Sunday, July 26, 2015
Recently, the absurdly premature and mostly dull 2016 presidential campaign (which may seriously result in a Bush versus a Clinton!) has become more entertaining by the emergence of two candidates from both parties who are pushing buttons on both the left and the right: first, there's Senator Bernie Sanders. Although technically an independent, Sanders has decided to run against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination. The Vermont Senator is the only member of congress to proudly call himself a European style Socialist, and his populist message of dealing with the nation's great issue of economic inequality has caught on. The number of people at his rallies has steadily increased, as has his ratings in the polls. With his often unruly crest of white hair and frequently hectoring style of speech, Sanders often comes across as part Old Testament prophet and part crazy uncle (if your uncle were left wing), and at almost 74 years old he's probably too old to put in a serious run for the presidency. Given all that, I'm still a big fan of the guy, especially when he honestly states that he thinks America can improve and learn from European Socialist ideas, and if he pushes Hillary Clinton into adopting more progressive views, all the better. Clinton has, for the most part, mostly ignored Sanders, which makes sense: despite his surge in the polls, she still retains a healthy lead over him and all the other Democratic candidates. Not to mention the fact that, sadly, the very thing I like about Sanders over Clinton is what will doom his quixotic campaign: he has turned down all Wall Street and corporate campaign donations, and, after the misguided Citizen's United Supreme Court ruling, raising hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy donors is the only way to the white house in our modern system. And Clinton already has a huge money machine running that she could drown Sanders in if she needs too, and that should end things.
Or will it? Being an independent, is it possible that Sanders will run as a third party candidate? I certainly hope not. I can still remember what happened in the crazy 2000 presidential election when Ralph Nader ran as a Green party candidate and succeeded to siphon enough votes away from Al Gore to give the white house to George W Bush. I myself voted for Nader because after 8 years of Bill Clinton going along with the Republicans on one issue after another, I felt there wasn't enough of a difference between the parties. I now see the error of my ways! Bush was far more conservative than Clinton, and the damage his presidency did to both the country and the world are still being felt. So while I'm an admirer of Bernie Sanders, I sincerely hope that he doesn't push the election towards whatever Republican candidate is running.
Ah, and then there's Donald Trump, the loud mouthed, boastful man who has elbowed his way into the Republican candidate clown car through sheer force of will and ego. Amazingly, this real estate and media mogul who has never held any political office ever is working his way to the top of the polls over the 15 other Republican candidates running. His main claim to fame is that he is a rich, successful businessman, which of course has nothing to do with running a country and ignores the fact that he's declared bankruptcy more than once.
But that's not the worst of it. The real horrible thing about him is why he's leading in the polls. During his campaign announcement speech Trump made this inflammatory, offensive and factually incorrect statement:
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best..they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people(!), but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting."
Sadly, these statements, no matter how false, represent the racist and xenophobic attitudes of many people in the Republican party. His current popularity shows that. And that fact that most of the other Republican candidates have given only tepid criticism at best over these comments reveals that they all know it. Which may spell doom for the future of the party.
It's hard to believe, but it wasn't always this way; after Barak Obama won reelection in 2012, partly due to the fact that he got a whopping 77% of the Latino vote, there was a movement in the Republican party to compromise on the issue of immigration reform, simply out of self preservation. Wise party members realized that alienating the fastest growing demographic members of the country amounted to political suicide. But nothing happened, and three years later and here's Trump with a razor blade to the party's wrist. And he's exactly what the Republicans deserve. While Trump's candidacy may bring back memories of Ross Perot, the billionaire who ran for president back in 1992 with a similar platform of wealth = power, I also can't help but be reminded of David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan who was briefly popular in the in the 1990's in the Republican party, much to it's chagrin. (As Duke himself was proud to point out, when he ran for the office of Governor of Louisisana in 1991, he won a majority of the white vote). Although Trump's personal history isn't as loathsome as Duke's, like Duke, Trump isn't really saying anything that other Republicans aren't saying, he's just more blunt about it. The fact of the matter is that, it is now as it was in the 90's, Republican presidential candidates can't win the party's nomination without playing up in some part to it's base of white Southern men who grew up at a time when segregation was the law of the land and who miss those good old days. Look, I don't want to say that all older white Southern men in the Republican party are racists, but at the end of the day, the proof is in the poll numbers.