Sunday, February 21, 2016

Voting with the Middle Finger

Weird weekend with the Democrats caucusing in Nevada but the Republicans voting in the South Carolina primary.  The Republicans will caucus in Nevada this week, and next weekend the Democrats vote in South Carolina.  Or maybe this separation should be viewed as symbolic, of two different democracies.

In any case Donald Trump triumphed in South Carolina.  One of the voters there explained why--he was "voting with my middle finger."  Hillary Clinton won in Nevada.

Now that some numbers exist, political pundits feel more comfortable in predicting the final outcome of the nominating contests.  Various of them made strong cases that this weekend's winners are going to be the candidates.

Jonathan Chait made the salient point that Rubio's second place tie--ten or so points behind Trump--is less impressive than he'd like it to look.  He needed to win South Carolina and didn't.  He's not utterly out of it, nor is the universally despised Tailgunner Ted, but fighting for second place is not going to be enough.  Even with establishment GOPers starting to line up behind him, the only ray of hope that South Carolina provided Rubio is that late deciders broke for him, not for Trump.  But if Trump keeps notching victories in March, it's very probably over.

Meanwhile, Chris Danner's roundup of punditry makes the case that Bernie Sanders has peaked.  They base this on numbers, but a rationale is not hard to develop. Sanders is the Democrat's anti-establishment candidate, though his appeal isn't to anger alone but to hope.  His supporters ask that people vote "with their hearts."

But if these pundits are right, Democrats are also checking their heads, as Dems are wont to do.  Barack Obama won their hearts, but in debates, town halls, speeches and in response to real world events, he demonstrated an ability to handle the job of President.

 Bernie Sanders has an intriguing record.  I first became aware of him when he was the socialist mayor of Burlington, Vermont.  (I was following the local rebellion against a proposed giant shopping mall, which turned out to be the first such project stopped by citizen action.)  Sanders turned out to be both a creative and pragmatic mayor, and if memory serves he was voted as the best mayor in the nation by his fellow mayors.

That was a long time ago, and it remains to be seen if Sanders can convince heads as well as hearts that he is up to the full range of presidential responsibilities.  But the nominating process is a matter of accumulating delegates, and he is rapidly running out of time.

That of course is not even a question being raised by the finger-voting GOPers who support Trump.  If we needed a reminder of how extreme all the surviving GOPer candidates are--and how that extremism is growing--here's one from the New Yorker's Amy Davidson.

The Republican party is becoming the party of the middle finger.  Whether it destroys itself in immense defeat in 2016 or destroys the country in victory is the open question.  Even an immense defeat in congressional elections may not prevent the GOP from functionally destroying the Supreme Court.

Hillary Clinton has not proven to be an especially skillful executive of her own campaigns, or even of the State Department, but at this point, voters may calculate that she's as close to a stable transition to a better country as we've got running. The GOPer friendly columnist David Brooks is not the only one who is already beginning to miss President Obama.

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