Trump vs. San­ders — vs. Bloomberg?

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Gwynne Dyer Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

“In a three-way race fea­tur­ing Trump, San­ders and him­self, Bloomberg would be the one ‘mod­er­ate’ can­di­date, and he might even win. The prob­a­bil­ity that all this will come to pass is still well below 50-50, but the fact that it ex­ists at all shows just how far Amer­i­can pol­i­tics has de­parted from the usual track.”

The out­come of the U.S. pres­i­den­tial pri­maries was sup­posed to be Hil­lary Clin­ton, the wife of an ex-pres­i­dent, vs. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of other ex­pres­i­dents: both wor­thy but some­what bor­ing can­di­dates, and both def­i­nitely mem­bers of the “es­tab­lish­ment”. Less than a week be­fore the first pri­mary, the Iowa cau­cuses, Bush is dead in the wa­ter and even Clin­ton is look­ing vul­ner­a­ble.

In Bush’s place as the Repub­li­can front-run­ner is Don­ald Trump, bil­lion­aire prop­erty de­vel­oper, TV re­al­ity star and dem­a­gogue, who told a cam­paign rally last Satur­day: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Av­enue and shoot some­body and I wouldn’t lose vot­ers.” His ar­ro­gance is not mis­placed: to the de­spair of the Repub­li­can Party’s hi­er­ar­chy, he prob­a­bly has the party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion locked up.

Three months ago, Democrats thought this would vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee Hil­lary Clin­ton’s elec­tion, as a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans would refuse to vote for such a crude clown.

That was prob­a­bly cor­rect, but it’s ir­rel­e­vant if Clin­ton doesn’t get the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. Omi­nously, her “so­cial­ist” ri­val, Bernie San­ders, is neckand-neck with her in Iowa and clearly ahead in the next pri­mary, in New Hamp­shire.

San­ders is not re­ally a so­cial­ist — 50 years ago he would have been an un­re­mark­able fig­ure on the left wing of the Demo­cratic Party — but in any case “so­cial­ist” is no longer a curse-word in the United States. When poll­ster Frank Luntz asked “Would you be will­ing to vote for a so­cial­ist?” last June, nearly 60 per­cent of the Democrats sur­veyed said yes — and an as­ton­ish­ing 29 per­cent of the Repub­li­cans.

Both the ma­jor par­ties are fac­ing a mutiny among their tra­di­tional sup­port­ers this year. A pres­i­den­tial race be­tween Don­ald Trump and Bernie Saun­ders (the Tea Party vs. Oc­cupy Wall Street) is en­tirely pos­si­ble. But both Trump and Saun­ders are too rad­i­cal for at least a third of Amer­i­can vot­ers. That would leave the middle ground of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics un­oc­cu­pied.

En­ter Michael Bloomberg, an­other bil­lion­aire, who started out as a Demo­crat, be­came a Repub­li­can to run for mayor of New York City in 2001, and now calls him­self an in­de­pen­dent. He won’t run if Hil­lary Clin­ton still seems likely to win the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion — but if San­ders is pulling ahead, he prob­a­bly will.

In a three-way race fea­tur­ing Trump, San­ders and him­self, Bloomberg would be the one “mod­er­ate” can­di­date, and he might even win. The prob­a­bil­ity that all this will come to pass is still well below 50-50, but the fact that it ex­ists at all shows just how far Amer­i­can pol­i­tics has de­parted from the usual track. Why?

The rise of Trump is mainly due to the fact that ger­ry­man­der­ing has turned 90 per cent of the seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives into safe seats for one party or the other: win the nom­i­na­tion, and the seat is guar­an­teed. So would-be Repub­li­can can­di­dates have to ap­peal to the party’s strong­est sup­port­ers, white work­ing-class peo­ple with­out a col­lege education, not to vot­ers in gen­eral. A lot of th­ese Repub­li­can stal­warts are very, VERY an­gry. Their in­comes are stag­nant or fall­ing, and as de­mog­ra­phy change grad­u­ally turns the United States into a coun­try where the mi­nori­ties are a ma­jor­ity, they feel that they are be­ing marginal­ized and for­got­ten. They want their can­di­date to be an­gry too, and Don­ald Trump in­tu­itively un­der­stands this and plays to it.

Para­dox­i­cally, San­ders ap­peals to some of the same peo­ple, be­cause he also rep­re­sents a rad­i­cal break with busi­ness as usual. Anec­do­tal ev­i­dence sug­gests that for many peo­ple whose first choice is Trump, their se­cond choice is San­ders. But most of San­ders’s sup­port comes from peo­ple who are not so much an­gry as de­spair­ing.

So it’s a horse-race that any­body could win, un­less Hil­lary Clin­ton gets the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, in which case she would be the odds-on favourite to win. She even promised last Sun­day to “re­lieve” Michael Bloomberg of the obli­ga­tion to run by win­ning the nom­i­na­tion her­self.

But if she does win, of course, noth­ing will re­ally change, in­clud­ing an un­re­formed fi­nan­cial sys­tem that is set­ting us all up for a re­run of the 2008 crash.

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