Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Some Thoughts About 2016 While It's September 2015

For your consideration:

1) Neither of the Establishment candidates expected to do well - Jeb Bush and Scott Walker - are actually winning the early rounds of polling and campaigning.  Granted, this is the early stage portion of the horse race where the wild and wacky fringe candidates or White Knight "outsider" figures tend to stir up the extremist fanbase among the Republicans.  However, last election cycle's Establishment guy Mitt Romney was still a viable-looking candidate, sticking to his script and keeping his head above the metaphorical waters.

You cannot say the same for both Jeb and Scott: As of the first week of September they have both fallen into single digits in the polling.  And the political media is full of stories about Jeb! and Scott The Union-Buster struggling to find momentum or a winning narrative.

There may be still time for the "Establishment" big players to readjust and use their overwhelming money advantage to simply swamp over voters into either voting for them or else just get disgusted with the whole thing and not show up at all.  But the window of opportunity is shutting fast: if both Jeb! and Walker are polling in single digits by the end of October, might as well stick a fork in both of them and serve them up next to the Thanksgiving turkey.  Because that is a clear sign they've lost too many voters to win any of them back in time to dominate the primaries.

2) While Fiorina slid into a tie for sixth place in the polling, two of the top five in the GOP race are Trump and Carson.  Essentially half of the top candidates getting serious consideration right now lack any elective experience whatsoever.

The media is starting to pick up on how the Republican voting base views the entirety of politics altogether: with utter disdain and distrust.  They've been told since the Clinton years that the Democrats are a threat to "their" nation (some of this animus goes all the way back to Carter and LBJ) so there's the part where the GOP voters hate that half: what's becoming unreal is how a sizable (over a quarter at 27 percent) faction among Republicans are hating/mistrusting their own party.

The rush towards Trump and Carson as anti-politicians may explain their rise to the One and Two spots in the polls.  The question is, will the fervent anti-Establishment mood carry well into the actual primaries, or will the primary voters "wise up" and vote for "sensible" candidates that could, you know, actually win over centrist/moderate independent voters who look for such things as competency and experience?

I'm not betting on it.  As long as there's fifteen candidates duking it out into the early rounds, it's a good bet nobody will be securing enough delegate wins to develop the needed "momentum" to convince later voters to back the "winning" name.  There's enough anti-Establishment outrage there to have enough voters back either Trump or Carson or even Fiorina well across all fifty states (plus territories).  Even if one drops out, the likelihood is that the other non-pol becomes the favored flavor of the month: I doubt Trump backers will switch over to Jeb if Trump quits/gets blocked.

3) One of the oddest things I've noticed so far is that few if any candidates are openly pitching any economic policies.  If they are, the media's done nothing to tout them.

We've only just now gotten Trump's position on economic policies - other than his trade war with China and border wall with Mexico - and he's open to the idea of taxing the rich.  Which is total anathema to the Republican party leadership.

As for taxes overall, there's barely a peep about tax cuts, one of the bread-and-butter issues that (used to) get the Republicans stoked.  We've kind of reached Peak Tax-Cut Rhetoric in a way: the Republican dogma (sans Trump, who doesn't give a rat's ass about the party ideology) is so affixed to supply-side Laffer Curve trickle-down tax cuts that there's almost no need for the candidates to stake a claim on the issue.  It's just a given that the Republicans will slash taxes for the rich and corporations as soon and as often as possible.

Update (9/10): Spoke of the devil and the devil appeared.  Jeb! finally came out with a tax plan that has gotten the media elites to comment on it... and it's the same dredge of massive cuts to tax rates for the upper incomes.  Jordan Weissmann at Slate.com uses the phrase "magical thinking" to describe it, and it's an accurate epitaph because like all previous GOP tax-cut plans it operates on the belief that these grand tax cuts to corporations will immediately transform into investments and job growth.  (Hint: they don't.  Tax cuts to lower incomes families, however, DO translate into more jobs...)

I'm still not convinced Jeb! is going to win over the voters he's lost with a shiny tax cut package: it's become a moot point behind the red-meat issues of hating immigrants and dissing women.

4) Watching the second-tier names like Christie, Huckabee and Cruz fight over the table scraps may be fun, but in the meantime they're putting out policy ideas and fear-mongering outrage that will hamper honest dialog about our need for serious reforms well past the September debate and into the 2016 primaries.

Oh, and one more thing:

5) This is still way too f-cking early to have people running for the Presidency.  We've got all these f-cking months of gaming out this horse race with nothing really tangible to worry about until January 2016.  We'd all be better off capping elections to just the f-cking year said elections are supposed to take place.  No f-cking ads, no f-cking fundraising emails, no f-cking debates and suck-up events, just no.  We gotta fix this damn thing first before we can fix anything else broken in our federal government.

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