Must be at least a week since I have mentioned Donald Trump, a week in which he has moved closer to securing the Republican nomination as candidate for the US presidency in the November election. But “The Donald” as one of his ex-wives used to refer to him is not my focus today.
It’s time to talk about the Democrats (though I will return to Trump soon – for a writer or cartoonist the man is the gift that keeps on giving).
Political parties exist, first and foremost, to win elections. That is the hard reality that politicians are reluctant to talk about publicly. They want you to think it is about ideas, issues and policy. Perhaps to some extent it is, but ideas don’t mean much if you aren’t in a position to implement them. So winning becomes the core value.
If I were a Democrat I would be thinking about that very seriously these days. Conventional wisdom is that Hillary Clinton is the candidate of choice, but is she electable? My suspicion is not, that she has passed her best-before date. I also suspect many Democrats haven’t figured that out.
There appears to be a desire for change in the electorate. We saw that in Canada last year when the voters gave us a government of inexperience. I won’t go into a lengthy analysis, but do note that there was both a desire for change and a rejection of traditional politics. It didn’t matter that the new government was unlikely to live up to its promises. That they made those promises was enough.
The US has already had its “change” election, won by Barack Obama in 2008. As an outsider it seems to me that the Obama presidency has been at best a disappointment, at worst a disaster. But I will save that post-mortem for another day.
As far as change goes, Obama turned out to be just another politician. He came from within Democratic ranks, more insider than outsider, then failed to deliver on his “hope and change” agenda. So what does this mean for Democrats in 2016?
Hillary Clinton is no longer a fresh face offering something new. She was First Lady for eight years, then a Senator, potential presidential candidate and Secretary of State. (She could yet face criminal charges for some of her actions in that office.) She represents old-style politics when Americans are looking for something different. Just being a woman is no longer different enough. After all, it’s 2016.
Which is why I think Donald Trump can beat Clinton. He comes with a lot of baggage, but it’s not political baggage. People are tired of traditional politicians. They are looking to anti-politicians in the hope for something new and fresh. Even a clown can seem fresh the first time you see the act.
Which is why Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders may be the Democrats best hope at this point. Traditionally, Sanders has been an Independent not a Democrat; that’s how he was elected governor. He is not part of the Democratic hierarchy.
That his policies are fiscally or socially questionable is irrelevant (something that seems to hold true also for Trump). He has tapped into the American zeitgeist, as has Trump, and is riding high on a wave of disaffection. It is possible he and only he is the anti-Trump.
At this point it still seems to me like idle speculation. Voting day is still months away. The backroom boys in both parties may yet find a way to seize control at the party conventions and install establishment candidates. I’m still not willing to completely rule out Biden versus Bush, though that does look increasingly unlikely.
But for us political junkies it is a fun ride.