There is something wrong with American politics if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the
Let’s start with the fact that both Trump and Clinton are horribly flawed candidates. If all the polls are correct, they are the two most unpopular individuals to potentially get their parties’ nominations in the last 40 years. For both, more than half of those surveyed indicated that they do not like them or would not vote for them, potentially suggesting a race where significant numbers of voters stay home or hold their noses and vote for the lesser of two evils. In a normal year with good choices neither of these candidates would get their party’s nomination and if they did, would be trounced by the opposition.
By the time the primary season is over barely 10 million people will determine the party nominees. We have super-delegates, caucuses, and arcane party rules that make no sense, rendering it less than a fair democratic process to select party nominees. These rules make the Electoral College seem fair and intelligent by comparison. What is clear is that the primary process is unfair. Trump and Sanders are correct–the process is hugely rigged and controlled by insiders, insulating the party against the change and reforms that are needed.
For Trump, his racist, sexist, and jingoist world view, his near vacuous policy stances, and his overall simplistic political views are embarrassing and they will do little to help the white working class who are his core supporters. Trump’s claim to fame is his mastery of the media and his ability to bluster and pout his way over others. He does well in a year where his part has abandoned working and middle class America and has embraced a plutocratic vision of America. He talks a good game to help the people the GOP has left behind but offering many of the same policies that put the USA into the terrible shape it is. Moreover, his stance on many social issues is simply the same as what many Republicans have advocated for years, but it says it more clearly. For example a few weeks ago when he said and then retracted his statement that women should be punished for having abortions, he was saying no more than really what many of the extreme pro-life really imply when they want to make abortion illegal. Trump is both the logical extension and death of the Republican party.
For Clinton, yes sexism is part of her problem but certainty not every criticism of her is sexist. She tried this argument against Obama and it failed then. She has a real credibility problem, consistently espousing positions that she repudiates when it seems politically convenient. In 2008 she moved to the left when she say the party and Obama moving that way, she is doing that again this year with Sanders. But even if that is not true, face it, she embodies a neo-liberal corporate perspective on the world that is reinforced by a rather hawkish foreign policy perspective that is more classically found in Republicans. Face it–Clinton is not a progressive. Yes she and her supporters like to point to a 92% voting agreement between her and Sanders in the Senate. That proves nothing. Given the polarization, almost all Democrats votes together nearly 90% of the time. Moreover, that 92% reflects votes on issues on the agenda, not ideological views on where candidates stand or how they would vote on issues if they could set the agenda themselves. Overall, Clinton’s selection kills off the future of the Democratic Party ready to be inherited by Millennials who see no good reason to support her and who will walk away from the political system if she gets the nomination.
Taken together, the choice between Trump and Clinton is that between two establishment elites who have marketed their personalities to the top of their respective parties.
Notice I say “marketed.” The two have not so much campaigned as marketed their campaigns. In fact, on of the main problems this year with the 2016 elections is the degree to which marketing has replaced politics and the news, and ideology has replaced facts. Look at the coverage by FOX, MSNBC, and CNN for example. They are no longer covering the news so much as they are marketing it. The debates and their political coverage–the issues the cover, the slants on facts–all reveal a bias in favor of how they can sell the news for profit. This year the mainstream media, including the NY Times, and the Washington Post, abandoned all pretense of objectivity. They created Trump because he sold advertising and ratings. Recent studies point to all the free media coverage given to Trump and how little to Sanders. We saw that in the repeated attacks on Sanders, in how they keep wanting to declare him dead. Even such liberal stalwarts as Paul Krugman write less with authority and more with his biases showing. He writes as a privileged Baby Boomer clueless to what Millennials and real people think and feel.
Part of the reason the mainstream corporate media has so misunderstood this years elections is because of their corporate and political biases, but also because of their inside the beltway perspective on the world that insults them David Brooks recently confessed that he never understood the degree to which Americans were hurting and how they contributed to the populism fueling Trump and Sanders. I guess it is kind of hard to see economic hardship when you vacation in the Hamptons, own the Mar A Lago in West Palm Beach and are worth billions, or dwell in Chappaqua, NY and make $28 million per year.
The media have not only missed how the two parties have largely ignored most Americans, but it has missed the power ful generational forces, the polarization, and other trends driving American politics this year that distinguish it from last year. They have largely assumed the present year is no different than the past.
But the media marketing of politics goes hand in hand with the candidate marketing of their views, and their surrogates doing the same thing. Truth seems to be a major victim this year along with sanity and thoughtfulness. Candidates and their surrogates spew and emote over inconsequential things, pushing interpretations of facts into the realm of fantasy. “Liar Liar” and truth meters are working overtime. I have also seen too many people I know better move way beyond offering cogent discussions into politics, demonizing those who support rivals (even of the same party) as stupid or worse.
There is something just wrong with our political system this year and Trump and Clinton are the face of all that is flawed and the are really a by product of all that has gone wrong. Realistically, can’t we do better than this?