To say this election season has been an interesting one would be an understatement. Presented with new and seasoned political standouts addressing our country’s most pressing issues, the Hawthorne team wanted to take a look at some important questions as the primaries begin to draw to a close. Hawthorne CEO, Gene Reineke, sat down with two seasoned political veterans for their informed perspectives. Take a look at our Q&A to hear more from Democratic strategist, Marj Halperin, and Republican strategist, Chris Robling.
Can each you give us your perspective on this current presidential season that we are experiencing?
Chris Robling: This year is marked by significant divisiveness and voter resentment. It is so pronounced that Donald Trump’s many gaffes do not matter to his supporters, nor does Senator Sanders’ overtly socialist views thwart his enormous fundraising and political support.
The grassroots Left channels its dissatisfaction with President Obama and hatred of the GOP-led Congress into Sen. Sanders’ candidacy. Fury on the Right at GOP Congressional leaders and hatred for the president fuels Mr. Trump’s insurgency.
Meanwhile, establishment Democrats, including – so far – super delegates, are happy with Sec. Clinton. There is concern that she has not put Senator Sanders away, and about the FBI investigation into her email server issues, but to date she is the selectee who will be nominated.
Establishment Goppers are not as sanguine with their principal alternative to Mr. Trump. They despise Senator Cruz for his reformist questioning of their status quo. To them, he is an ill-behaved ideological ego-maniac. He also will not cover their deals, but they do not say that in public. Governor Kasich is their preference, but with every new Cruz delegate, bypassing him and Trump to arrive at Kasich is a longer shot.
The New York primary is enjoying relevance unseen in decades. Unlike Wisconsin, which favored the insurgents, it appears headed to the front-runners. Sec. Clinton and Mr. Trump will likely win in their home state, so Sens. Sanders and Cruz must manage expectations down – so as to claim election night vindication on something.
If there is a brokered convention for the GOP and Sanders does not secure the Democratic nomination what are the odds of a 3rd party candidate?
Chris Robling: I suppose one in about five or six. Trump does not want to lose twice, and no third-party campaign can be expected to win. My sense is Sen. Sanders will stay in his swim lane and extract concessions, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren for Veep, or a significant plank in the party platform. Sen. Sanders is playing a long game. Mr. Trump is playing only for now.
Marj Halperin: You won’t see a 3rd party candidate from the Dem camp; I feel quite certain about that. But on the GOP side, I think all bets are off. If Trump doesn’t emerge as the GOP nominee, I don’t hear him ruling out a third party bid. And if he IS the nominee, an establishment candidate could be the 3rd party choice, but I think that’s less likely. We’re already seeing establishment Goppers gravitating toward Trump, should he be nominated, with Governor Rauner out front.
Final scenario: in a Trump-Clinton race, each candidate has a voting bloc of undetermined size that Just. Hates. Them. I say “undetermined” because I don’t think anyone can accurately poll this group on the question of whether they hate enough to vote for the opponent, or to stay home, if they are of the same party as the candidate they despise.
But I think it IS possible to poll on the question of a (specific) third party candidate who might draw haters from both parties. I’m thinking about a moderate Republican or conservative Democrat, willing in either case to buck their party. Still a long shot, but wouldn’t THAT be interesting?
How do you explain the phenomenal rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?
Chris Robling: The phenomena of Mr. Trump and Sen. Sanders results from overwhelming anxiety about the economy and personal incomes.
Folks simply are not doing very well. They are acutely aware of their own concerns about retirement, college, prospects for their kids, America’s place in the world, etc. That acuity intensifies their feelings, and that intensification tends to distance them from a middle ground in the direction of their core belief – either in collective or individual action.
To this, I add as a significant underlying condition, our epic polarization, arising significantly, but not exclusively, from our $20 trillion national debt.
We are hobbled by spending commitments vastly beyond our means. Resolving those is made considerably more difficult by the slowest economic recovery on record. If we were growing more, or spending less, we would have significantly fewer grounds for polarization. But in these circumstances, there are fights over everything. Most of these can be resolved into the size and scope of government, which is reflected in the Obama – Congress split.
Democrats, fueled as they are by public employee union contributions, advocate in unison for more government, taxes and missions at all levels, which serves the interests of… public employee unions.
Establishment Republicans, who are supposed to limit government, instead gain contributions from a massive incentives allocation structure for rent-seeking mega-businesses.
In many respects, these are two sides of the same coin, and thus the parties are not infrequently described as “the same.” To this, the Tea Party reacts in horror, dividing Republicans between establishmentarians and reformers.
But, either way, these different emphases result in significant binary policy differences, in which there is no gray area or middle ground between growing government and preserving, let alone growing, liberty.
Viewed this way, intense disappointment that President Obama did not grow government more to reduce the fears mentioned above fuels Sen. Sanders. Intense disappointment that Congressional leaders failed to restrain President Obama more, and thereby grow the economy faster, fuels Mr. Trump.
Marj Halperin: Oh, you think Chris and I might hold the secret that has eluded so many others? Of course, I DO have an opinion. But I think there are different answers for each candidate. Trump is capitalizing on the anger the party fueled in part, itself, with its partisan rhetoric of the last eight years.
Many of his “under-educated” (his term, not mine), white, male followers were badly burned in the Great Recession and may not have adequate skills to fit into the new economy. On the Dem side, Bernie has young, more highly educated (or working on degrees), white, male followers fueled by the “revolution” that promises to rebalance some of the economic advantage held by the 1%. Neither candidate has yet connected in any significant way with women or minority voters.
What has caused so much of the perceived anger among so many voters?
Chris Robling: People view their opposition as immovable and unreasonable, especially in light of the threats we face.
In the Post War era, with an expanding economy, it was easy for both sides to accept half a loaf and declare victory. Now, with the national debt as large as it is, we see Tea Party supporters prepared to shut government down to limit government. Even though the government has been shut down many times, with no long-lasting effect, their willingness indicates intensification of feelings and heightened determination – and elicits a correlative anger from the other side.
Marj Halperin: Oh. See above. The economy has made significant improvements since the recession, but these voters aren’t feeling it.
If each of you had to make a prediction, who wins a HRC and Trump matchup?
Chris Robling: A bit on a limb, but… Donald Trump. Much as I disagree with him, I think he captures the popular mood of repudiation more than Secretary Clinton, who is mired in the status quo.
Marj Halperin: Clinton. With one hand tied behind her back.