Every four years, I’m harassed by my friends about not throwing my vote away, even though that’s a complete myth. I watch both my Republican and Democrat friends get more and more vitriolic and conservative as they confuse progressivism with populism. This election year is only going to get more intense. As a Green I feel weirdly disconnected from it all. So, this is my attempt to navigate the morass. As of now, this is how I think the presidential campaign will play itself out.
Reactionary populist anger and radical populist anger are the driving forces this election. These poles of populism are represented by Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, neither of whom are actually members of the party to which they are seeking the nomination. Because our nation is a duopoly, there is no room for Trump to run as the crypto-Libertarian that he is or for Sanders to stand as the socialist Green that he is. In a perfect world, we would have four candidates running for president: the Democrat, the Republican, the Libertarian, and the Green nominee. It even makes more sense for Sanders and Trump to be duking it out for the hypothetical Populist nomination rather than be where they are now. But we don’t live in a perfect world or even one that makes sense.
With more than half of the states having had their primary or caucus, it’s a safe bet that we know who the nominees will be for each of the major parties. Although I’m certain that Sen. Sanders will campaign until the end, it appears as though Sec. Clinton will secure the Democrat nomination. For the Republicans, things may still get a bit crazy. However, the stark reality is that Donald Trump is the nominee. The GOP have had twenty-nine states vote and the Democrats twenty-six, all totaled Trump has garnered 7.5 million votes to Clinton’s 8.7 million. I think this is an excellent proxy for determining the starting points for the general election.
In 2012, Gov. Romney needed just over ten million votes to get the Republican nomination, only slightly more than what Sen. McCain needed in 2008. For this presidential cycle, it looks as though turnout will be higher than it’s ever been for the GOP. Yet, though I admit that he is a major factor, I doubt Trump is the driving force for this. Over on the Democrat side, Clinton was able to get 18 million votes in 2008 when she lost the nomination to then Sen. Obama who was able to pull in 18.1 million. The turnout was stunning, in no small part due to the historic nature of the campaign. There is no way that Clinton will be able to recreate those numbers this year, yet she will more than likely surpass the vote totals of then Sen. Kerry in 2004 (9.9 million) and Vice President Gore in 2000 (10.8 million).
Turnout for the nomination process isn’t a precise indicator for how the general election will go. However, there are some superficial traits that I think we need to pay attention to. The incumbent President Obama and President Bush both barely turned out 8 million for their re-election intraparty, yet each was able to soundly beat their opponent. So, we can disregard those numbers. We need to look at open nominations. For Republicans, turnout has been steadily increasing but is still well below the 12 million votes that then Gov. Bush was able to draw in 2000. With California and New York still remaining in the Republican contest, it’s possible for Trump to reach this milestone but I doubt (though I think he will get damn close). For Clinton and the Democrats, there is no re-creating the 2008 election; it has to be ruled out. However, that election has reset the bar. Again, California and New York have yet to chime in meaning that in all likelihood, Clinton will draw more votes than Gore in 2000 or any other nominee from either party exempting herself and Obama in 2008. That’s a stunning number and one that’s not getting enough attention.
But so far I’ve only been thinking in terms of what Clinton and Trump have accomplished themselves and not what would happen once their parties rally behind them. Excluding the support for the other candidates for the nominations, head-to-head it feels as though Clinton would safely beat Trump. But the twist in all this is just to whom the support for the other candidates goes. The majority of Sanders supporters will still vote for the Democrat nominee. The remaining supporters will divide between Trump and, hopefully, Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. So, I imagine a 60-30-10 split among Sanders supporters.
For Trump, I can’t see the supporters of Sen. Rubio, Gov. Jeb Bush, or even Gov. Kasich (the mainstream Republican contingent) siding with him. Ben Carson and Gov. Christie cultivated an outsider’s aura, so when they were invariably defeated it made sense for them to endorse Trump despite any and all personal attacks or distaste. However, Rubio, Bush, and Kasich supporters are openly contemptuous of Trump. There are three options: first, these mainstream Republicans rally behind Trump, second, they stay home, and third, they vote for Clinton as her center-right politics are more closely aligned to their own right-center beliefs. Of these, I believe the first to be highly unlikely to happen. If Trump were to fold into his ticket Gov. Kasich, then he would stand a better chance of securing the the core of the party.
All this suggests to me that Michigan is now a battleground state like Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, while some Southern states such as Georgia and North Carolina could go blue. Making political predictions, especially this early in the campaign, is ridiculous and more prone to error than success. But for all his bluster and success at rallying the basest instincts among us—xenophobia, unapologetic militarism, myopic cultural awareness, and naively economic thinking—the distaste Trump sows will outweigh it. Also, unlike the GOP, the Democrats know that they have two good candidates. The crossover or loss Democrats will experience will be most likely be at the party’s extreme edges—angry populists—and this will not be enough to mitigate the animosity of those leaving the opposition. Trump will get Democrat crossover, but it will fringe support that feel draw to his xenophobia and isolationism. That crossover will be wiped away by the numbers of mainstream Republicans will refuse to vote or crossover themselves.
As a Green, I’m rarely allowed to vote for my candidate. Typically, I have to write-in my party’s nominee. I suspect this year will be no different. Populism is a horrific beast. Whether reactionary or radical, it is the ugliest and meanest face of democracy or representative government. It is a politics deeply rooted in anger, in hatred and resentment. Even at its best, it is hostile in its exclusionary and accusatory rhetoric and practice. This is why I suspect that this election will be one of, if not the, nastiest and meanest presidential campaign ever.
However, the point of this post was to go on record in saying that I think Sec. Clinton will win the presidency edging out Trump 52% to 48% with turnout rivaling that of 2008.
But we will all be beaten, bloody, and divided aching for some new positive message.
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