Friday, February 12, 2016

I haven't written much...

...about politics lately because I haven't had anything original to say.

The New Hampshire primary went pretty much as expected, with Trump and Sanders both winning. If there was any surprise at all it was the margin of victory in each race. Trump's percentage of the vote was higher than his poll numbers going in and more than twice his second-place opponent's. (To give you some perspective, Jon Huntsman -- who? -- got a higher percentage in 2012 than John Kasich did this week.) Bush, who a year ago was vacuuming up all the money and was the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, finished in fourth place with a paltry 11 percent. And Sanders beat Clinton by more than twenty points. If I had told you last June that any of this was going to happen you would have said I needed to have my head examined. (And you would have been right.)

Now, before I get to why I think that all happened let's take a look at where we are right now. In the next primary, South Carolina on February 20, the polls (which haven't been updated for 15 days -- that's a long time) look like this:

Trump, 36.4 percent
Cruz, 20
Rubio, 13.7
Bush, 8.7
Carson, 8.3
Kasich, 1.8

While those first three numbers could be accurate, I'd say Bush's and Kasich's could be higher while Carson's are most certainly lower. (The good doctor is out of it; he may just be the last to know.)

As for the betting markets, Paddy Power has the Palmetto State this way:

Trump, 1/7 odds
Cruz, 7/2
Rubio, 10/1
Bush, 25/1
Kasich, 100/1

Bottom line: Trump wins South Carolina with Cruz in second and the three establishment candidates bringing up the rear. I'll say Bush outperforms Rubio and ultimately becomes the establishment alternative to Trump and/or Cruz. If no one arrives in Cleveland this summer with enough delegates to win Jeb could triumph in a brokered convention. Wouldn't that be ironic? And messy -- do you think the Donald would go away quietly? In the words of Jerry Seinfeld in his not-very-good British accent: "Not bloody likely!"

As for the Democrats, their next contest is the Nevada caucuses on the same date (don't ask). Here's how the HuffPost sees it (updated one month ago -- a lifetime):

Clinton, 50.2
Sanders, 27

And according to Paddy Power:

Clinton, 1/3
Sanders, 2/1

So Hillary should win Nevada, with an emphasis on "should." And what will be her margin of victory? One would think closer than the polls indicate. And if Bernie should pull an upset? All I can say is: Oy!

Looking ahead, Trump is favored to win the Republican nomination, at 6/5 odds, on Paddy Power. (Rubio is in second at 3/1.) Hillary is still favored to win her race with 1/4 odds.

Where am I? Again, Oy! 

I still say Hillary wins the nomination and the general, but I'm a heck of a lot less confident after this week.

On the Republican side, I have to give the edge to Trump -- he's leading in the polls almost everywhere and I just don't see anyone who can stop him. Cruz? The establishment hates him even more. Also, his appeal is just too narrow. Rubio? Damaged goods. Besides, which state was he supposed to win? Trump is even leading him in Florida. Kasich? Can't win in a red state. (But he could be on Trump's short list for running mate.) Bush? A bad candidate with the wrong last name in the wrong year.

So back to New Hampshire: why Trump and Sanders? (And why might Sanders win the nomination over Clinton after all?)

I think both candidates are tapping into essentially the same thing: the decline of the middle class. While Trump's followers are older, whiter, Christian, more rural and more blue collar, Sanders's are younger, multicultural, secular, more urban/suburban and more college-educated. What do they have in common? They are both "losers," for lack of a better word, in the global economy in recent years.

(I really don't like the word "loser," but in a game of "winners and losers" it's appropriate.)

Trump's followers have been losing ground ever since the first Japanese and European cars hit U. S. shores back in the 1970s. Since then it's been bad to be a blue collar worker in America.

Sanders's followers are young people who graduated from college in the last few years with unconscionable student loan debt ($1 trillion last I checked) and no way to pay it off.

Now, what happens when the "system" can no longer create good jobs for people? The system gets overthrown. There's nothing "sacred" here. (As my son would say, it's all made up anyway.)

If globalization, trade and technology take away jobs and cause middle-aged white people to commit suicide in alarming numbers, something has to change.

And if young people owe a trillion dollars and can't pay it back, something has to change.

Remember when Jean Valjean couldn't afford to buy bread? What happened? He just took it. And that's what Trump's and Sanders's voters are telling the "winners": we're going to bring back jobs from China and Mexico and we're going to have free college and free health care and you're going to pay for it. I don't think Sanders is exaggerating too much when he talks about a "political revolution." We're not in for a "shooting"-type revolution like the one back in 1776, of course, but more like a non-shooting revolution a la the New Deal in the 1930s or the Reagan "revolution" (I would call it a "counter-revolution") in the 1980s.

Who would win between Trump and Sanders? Who knows? Hopefully I won't have to write that post. But I do think a "revolution" is in the offing and possibly a "civil war." Again, not a "shooting" one, but an even more polarized version of what we have now -- if you can imagine that. Ask yourself: If you thought Obama - Boehner was "difficult," picture Sanders - Ryan. Yikes!

Fasten your seat belts.

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