After Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, I wondered what the heck is going on in New Hampshire. Do those guys really think either of these two could lead the United States? Trump is a blowhard–the sort of person we made fun of when I was a child and forever immortalized by Pee Wee Herman’s “I meant to do that.” Can Trump the Perfect actually get Congress to do anything when everyone finds out the emperor has no clothes? When I think of a potential Sanders presidency, all I can think of is how much trouble slightly right-of-center President Obama had with Congress. Can Sanders’ left-of-center ideas go anywhere without executive orders strengthening the presidency at the expense of the Congress? In these respects, I can’t imagine two worse candidates for how our country is supposed to work.
At the same time, they represent exactly the same thing: the long taken-for-granted people in their respective parties. The Democrats have moved only to the right since Carter. They created blue dogs who eventually just gave out and turned red. The Republican’s famous Southern Strategy relied on using race as a wedge–bringing in white people at the bottom end of the economic spectrum (who had historically voted for Democrats) and using them to beef up the top end’s candidates. Both parties ignored ever-growing constituencies on either side of the center.
I have been waiting since G.W. Bush for the Republicans to splinter. His wars…his economic policies…his social policies…none of these made everyone happy in his party. Remember his plan to “save” Social Security? What about Harriet Miers? A piece did eventually chip off, the Tea Party, but mostly, it seems, because Bush liked Mexicans.
Hillary Clinton has been the presumptive nominee for the Democrats for years now. Because she isn’t surrounded by normal people, she was unprepared for the Democrats to have a splintering of their own. Sanders’ success is the wake up call she failed to answer after losing to Obama, a candidate all my peers thought would move the country back to the left (but didn’t in any measurable way). Now people are angry that they are drowning in debts they owe to the federal government (student loans). They hate that Obamacare is effectively a handout to the insurance industry (a group long hated by anyone who ever had to call and ask a question about their coverage).
Primary season is here. The voiceless and ignored are finally being heard after decades. We live in interesting times.