‘16 a game changer? (or just politics as usual)

Mike Klarin

With Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate now behind us, political analysts and pundits alike have begun to debrief the events of the night and what it means for the left.

For certain, third tier challenger Martin O’Malley is to be a non-factor in the upcoming Iowa caucuses. This became loudly apparent when NBC moderator Lester Holt continually skipped over O’Malley in the question-and-answer period and even cut to a commercial break before he could finish his statement.re-IMG_6454

This leaves the two frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders left in a serious battle for top dog before delegates meet in the barren plains of Iowa to decide their fate. The latest NBC poll placed Clinton in the lead with 25 points over Sanders, but loyal Bernie supporters aren’t so sure. The answer is a matter of integrity.

Throughout her campaign thus far, Clinton has tried to form a connection with the toiling masses. Her claims of leaving the White House “flat broke” became something of an inside joke, considering her husband Bill has made an estimated $89 million in speaking fees since he left office—roughly $11,000 per minute he spends on stage.

To many voters, Clinton is hard to read. Many have described her as cold, calculating and disingenuous. In this election, originality and candor are the name of the game—which is what makes Sanders and yes, Trump, so popular. The two of them speak their minds and lie far from center—a position that has traditionally been the baseline for any chance in the November general election.

History is chock full of off-center frontrunners on both sides who either fail to clinch the nomination or are trounced in a landslide come November. The election of 1964 was one such instance in which the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater ran on a non-centrist and highly conservative platform.

His critics worried that his policies were bellicose (much like Trump’s critics do today) and would lead the country to nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He narrowly won the nomination over the more moderate (or even liberal) Nelson Rockefeller and was promptly swept away by sitting president, Lyndon Johnson, later that year.

Does anyone remember George McGovern? He was the Democratic chosen one in the election of 1972. A man of the people, McGovern promised greater income distribution, a $1,000 payout to every American and an end to the war in Vietnam, a promise President Richard Nixon had not fulfilled.

McGovern’s far left ideals did not appeal to the Democratic base or the undecided voting American, and he lost mightily in the 1972 general election, carrying only the state of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Why, when the turbulence of the 1960s had spilled over and the grassroots youth electorate was at its zenith, did McGovern lose?

The tumultuousness of the time period brought out the voters who craved stability and moderate politics—and Nixon appealed.

Now, as in ’64 and ’72, the American public is as divided as ever on issues such as police brutality, race and war overseas as well as growing income inequality. If the saying is true that history repeats itself, we are more likely to see Clinton win the nomination over Sanders and run not against Trump, but a more moderate candidate like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.

It will be difficult for Clinton to fight growing scrutiny over her character, and that fight will most certainly drain precious funds better spent elsewhere. So suspicious is she to many among the youth vote that they may choose to vote third party or not at all. This might offer a Republican, branded as a “fresh face” with moderate policies more than enough leverage to secure a win in November.

But then again, we live in a country that elected a rather socialist president (Franklin Roosevelt) four times, and we get our information from a media that spelled the end for Harry S. Truman in 1948 and woke up with egg on their faces the next morning. The American political system is full of surprises, and this election is aching to deliver them.