A Change Election that Isn’t Opposed to the Status Quo

2016 is shaping up as a completely weird election year. Americans aren’t happy with the status quo.  But (aside from his most fervent supporters) most aren’t ready to let Donald Trump burn the place down and hope to salvage something from the ashes. But voters aren’t sold on Hillary Clinton, just yet, either.

Ezra Klein has described 2016 as Normal vs. Abnormal, with the Democrats behaving like normal politicians and a normal political party and Republicans behaving abnormally. His cataloging of the abnormality of this year’s Republican party convention and the language used there; the genuinely abnormal behavior within the Republican party, the fervent desire of many Republicans to support Trump without actually saying they support him, to distance themselves from his lurid behavior without actually condemning him.

It’s important to point out that, despite Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton, the Democrats have behaved as a normal political party. After a two term president, it’s not surprising and outsider would challenge the party establishment. Despite claims otherwise, the Democratic party followed the established rules and under those rules, Bernie Sanders lost the primary fair and square.  Sanders spoke forcefully on Hillary’s behalf. He has endorsed her for the presidency. And, the Democrats have embraced many of his ideas and issues in this year’s platform. Sanders and Clinton, by the way, voted together 93% of the time. IOW, despite his outsider status, Sanders and Clinton have largely shared the same policies and politics.

The abnormality, the weirdness, of this year’s election is on the Republican side. A presidential primary that started off with 17 candidates? The “debates” that would have shamed actual adults?  Seriously, they talked about penis size as if it were anything that matters for being president. The convention was downright bizarre. Lots of commentators have pointed out that the Republicans have spent years creating the conditions that made Trump possible.  It wasn’t aliens who voted for Donald Trump in the primary – it was Republicans. And yes, Trump is a home grown demagogue who seems to know little about actual policy and care even less. He loves the noise of the crowd, the cheering. The tongue in cheek suggestion that we drug him, let him wake up on a TV set, of a reality show known as “President Trump” would probably satisfy him more than actually winning.

The American political landscape is fractured in ways it has never been fractured before.

And yet, an emerging, multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition is emerging on the left – and being resisted with every ounce of strength by the almost entirely white right Republican party.

As I’ve watched her throughout the primary, the convention and now the general election, I have found Hillary Clinton is a compelling candidate. She may not be a “natural” like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, but she is gifted. Sanders never stood a chance in the primary because Hillary spent years building relationships with the people who matter in the Democratic party. She focused on issues people care about and she has created a network of supporters.  She’s going to be a gifted president.  By contrast, the Trumpster Fire on the Republican side is as abnormal a campaign as anyone could have imagined. His supporters love it, but almost everyone else is looking on in a mixture of horror and amusement.

Trying to make sense of what’s going on this year has been a job of work.  Which is why I appreciated Nancy Letourneau’s post at Washington Monthly.

She observed:

We are used to hearing that elections must either be about “change” or maintaining the “status quo.” I would propose that neither of those is an apt description for what a majority of Americans are looking for this time around. Is it possible that behind all the noise being created by angry voters, a majority think that – while things are getting better – we need more progress? Could it be that voters know that taking America “back” means going in the wrong direction and that we need to go forward with the kind of change that is currently underway? Are a majority of voters capable of that kind of nuance in a world of either/or? That was essentially Clinton’s message at the Democratic Convention.

And then:

Clinton is rejecting the idea that this is a “change” election as well as rejecting the idea of maintaining the “status quo.” She is instead promising to build on the progress that has been underway for the last 8 years. That is precisely why President Obama was confident in passing the baton on to her for the next portion of this relay. And it’s also why this isn’t the kind of “normal” election we’ve seen in the recent past.

In other words, voters are prepared to make a more nuanced choice than in the past.  The multiple disasters of the Bush era have been replaced by the normal political events of the Obama era. The Obama presidency has been largely scandal free (despite Republicans ceaseless efforts). Hillary is positioning herself as the candidate who can build on what’s good while repairing what’s wrong.  Trump’s position (burn the place down and hope to salvage something from the ashes) only makes sense if you genuinely believe America has gone to hell in a handbasket.

And while things need to be better, we’re not bound toward the underworld just yet.

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on August 9, 2016 - 10:10 am

    Twice as many Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction vs. the right direction. That makes this a “change election.”

    The Gallup Poll says 42% of the electorate identify as independents, 29% as Democrats, and 26% as Republicans.

    Everybody knows Bernie Sanders would have won the Dem nomination if independents were allowed to vote in greater numbers, and had their votes counted (not the provisional ballot bait-and-switch they ran in California, for example).

    Here’s what makes this election different: Never before have the major parties nominated two such wildly unpopular candidates. A substantial majority of Americans regard both Hillary and Trump as untrustworthy.

    Most of the people who plan to vote for Hillary or Trump say their vote is really a vote against the other candidate.

    The unpopularity of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could make this year’s election a ‘race to the bottom’

    People want change, but instead of that Hillary hopes to get them to vote for the status quo because Trump might be worse. It could work. OTOH Brexit.

  2. #2 by Larry Bergan on August 9, 2016 - 6:51 pm

    Glenden, I think this is the second time you’ve said Hillary won “fair and square”. You sound like the media talking heads, who weren’t allowed to give the impression that Sanders ever had a chance, right from the start. They had the super delegates declaring their support for Hillary to lean on, even though they had never used that as a gauge before. Even without Wikileak’s leak, everybody could see the DNC was doing everything it could to minimize Sanders’s chances.

    There’s nothing that was fair and square, and it’s a travesty that so many independents were tricked into not being able to vote for the candidate they wanted.

    As for the corporate media. They owed Bill Clinton, big time, for signing the telecommunications act. I guess PBS and NPR thought they needed to stay in line because of the Koch and McDonald’s money they got.

  3. #3 by Larry Bergan on August 9, 2016 - 6:56 pm

    The only reason Utah democrats stunned the nation is because we voted on hand marked, hand counted ballots and allowed registering on election day. I wonder who’s in trouble for that.

  4. #4 by Glenden Brown on August 9, 2016 - 9:28 pm


    Larry – Hillary got more votes than Bernie. The rules of the process were known in advance; Bernie agreed to follow those rules. It may sound harsh, but the DNC isn’t required to be neutral. I know that sounds bad – but Hillary Clinton carefully nurtured relationships and support within the party. She built a network of relationships with supporters (the super delegates). In 2008, the super delegates were a big deal. I caucused for Bernie in Utah, I donated to his campaign. I was proud that Utah voted for Bernie. I’m also proud to support Hillary.

    • #5 by Richard Warnick on August 10, 2016 - 8:49 am

      I find it ironic that this year the “Democratic” Party is so proud to point out that their nominating process owes nothing to democracy. In point of fact, the DNC by its own rules is required to be impartial. Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Tulsi Gabbard had to resign in order to back Bernie Sanders, for example.

    • #6 by Larry Bergan on August 10, 2016 - 2:37 pm

      Richard is right here Glendon. You are the first person I’ve heard say the DNC isn’t required to be neutral.

      Clinton’s carefully nurtured relationships within the establishment are what we’re worried about, not proud of. Over the years, the Clinton strategy of wooing corporations and banks has resulted in a rotten Democratic congress, with very few exceptions.

  5. #7 by Glenden Brown on August 9, 2016 - 9:34 pm

    I like this article from Ezra Klein:



    There is a narrative that has emerged in the Democratic primary, and it goes something like this: Hillary Clinton locked up the Democratic establishment long before the primary began in earnest. She’s the wife of an ex-president. She was endorsed by virtually every elected official in the party and pretty much every major interest group. Her dominance of the inside game was unprecedented for a non-incumbent candidate. And she used this elite firewall to choke off Sanders’s revolution.

    When Sanders’s supporters argue that the election was rigged against their candidate, this is what they are talking about. Sanders, they feel, did what you normally have to do to win an election: He generated more enthusiasm, brought in more voters, raised more money, gave better speeches, and polled higher in head-to-head matchups against the Republican candidate. It was only Clinton’s pact with the Democratic establishment that stopped his rise.
    end quote

    Okay so what’s another interpretation:

    “But another way to look at the primary is that Clinton employed a less masculine strategy to win. She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders.

    This work is a grind — it’s not big speeches, it doesn’t come with wide applause, and it requires an emotional toughness most human beings can’t summon.”

    And finally this:

    “In this telling, in order to do something as hard as becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, she had to do something extraordinarily difficult: She had to build a coalition, supported by a web of relationships, that dwarfed in both breadth and depth anything a non-incumbent had created before. It was a plan that played to her strengths, as opposed to her (entirely male) challengers’ strengths. And she did it.

    Hillary Clinton is a generationally talented politician — albeit across a different set of dimensions than men tend to be talented politicians.”

    Bernie Sanders has endorsed her. He’s no pushover. He’s no slouch. He’s not someone who gives up on a tough fight. I admire him, but Hillary flat out beat him in the primary; she got more votes. She didn’t need to cheat.

    • #8 by Richard Warnick on August 10, 2016 - 8:57 am

      Let’s not forget that most politicians think twice before opposing the Clintons. The reason is obvious.

      MSNBC host Alex Wagner said Thursday morning that Democratic politicians are treading lightly around Hillary Clinton out of fear that failure to enthusiastically endorse her could bring dire consequences.

      ‘The fear mongering around the Clintons [is] like, “Don’t cross them, otherwise a door in the floor opens up,’ she said.

      Clinton, along with her husband the former president, reportedly built an ‘enemies list’ after she failed to win the Democrats’ presidential nomination in 2008, keeping tabs on all the people they believed had betrayed her by siding with Barack Obama.

      …’There’s a feeling that you have to kind of plant your flag firmly for the Clintons,’ she added. ‘Especially now.’

      The 2008 enemies list focused mostly on members of Congress, and rated them on a scale of 1 (most helpful0 to 7 (most treacherous).

  6. #9 by Mainly farce.. on August 10, 2016 - 10:50 am

    CrOoKeD…and all the same..LOL!! Can’t even make this up…it is a priceless lesson for idiot progressives..I haz the Dumb!! Beautiful. What timing!! He doesn’t give a flying fuck about you, his image, or what it means…fuck you all..I got a shoreside VT summer house.

    Feel the bern yet? LOL!!!


    • #10 by Larry Bergan on August 10, 2016 - 2:45 pm

      For a minute there, I thought it said 6 million. What’s the big deal? Sanders is going to need a lot more room, now that he’s got a movement.

    • #11 by Richard Warnick on August 10, 2016 - 3:20 pm

      My house is worth more than the house Bernie lives in in Burlington, not to mention real estate is cheaper in Utah.

      • #12 by Larry Bergan on August 10, 2016 - 4:01 pm

        They tell me my tiny house is worth 90 thousand, and I live in Utah too. I’m skeptical, at least until I do some fixing up.

        Besides, Bernie has my permission to use all 80 dollars I gave him to buy his new digs. Just make sure it’s not bugged.

  7. #13 by Richard Warnick on August 10, 2016 - 4:22 pm

    The NRA catapults the propaganda with the best of them. Here’s what they came up with in the wake of Trump’s joke about “Second Amendment people” and what they might do if Hillary wins the election.

    Of course, Trump was simply espousing the “insurrectionist theory” of the Second Amendment, which is bunk but widely subscribed to by right-wingers.

    • #14 by Larry Bergan on August 10, 2016 - 5:42 pm

      I guess the dark menacing music in Republican/NRA ads was getting old, so now they’re using weird fantasy music, or whatever that was.

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