Monday, December 14, 2015

We Are Heading Into The Undiscovered Country of 2016

I am seeing more and more of these articles from the well-read pundits crying all how this coming Presidential cycle is the most unpredictable ever... and how it might change everything as one of those "watershed" moments in history. This one from Washington Monthly is a clear example:

...These are just a few of the questions facing us as we officially enter the 2016 election year. Anyone reading this can probably think of dozens of others. I don’t know that it’s fair to say that this is the most consequential election in recent history (the 2000 race arguably takes that prize, though ironically nobody thought so at the time). But I do think it is the most perplexing and bizarre. Every election reveals new rules about American politics based on changes in the underlying realities of American society. But in this cycle, the speed with which the rules are changing, and the nature of those changes, is more dizzying and disconcerting that any in my adult lifetime.
There is just no way to predict, with any certainty, how this will all play out. Anyone who says they know is a fool. The best we can realistically do is assess the evidence as it presents itself—be that new polls, changing aggregate polling, debates performances, ground game estimates, self-reinforcing media narratives, the latest economic data, the candidates’ actual policy announcements, and “events, dear boy...”

I have to argue that this is hyperbole and pundits being anxious about the roller coaster ride of electoral media coverage. There's been ground-breaking, Earth-shattering elections before and the nation seemed to survive (except that one time, and yeah we had to have a war to get that particular issue settled (poorly)). In hindsight in my lifetime the "ground-breaking" election of 1992 - Baby Boomers taking over from WWII-era political leaders! - turned out to be just Clinton putting a centrist spin on Reagan-era policies, and the ho-hum run-up to 2000 between "caretaker" possibilities of Bush or Gore turned into a disruptive disaster of a result that still affects the whole planet to this day. It's hard to say ahead of time what's going to be epic or not.

That said, this Presidential cycle for 2016 has high stakes indeed.

We are facing the high probability that the Republican nominee for 2016 will be an outright blowhard bigoted ignorant waste of breathable air (Trump) or a partisan unlikable hack (which covers most of the remaining field). No matter which candidate it will be, the Republican platform is going to lean heavy against any immigration reform, will push a hard tax-cut agenda aimed to justify massive cuts to social aid, will ignore any environmental reforms aimed to curb climate change woes just as American cities are about to swim in rising floodtides, and repeal Obamacare just as it starts working as intended.

Compared to that, the likelihood of the Democratic nominee being Hillary Clinton would seem sane, except for the fact Hillary herself is a divisive figure even among fellow Dems where progressive leftists view her as a centrist likely to cater to Big Business. There stands a chance that Bernie Sanders - a solid progressive candidate - could win the nomination, at which point the mainstream media has to contend with the Democratic Party going too far Leftist - with a candidate the Beltway types aren't even looking at - during a moment the Republicans are clearly too far Right.

For the media elites, these are developments well outside their Grand Narrative comfort zones. And that's just too much for them (hence the growing number of panicked essays).

At stake for the nation itself is an unstable economy still in dire need of a jobs stimulus to boost wages, a need to make wages as fair and above the poverty line as much as possible. At stake as well is the fact that the next President has the chance to fill as many as four Supreme Court justice positions: for the Republicans a chance to make the bench a conservative lock for decades, for the Democrats to revert the conservative lean to a liberal one.

At stake for the world is total global stability. A Republican administration would clearly bring back the war-monger neocon types eager to reload and flatten the rest of the Middle East to their liking. And while most other nations would recoil in disgust from that, if the administration happens to be TRUMP'S that could well force even our allies into recalling their embassies and cutting off treaty alignments in utter horror (we would face the reality of some nations refusing to even let a President Trump visit as our Head of State). That said, if the Dems win we'd likely see a continuation of Obama's foreign policies as that has allied support, with stability achieved.

What's happening here, again, is just the panic before the arrival of the oncoming storm. Previous elections tended to be predictable in that certain candidates seemed inevitable: for all the stuff about Obama coming out of nowhere to beat Hillary in 2008, when you consider the buzz for him was high in 2004 the honest pundit could have seen how the results would have turned out. If a surprise candidate was there, at least the issues were clear and easy to discuss. So there's that.

This is the first election cycle in a good long while where - outside of Hillary being the unbeatable candidate for both parties - everything else is chaos. The campaigns are no longer about issues they are about emotional responses. The standard election narratives no longer apply.

Which is why one election narrative needs repeating early and often.


I'll have more to complain about later. Either that or finally get around to posting something about Saturnalia. I'm totally forgetting Saturnalia over here.

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