Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Will this election break all the rules?

As each party approaches the final, full and complete nomination of their respective candidates, the discussion turns to the general election.  You have seen the electoral maps- mostly blue and some red, and a few states still in play.  But those maps are based on history, on the way voters in past elections have voted and are expected to vote this fall.

Why do the pundits, who have missed the story this election cycle, continue to focus on the past?  What are seeing is the problem with history. We never conclude it is changing in the middle of that change.  In other words, Bernie Sanders tapped into a feeling that the media missed because the media had its blinders on. The media dismissed Trump because they considered him a fool a clown, a character, instead of a serious challenger to both the Republican status quo.  They are not capable of thinking outside of the box  because the box is all they have known and they are essentially cowards to history.  They risk being dismissed themselves as unserious journalists if they write about events that do not fit a template of the past.

But this election may be different.  Did anyone truly think that the 1856 election signaled the end of the Whig Party, and the rise of the Republican that would dominate American politics for until 1932?
Did the nomination of Reagan foretell a new ethos of limited government, of the kind of ethos that Goldwater, dismissed as a kook, espoused in 1964?

Beware of the media tropes.  They are usually behind the curve.  Trump is being told to run a traditional campaign- to follow the traditions.  To get in line.  He is not likely to do that.  He knows by now that he has been able to bring many new voters to his cause.  Despite the wide opposition to him inside the Republican Party, and 16 opponents, he has earned more votes than any previous nominee in history.  That must mean that there are either an awful lot of Republicans who weren't voting for traditional candidates before, or that he has wide cross-over appeal.

Hillary and Bill (we should join them for this election, since they will be working as a team) also kow what works.  Hillary will talk policy, gin up her base, try to look and sound presidential, and have her multitude of surrogates and PACs do her dirty work.  This is how the Clinton's have run every election they won; this is how they will run this one.

The problem for Hillary is that this may be one of those cycles where, like the media, the experts and advisers miss the changes occurring before their eyes. Why didn't any of Trumps "gaffes" in the primary doom him? Why can a candidate with historical negatives remain competitive in almost every current poll. Is it just possible that voters may indeed not care if they like the candidate, that they have grown tired of electing candidates they like that do not accomplish anything?  Is is possible that their dislike of Trump, for example, is not about policy but is about personality, and that this cycle, personality doesnt much matter because the voters have seen that personality doesn't win arguments or put more money in their paychecks?

Keep your eye on the shifting media, as they get results they do not think possible and try to explain them.  It is not racism, it is not xenophobia, it is not gender bias that motivates MOST voters. The media focus on these issues hides the single  most important issue in nearly every election (absent a major foreign policy event)., and that is the economy.  Who do the voters think more capable of improving jobs, of improving wages, of making more families better off, and which approach to they think works best? That is the issue on which the election will be fought, and it will be fought, not on a national, but on a state by state (and partially regional) level.  The candidate who wins that argument wins the election. Hillary has lost West Virginia, probably Kentucky and hurt herself in Southern Ohio due to her honest (but improvident) comments about killing coal jobs.

Pay attention and read local papers online- the NY Times, LA Times and USA Today are not the only papers that do good reporting


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