Here’s Everything You Missed in the Race to the White House
For those of you who’ve managed to avoid the news for the past few months, America has been occupied with the total circus that is the 2016 Presidential Elections.
From a grand total of 23 candidates (6 Democrats and 17 Republicans), the Democratic (Dems) and Republican (GOP) nomination races have come down to two Dems and a single GOP candidate, and they are nearing the finish line.
When I last visited this topic in “The Nomination Complication,” the politics and drama roiling this election cycle had turned the race into a surreal reflection of the show, “House of Cards.” Now a month or so away from the nomination conventions, it’s not much of a stretch to say that “House of Cards” is more believable than our political reality.
Here’s the second-half breakdown of the nomination races – my analysis of what’s going on within each major party, and general election predictions.
The Delegate Fight
The first half of the nomination race was composed of primaries and caucuses mostly in states in the South, Midwest and most of New England, while the second half of the nomination race is primarily in the West and the Mid-Atlantic, which finishes off the rest of the U.S.
On the GOP side:
The aftermath of the first half on the GOP side left John Kasich with a lone victory in his home state of Ohio, Marco Rubio with a bloody defeat in his home state of Florida, Ted Cruz continuing his middling performance and Donald Trump further along the nomination path than anyone else.
In contrast to the first half, most of the GOP nomination contests in these states operate under winner-take-all or winner-take-most conditions, and Trump’s dominant lead quickly translated into huge delegate sweeps. Cruz saw a last stand when he won in Utah, Wisconsin, Colorado and Wyoming in the beginning of April, but that deteriorated until his final humiliation at his last hope in Indiana on May 3rd. Cruz dropped out that evening, and Kasich followed suit the next day. Trump is the presumptive nominee for the GOP, and any hope for a contested convention to oust Trump is gone.
On the Dem side:
The Dems have continued on the same path as the first half of the primary, with Hillary Clinton maintaining her firewall-lead.
With 1768 delegates compared to Bernie Sanders’ 1496 delegates, Hillary maintains a 250-plus delegate lead that has only dipped below 200 once. Add in Hillary’s 504 super delegates compared to Bernie’s 40, and Hillary has an incredibly dominant lead of 706 delegates. Hillary has won 27 states and 55.5 percent of the total popular vote (13,192,713 votes), while Bernie has won 21 states and 42.7% of the total popular vote (10,158,889 votes). Hillary now has won all but two states in the entire South, half of the Midwest and most of the Northeast, and Bernie has most of the West, half of the Midwest and a few states in the Northeast.
Hillary is 85 delegates away from clinching the nomination (as of the end of May), and she will 100% get those delegates on June 7th when California, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota go to the polls. For all intents and purposes, Hillary will be the presumptive nominee for the Dems. Despite this, Bernie has promised to continue to fight until the Democratic Nation Convention at the end of July, and he has regularly raised complaints about the delegate results so far.
The conclusion of both nomination races is relatively predictable at this point, but major issues remain for both parties as they prepare to enter the general election.
The New GOP
In what has been the single most surreal year of politics for me, the GOP has managed to place Trump at the top of their ticket for the general election.
The traditional party elites, the moderates and conservatives among the establishment, are in total disarray. Trump’s platform is almost entirely at odds with the long-held stances of the establishment, either veering more left or more right than what they’re comfortable with. What’s more, the GOP electorate has pushed forward the one candidate predicted to do the worst against Hillary, which is astounding considering that Hillary’s unfavorability ratings meant that any GOP candidate who could make inroads with minorities and women would’ve had a strong chance to defeat the Dems in the general. The GOP elites know this, and many have resigned to losing the general and are consolidating efforts in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The GOP is stuck between a toupée-d rock and hard place. Either they back Trump and risk major losses down the road at the hands of an ever increasingly diverse American electorate, or they disavow and refuse to back Trump – thus risk drawing the ire of Trump’s bloodthirsty voter base and the strongman Trump himself. Any politician would give anything to get out of such a gun-to-the-head situation, but the GOP doesn’t have any other choice.
Trump has succeeded in turning on a once quiet portion of the GOP voter base: jaded, typically white and male, lower and middle class individuals associated with the economic decline of the industrial sector in regions like the Rust Belt. These voters have an inclination for authoritarianism (which in this context is a term used to refer to a worldview that favors authority and order while shunning outsiders and social change), and combined with a downright hatred of an establishment perceived to be ineffective and dishonest, Trump’s presumptive nomination means that the GOP is now the party of anti-immigrant, nationalistic populism.
The GOP is no longer the party of Reagan, it is the party of Trump.
Trouble in the DNC
Trump as the GOP nominee is surreal. The Dems having a divided house with a war between Bernie and Hillary while the GOP has a chance to unite before the Dems just doubles that surrealness.
It’s safe to presume that Bernie is a rational man. Unless he can somehow take about 67 to 70 percent of the remaining delegates (not including super delegates), it is practically impossible for him to take the delegate lead and make a case for the super delegates to flip to his side in order to win the nomination. Bernie has effectively been mathematically eliminated from the nomination race.
There is no path for Bernie to win the nomination, unless Hillary is somehow knocked out by very unlikely, external circumstances. Bernie presumably knows this, and yet he has given no indication that he will fully switch his campaign into an issues campaign to move the Dem platform more left.
In contrast, Hillary has pivoted to the general, focusing on setting up the stage for full attacks on Trump. Bernie has only done so half-heartedly, still devoting most of his media voice towards attacking the DNC and Hillary.
This presents a major problem for the DNC. Bernie is the center point of a significant plurality of the Democratic voter base, and his tone, attitude and talking points shapes how this plurality reacts. If Bernie starts making motions to come to an agreement with the DNC and the Dem platform, his followers will start to toe the party line and settle down. But if Bernie continues to claim that he can win the nomination (which he does currently), his followers will react in an increasingly negative manner to things perceived as anything other than Bernie winning. If Bernie makes arguments that the super delegates should belong to him and hand him the nomination, his followers will feel like they’re entitled to a nomination when they do not possess any leads in delegates, super delegates or vote totals. A recent incident highlights the latter of these issues.
At the Nevada Dem State Convention, Bernie’s supporters began protesting the Nevada Dem officials and threatening violence against them, after the convention results favored Hillary. To clarify, the vast majority of Bernie’s supporters do not condone violence or sexism. But when a small minority becomes more vocal that the majority, a campaign can quickly become tainted by such negativity.
When the leader of a movement claims a possible victory when there is none, the movement grows to assume that anything less than victory is unacceptable. This incident is a symptom of an astounding disunity within the Democratic Party that threatens to weaken Hillary when she presumably enters the general election as the nominee.
What Bernie decides to do between now and the DNC in July is unknown. He could chose to see reality when Hillary takes enough delegates to clinch the nomination on June 7th and corral his supporters into full unity with the Dems. Or he could continue to double down on his current “the nomination is mine” stance and fight all the way through the nomination convention. Regardless of what he picks, his current stance threatens harm to the Dems that an insult-happy Trump would be more than happy to take advantage of. The Dems should tread carefully.
An Ugly General Election
The general election will be between Hillary and Trump. Both have low favorability ratings, with Trump having the lowest out of the two. This means that for the first time in decades, if not a century or more, the general election will be a contest of who do you hate and fear more.
For the Dems, it’s how much do they hate Trump to swallow any reservations they have about Hillary and turn out to prevent a Trump presidency.
For the GOP, it’s the same but to prevent a Hillary presidency.
And for the rather unlucky voters in the middle, it’s a question of who do they hate the least.
Unless something drastically changes in the narratives of either the Hillary or Trump campaigns, this general election will be ruled by hate, not by hope or overwhelming positivity such as that found in the Obama campaigns. If the primaries seem nasty to you, the general election will likely devolve into a gutter war.
My original prediction that Hillary will win remains the same. Trump shows no signs to rejecting his divisive and xenophobic rhetoric, and states that were once GOP strongholds have come into play for the Dems because of this. Between minorities and women siding en masse with the Dems, and some GOP moderates and conservatives deciding to sit this election out or defecting to the Libertarian Party, the margin of votes looks to favor a Hillary victory in the fall.
The 2016 Presidential election has been one of the most entertaining, terrifying and absurd elections in recent history. As the nomination races draw to a close, strap yourselves in because the general election will be a brawl for the ages.