given a second thought. He was going to be the token lefty that would bring up some fundamental issues but could never pose a threat to Clinton. It was decided already.
They both shook everything to the core. The leaders of both parties are scrambling right now, and should be. They just lost control of their party. The fact that the Republican establishment is openly discussing a brokered convention and nominating one of their own via floor vote shows us just how desperate they are. This would be the kind of undemocratic maneuver that could very likely end the Republican Party as we know it. (Side note: If they were to actually do that, just in the name of stopping Trump, we should applaud them for it, because they would have shown a great respect for our society, that they’d scuttle their ship instead of seeing Trump elected president.)
We should remember that the Republican leadership is made up of moderates. Both parties have spent decades in a war of attrition, think WWI trench warfare, every election cycle gaining or losing a bit of the center. Fighting for the center all these years have made the parties pretty indistinguishable from one another. Bill Clinton ushered in an era dubbed “The Third Way” which pushed the party to the right, away from their liberal core values. To paraphrase podcaster and political science brain, Dan Carlin (a comment he made on a recent podcast inspired this post): if the country is a ship, and an election is about choosing who is at the helm, then Hillary Clinton might take us one degree to the left, and someone like a Paul Ryan might take us one degree to the right, but that’s about it. Sanders and Trump, in comparison, want to take us five degrees to the left or right.
Now, this brings me to the point. 2020. What happens in 2020? The nerds who analyze all the data collected have Hillary as the Democrat candidate and Trump as the Republican candidate. Hillary, being moderate, will beat Trump in a general election. Speculative opinion polls can’t be trusted at this point, because they’re tapping emotion. Who people support in their heart eight months before the election isn’t necessarily the person they’ll vote for in the ballot box when the decision gets real and they have to choose the next president.
So, Hillary. The moderate. The pragmatic. She will come in, and probably not get anything meaningful accomplished. By her nature as a moderate she will not fight for things, she will compromise. She will craft policies that while not terrible won’t stand out in history either. Basically, it’ll be business as usual for the next four years.
Business as usual is fine when business is good.
Bernie and Trump are proof that business is not good, and that lots of people are angry at the establishment and tired of watching them accomplish nothing on our dime. So my question, which I do not have an answer for, but will simply leave to you, dear reader, is this: Can our country sustain another moderate president? People are already active and engaged and showing up in droves for caucuses and campaign events in record numbers. More people caucused in my county in Washington State this year, where Bernie got 73% of the votes, than caucused in 2008 when Obama was making his historic run. Where do all of these people put that emotion and energy with yet another moderate in the White House? What happens to it? And, after 4 more years of Eeyore politics, how will the electorate respond? Extremists get elected in countries when the people feel left behind. Outside of a couple glimmers, we haven’t seen a politicians really walk the walk when it comes to being representative of the people. The people have become an afterthought, a prop, a backdrop, and a tool. If the people are saying enough is enough to the establishment in 2016, what is four more years of the same politics they’re angry at going to conjur?
I’m fascinated and frightened to see what’s next.