Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Scrambled Egg

"A scrambled egg" is what one TV commentator (I didn't catch his name) called the current presidential campaign, even before the results were in from yesterday's decisive primary elections. Today, surveying the results, the situation seems both more and less scrambled.

It is somewhat less scrambled for the Democrats, where what was always supposed to happen finally is happening. The Sanders campaign has indeed done a good job of scrambling the egg, forcing the Clinton campaign to address more seriously the persistently depressed state of what was once the core constituency of the Democratic Party, the once great American working class that has been increasingly abandoned by the party ever since the McGovern campaign did effectively abandon them in 1972. That said, the greater threat obviously to the working class (or any class other than the top tier) remains on the other side. So reality is setting in, and Democratic voters yesterday largely put aside sixties' style expressive politics in favor of a resounding vote to unite to defeat the Republicans. 

On the Republican side, the scrambling is structural. Donald Trump's populist overturning of the Republican establishment continues. Nothing dramatized that more than Marco Rubio's overdue departure from the scene. Rubio was the darling of both the neo-conservative intellectuals and the tea party. He was widely seen as the Republican party's great hope. His commitment to the Republican Establishment's agenda to make the rich even richer at the expense of everyone else was solid. But, even with good looks and a winning smile, his trustworthy republicanism was no match for the party outsider who tells it like it is to the long taken-for-granted Republican proletariat. 

John Kassich's victory in Ohio (his home state, where he is the popular sitting governor) keeps the situation scrambled in a more traditional way. In the old days, he could go to the convention as a "favorite son," keeping his state's delegation available to throw its support to a compromise candidate (conceivably himself). That scenario is still possible, of course, but so much less likely the way contemporary conventions function. Not that long ago, a "favorite son" emerging from a convention as a compromise candidate would have been a credible scenario. In today's political universe, it is hard to see how someone with no significant base of support beyond his home state can credibly claim the allegiance of the party as a whole. It would be hard enough for the "Establishment" to put together enough votes to deny Trump the nomination at the convention. It would be even harder for a candidate nominated under such circumstances to win the allegiance of Trump's disappointed supporters whose loyalty is less to the party than to the outsider who is blowing the party apart.

The race continues!

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