by Troy M. Olson
It’s settled folks. The 2016 Presidential Election is between Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). Yes, I’m aware that the Democratic Party still has two candidates vying for the nomination, while both Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out a few weeks ago. However, no matter how hard #BernieOrBust folks or other groups try to show you otherwise, the Democratic Primary has been over for some time. For me personally, it was over when Bernie Sanders did not win Iowa. He was over a little bit more when he could not delve into the Nevada unions enough to gain a victory there, although like Iowa, it was close. While admittedly, my Super Tuesday predictions were a little too pessimistic for Bernie, it was still under where he needed to be.
He and his supporters have ran a solid and mostly clean campaign that has focused on the issues, pulled Hillary to the left on many important issues facing the country, and in the process made her a better candidate. Unfortunately, all of the old rules of left-right-center are out this cycle. The Republican Party has decided to nominate real estate mogul, reality TV star, and professional bomb thrower, Donald Trump.
And when I say the Republican Party I mean the lower and medium income white working class voters of the Republican Party has chosen him. As Carson and others have stated all cycle, the establishment of the Republican Party laughs at most of their supporters behind closed doors and has since about 1981. What we did not know as a country is that the Democratic Party now does that too and has for the past twenty years or so. Citizens United, money corrupting our political process, redistribution of wealth and the concentration of it in the hands of the very, very few have not happened in a vacuum. I hate to break it to some party hacks, but the Democratic Party is responsible for these things too. They are responsible because they have endorsed it. You see, back in 1992 when Bill Clinton became the first Democratic President in twelve years, the party tacked to the center and rebranded themselves the “New Democrats.”
Who were the New Democrats?
People that wanted to win and thought by becoming more like the Republican Party they would start winning the Presidency again. That worked fine in 1992, and more than likely it had to be that way. However, 1992 was a long time ago and 1968 was even more in the past. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is still largely defined by the experiences of those two election cycles.
Since 1992, this has been the Clinton Party: economically moderate to conservative and socially moderate to conservative. Pragmatic all over. But not the pragmatism seen in Barack Obama, rather the pragmatism of following the political headwinds and performing policy triangulation. The right wing hatred of the Clintons truly is amazing, and I have to agree with Hillary’s take on the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Why do the Republicans hate the Clintons so much? It makes little sense. No one has passed more Republican legislation and advanced preferred framework to the electorate more than Bill Clinton. Throughout Obama’s eight years, this has remained the Clinton Party and this very same party establishment, overwhelmingly led by the baby boomer generation still while the Republican leadership gets younger and younger, would have preferred Hillary to become President in 2009 instead of the current occupant. Therefore, the rhetoric coming from both the Hillary and Bernie camps as well as the media about the supposed Democratic split should take a look back to what a real split looks: 2008. Or 1968. What is happening this cycle within the Democratic Party is a generational divide. The very same divide that this website spends a lot of time on.
If we’re keeping score on this divide, any fair reading would have to see this as the “Boomers Strike Back” election. The Democratic boomers got their preferred person in this time, and in the process will get to complete their historical American story of producing the first black President and now the first female President. Despite my reservations about Hillary, which admittedly are more so reservations about the Clinton-brand of politics exemplified best by Bill Clinton’s political career, I will be excited when this country finally joins the rest of the civilized world in electing a female head of state. It’s about damn time, and it should have happened years ago. This represents the best of the boomer story in America. Donald Trump’s nomination on the other hand, represents the worst the boomers have to offer, which is saying something because this is the generation that has brought us sluggish economic growth, multiple wars that look like the same wars they did not want to fight in, and has mortgaged the future of not just their children, but also their grandchildren. To add insult to injury, all too often they have put the blame on a powerless millennial generation they seem utterly reluctant, especially on the Democratic side, to hand over power to.
After all of this though, Trump “trumps” it. This Slate article from earlier in the month: “Donald Trump, baby boomer: How the candidate was shaped by his generation” explains it well. Dodged the draft, which was a boomer cottage industry, especially for well-connected ones? Check. Avoided questions about this with bravado and chutzpah that can only come from a silver spooned member of the born-on-third-base and thought-they-hit-a-triple-club? Check. Has routinely insulted people far more honorable than him? Check. It’s the boomer way. And this is why Donald Trump is the natural extension of not only a certain segment of right wing populist hysteria, but also the natural extension of all of the bravado and entitlement of his age cohort. In other words: Donald Trump is “peak boomer.”
Because a generation born of World War II vets who then is shaped more by dodging service (and make no mistake: the Vietnam War was pointless and terrible) than actual service sounds like a generation who would nominate Donald Trump, who has never held public office, to be one of their major party nominees for the highest office in the land and most powerful in the world.
Because a generation who failed to see the irony of sending their kids who volunteered after this country was attacked to serve, to an eerily similar war of choice in Iraq, would nominate a man who insults John McCain for becoming a POW in the first place.
Because a generation who enjoyed the relative entitlement of a free or incredibly cheap university education would drive up costs and then say “should have worked harder” to a generation drowning in student loan debt.
If anyone is wondering why I do not take American politics as seriously as I once did, this is why. American politics no longer deserves to be taken seriously. Not until this generation who is incapable of solving the problems facing this country because no generation is fully qualified or capable of solving problems that they are too personally divorced from in their own experiences.
While 2008 was the election that brought Millennials into politics, who were the foot soldiers for the Obama field team, 2016 will not be our election. 2016 is the “establishment” strikes back or the “boomers” strike back. This is not ideal, but we are not alone. Both Clinton and Trump are both widely disliked by the American people (see above). If you think this will change by the fall, think again. Has there ever been two more clearly defined and known-candidates for President facing off? Both Clinton and Trump have been in the public eye for over three decades. Any favorability rebound will be statistically insignificant.
This is the election matchup I called back in late 2015. To reiterate the general election predictions: Hillary Clinton will win, but by a closer margin than most think right now, and unfortunately there will not be much in form of coattails. Democrats will not win back the House, and will not win back the Senate either….
….but to end with some optimism.
Now More Than Ever, It’s Time For the American People to Lead. Especially the Young People of this Country.
While the cynic could point to Hillary and Bill’s style of politics as calculated, lacking in principles, the more optimistic and perhaps more fair assessment is that they are the delegate or politico type of leader. In other words, if there was an issue that you had hope would go somewhere with Bernie as President, or whoever you preferred. Don’t give up on that issue. Don’t ever give up. I truly believe Hillary Clinton does the politically smart thing. If polling says this and the American people advocate time and again for a particular issue, she will eventually advocate and push for that too if there is enough pressure. And more than anything, that’s what we need right now. So in that sense, Hillary Clinton fits her time perfectly. We need to re-engage in our democracy and in our communities and build and advocate for change from the ground up, because that is always where change starts from.