By Alex Moore
For the past two weeks, I, and many other members of the washed up delegation were glued to the TV to watch coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. It has been official for quite some time, but it is now officially official that Donald Trump will face Hillary Clinton in the General Election. It is worth noting the historical significance of Hillary becoming the first female to be nominated as a major party presidential candidate in U.S history (no, Sandernistas, the election wasn’t “rigged”). In this post, I’ll discuss some things that stood out to me during the two respective conventions. I will also shake up the crystal ball and try to provide some electoral analysis as we go forward. I also want to give a shout out to Twitter for providing A+ entertainment over the past two weeks (how is Twitter still free!?) and to Ted Cruz for displaying Texas sized juevos and refusing to endorse Trump on the RNC stage.
Perhaps most striking from the two respective conventions is the glaring juxtaposition between how Trump and his supporters view the current state of our country and how Clinton and her supporters (notwithstanding the Sandernistas wing of the party) view the current state of our union. While Trump articulates an apocalyptic and depressing view of our country, Clinton makes the compelling case that America is, has been, and will continue to be great. Not that the Democrats didn’t engage in this type of rhetoric as well, but historically it has been the GOP that has been the party with the propensity to outwardly express American exceptionalism. Clearly, the roles have switched in this outlier of an election cycle. It is apparent that Trump’s strategy revolves around stoking fear about perceived threats and perceived instability. To the contrary, Clinton narrates the story of a great country that is on the right path with issues to confront such as criminal justice reform and certain economic issues (these mainly to satisfy the far left Sanders/Warren wing of the party).
Going hand in hand with this is the considerable role that the President, Vice President, and First Lady played at the DNC. For all intents and purposes, Hillary is campaigning on the bedrock principle that she will represent a 3rd term for Obama and many of his ideological convictions (notwithstanding her hawkish foreign policy tendencies that contrast Obama). Modern history tells us that this is very difficult to do. Only once since 1945 has the same party won 3 consecutive Presidential elections, the outlier being the Reagan/Bush combo in the 80’s (I also feel obliged to shout out Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000 after serving as Slick Willie’s VP). Each of the three aforementioned people all delivered lengthy and detailed speeches in support of HRC at the DNC. What a difference a couple of years makes. In 2014, Obama was an unpopular President who caused backlash within his own party when he declared that his policies were on the ballot in the 2014 Midterm Elections. His party, of course, would go on to endure bad congressional losses that year, going along with the 2010 midterm debacle that quite literally may have been the most disastrous midterm for a party in modern history. Just a year and a half ago, it would have been unfathomable that Obama would speak at the DNC with an approval rating hovering around 53% (very very high for an 8th year POTUS). Expect the Obamas and Biden to serve as considerable assets for the Clinton campaign going forward.
While it likely didn’t stick out to many of you, the RNC and DNC continued to hammer home what may end up being the defining theme of this election cycle in the future. I continue to be dumbfounded by the anti-trade/anti-globalization rhetoric that has manifested itself in the orthodoxy of both parties this cycle. While trade/economic globalization is always a pretty easy punching bag on the campaign trail, candidates generally abandon their anti-trade promises when they reach the White House as they realize the economic and geostrategic importance of free trade blocks. Obama is a perfect example of this. He hammered Clinton for her husband’s support of NAFTA and China’s WTO accession in their bloody 2008 primary battle, only to negotiate the massive TPP trade agreement in the Pacific Rim and begin to negotiate the terms of the equally massive TTIP trade agreement with the European Union. The GOP has been the party that has served as the biggest proponent of economic globalization since WWII. Obviously, Trump is the complete and utter antithesis to this orthodoxy, as his campaign has consistently blamed trade for stagnated wages and job losses in the country. The Democratic Party has always had a more nuanced position on trade. The centrist wing of the party is typically pro-trade, as evidenced by Bill Clinton’s aggressive globalization efforts and pursuit of trade agreements. However, the left wing of the party has always been at best skeptical, and at worst outright hostile to trade. Sanders, similar to Trump, made trade bashing one of the main pillars of his insurgent campaign. The abundance of anti-TPP signs and chants at the DNC illuminate the fact that his supporters on the fringe left take his message to heart and blame trade for a host of issues. Despite being forced to renounce trade on the campaign trail by the far left wing of her party, I suspect that HRC will continue the Washington Consensus on neoliberal global economic policy if elected (her running mate, Tim Kaine, was one of the main congressional Dems who actively supported the TPP). Despite this, I worry that this may serve as the turning point where enough of the electorate turns against trade to dissuade elected officials from pursuing fruitful trade agreements going forward. This issue will undoubtedly be a major one in the coming months. In my opinion, the biggest threat to HRC is a sizeable enough exodus of Sanders supporters to Trump due to the fact that Sanders and Trump are identical on a handful of issues, trade being the most prominent one.
Now lets look forward. First of all, I want to start by articulating that ANY POLL YOU SEE OR HEAR ABOUT FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED. I saw far too many Facebook posts of people freaking out when Trump bumped ahead of HRC in national polls following the RNC. I had to hit a few of these folks with the Bryson Tiller ……don’t. Polls following the party’s respective national conventions are historically volatile, as they fluctuate violently and portray trends that more than likely are flashes in the pan and not indicative of broad swings. In a couple of weeks, we will revisit the polls as this is when things will get very serious. For now, I stand by my electoral breakdown from one of my previous posts. Essentially, there is no way I see Trump winning an election with horrendously low amounts of support from non-white voters. The GOP’s famous “autopsy” completed after Romney’s L in 2012 articulated that it would be impossible for the party to win Presidential elections going forward in our increasingly diverse electorate by getting blown out in every demographic except white voters. I wholeheartedly suspect that that is an accurate breakdown. Moreover, Trump augments this issue by turning off so many highly educated Republicans, moderates, and independents. For these reasons, I applaud HRC’s VP pick of a centrist Tim Kaine. Moreover, I stood and clapped during HRC’s DNC speech when she directly appealed to disaffected centrist Republicans to support her. As promised, in a couple of weeks when the polls start to settle in, we will revisit the national polls and start to look at polls in battleground states such as Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina.
Photo Credit: Lee Chapman