Barring any shenanigans at the summer conventions, the presidential race is set for 2016. Hillary Clinton has sewn up the Democratic nomination, but only with the assistance of a cadre of super delegates. Her struggles against the aged socialist Bernie Sanders among populist voters decry the weakness of her candidacy, a fact Sanders is playing upon as he presses forward with no hope of any majority. On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump has floated to lofty heights against all traditional political gravity despite the leftist press kicking into high gear over his bumbling (and ever too frequent) gaffes and dissension within the party he represents.
In the greatest and most prosperous country in the history of the world, and at a most critical juncture in the history of said country, one has to ask a simple question: “Is this the best we can come up with?” The hyperbole would not be too excessive if one were to dub this election Hillary the Crook versus Donald the Clown. Legions of voters already see the election framed in such a way. Both candidates possess historically unprecedented unfavorability ratings. Both candidates require tremendous spin to manage various degrees of ongoing damage control.
Both of these candidates also live in a bubble of sorts. Clinton has been an elite career politician for over thirty years, the majority of her adult life. She is likely as disconnected from the daily realities of American life as any establishment insider, lost in a fog of power and privilege that imparts a sense of being above it all. Insider reports from those around Clinton confirm her self-perception as an individual above the masses, a vanguard of the political elite. Her public persona is as fake as a three dollar bill.
Trump’s bubble is a bit different. He honed his skills banking a decent inheritance into a multi-faceted, multi-billion dollar empire, hopefully there won’t be any inheritance disputes between his family in the future. He is a poster boy for lifestyles of the rich and famous, but in a very real sense is also the epitome of a self-made man. His lifestyle is definitely not average, though it is quite different from a politician. Trump actually understands what it takes to produce something and be responsible for the welfare of his employees. He has had to deal with career politicians, both effectual and corrupt, throughout his career. Some of the distaste he expresses must almost certainly be genuine, born from a lifetime of business experience. But does that history clear his character from suspicion? Is his anti-establishment rhetoric a result of his true feelings, or simply a well concocted PR effort for his campaign?
Let’s delve into Trump’s candidacy first. Driven by a populist movement that is sick of Washington establishment excesses and abuses under President Obama, mainstream voters are angry at our flagging economy, lack of jobs and backsliding among foreign powers. While President Obama is touting the tale “that by almost every measure the economy is better now than when I took office,” the average American’s wages have declined and hours are being cut or jobs lost to the devastation of Obamacare. Our national debt has doubled under the current administration and the country is poised on the brink of bankruptcy. Only sleight of hand from the Federal Reserve is keeping things afloat with artificially low-interest rates. But financially savvy investors and analysts know that the current economic situation cannot survive much longer without wholesale change. Enter the flamboyant and successful billionaire Donald Trump.
With flurries of blue-collar like jabs against all establishments, sacred and profane, Trump has hit a nerve with many Americans, even admitting he has gamed the system to obtain his billions. Somehow, his message suggesting Washington is full of idiots has motivated the masses into believing he himself is not one of those idiots and will set things straight. But his unfiltered and unabashed honesty has delivered unique opportunities for the leftist talking heads of the press as well as establishment wonks on the right. Even though he expresses what many Americans actually feel, the current PC culture has the cross and nails at the ready and is making every attempt to perpetrate the greatest political crucifixion of all time. Every sentence Trump utters will be given the utmost scrutiny. He is already been openly labelled racist, sexist and every other negative “-ist” one can imagine.
But the truth is the Trump is perceived as a danger to the very system he slights and has divided Republican allegiances along many different lines. Mitt Romney recently met with heavy weights from both parties in Park City. Undoubtedly the Trump – Clinton ticket was the subject of much hand wringing at the event. Trump is viewed by Republicans and Democrats alike as a reactionary, a hot head, a buffoon. Is it all part of an act, or is what we see what we get when it comes to the real Donald? Unfortunately in terms of policy it is still not clear exactly what we are getting, as his messages need to become less rhetorically caustic and more policy specific.
Hillary Clinton on the other hand is a known commodity. She is the absolute insider, a Washington crony capitalist that has figured how to manipulate every crack and nuance of the current political system to her advantage. She positions herself as the champion of the people, but her email records and the trails of breadcrumbs in Peter Schweitzer’s book “Clinton Cash” suggests she has pushed and even broken the boundaries of the law she holds herself above, and not for the benefit of her constituents. Her political favor is wielded openly for the gain of those who have the capacity to buy her influence, and it is questionable if her benefactors have the interests of the common voter at hand.
Her candidacy’s success rests on two important outcomes. First, she has to convince enough ignorant voters with her message of “people’s champion”, “defender of women and minority rights” as well as the torch-bearer for the alleged successes of the Obama administration. A careful examination of her record and associations will reveal that the rhetoric is very hollow and she has actually accomplished almost nothing beyond her own self interests. But Clinton is banking on enough support from a liberal base that will not weigh any real substance. The people must elect the image of her, and avoid getting to know the real motivation behind the image. And that image is well polished among the believers.
The second outcome is that she must somehow have Benghazi, her email scandals and the Clinton Foundation abuses slide off her back and dissolve into non-issues. The press will certainly side with her as every detail of Trump University makes front page news while not one major news outlet has mentioned the scandals attached to the Clinton’s Laureate Education endeavors. With President Obama’s recent endorsement, one has to wonder if a longstanding FBI investigation into her emails will be swept under the rug. The “Clinton Cash” book has been made into a movie that will come to select theaters this summer. What influence that may have is yet to be seen. Will the facts in the movie motivate voters politically, or fade into irrelevance ass D’nesh D’Souza’s efforts in his movie “2016”? The Clintons seem to have a way to make any potential scandal just disappear. But the problems Clinton may face are more than just skeletons in her closet, she faces legitimate scrutiny.
Either way, both tickets have their flaws. It begs a question asked previously, will we see truly effective leadership or the type of political change agent our country needs at this juncture? The answers are concerning no matter which perspective one takes on the issue. We must certainly conclude that differing problems in each party will create interesting fireworks at the respective conventions this summer, but that is a subject for another day. While Democrat Party leadership gears up to unite the Party behind Hillary and find some spot for Bernie and his supporters, the Republicans remain divided and fractured over Trump. An old public relations maxim states that perception is reality. There is plenty of perception whirling around the labels Crook and Clown. One thing is for certain, the next few months will not be boring.