Trump, Clinton, and the Future of America

Bernie-Saunders-Hilary-ClintonThe 2016 presidential campaign is providing plenty of food for thought – resulting in my writing three different pieces on it in a seven-day stretch over the last week.

First, the Aspen Institute online journal Aspenia asked me to revisit a subject I’ve written about frequently for them – the healthcare debate – in the context of the campaign. My thesis:

Despite the Republicans’ six-year obsession with repealing Obamacare, the healthcare issue has played a relatively minor role in this year’s presidential campaign. It nevertheless encapsulates all the themes that make this election such compelling theater – and dispiriting politics: the collapse of conservatism into incoherence, the retreat of liberalism into reaction, and the refusal of both parties to move their ideologies into the 21st Century. 

You can read the full piece here: “The Healthcare Debate As Mirror of a Dispiriting Presidential Campaign.”

In the run-up to this week’s big Midwest primaries, I weighed in on the supposed-demise of the Republican Party in an article entitled, “The Aggrieved Party,” that the editors at US News & World Report liked so much that they put it on the front page of Friday’s Report feature. My key point was that “the Republican Party is simply becoming what Democrats used to be – the party of those left behind by the emerging economy.” This is part of a larger political realignment I’ve been writing about for the last several years:

Democrats are increasingly a party of minimalist government for the 21st century’s winners – the Obama campaign spoke openly of its high-tech, well-educated base in formerly-marginalized demographics like women, gays and minorities as a “coalition of the ascendant” – and their interest in the downtrodden wanes as the dispossessed look less and less like the formerly-oppressed-but-newly-ascendant and more like people who vote for Donald Trump and (shudder) Sarah Palin.

Of course, not everyone buys this view – especially my fellow liberals when it comes to my concern with what’s happening to liberalism. So, in response to one friend’s critique on Facebook, I elaborated on this theme yesterday in a second US News post, “The Politics of Class Warfare.”  After noting a recent study showing that, “despite the widespread perception of Senator Bernie Sanders as the near-unanimous choice of college students across America,” he actually performs poorly at elite private institutions like Wellesley, Harvard and Williams, I turned to polling data I’ve previously cited indicating that “Millennials from higher income (and educational – although that’s redundant) backgrounds are good liberals in every way except that they don’t believe in government programs; those with lower socio-economic status are somewhat more culturally conservative but believe strongly in government assistance for struggling Americans (like themselves).”

My conclusion?

Th[e] future actually looks more like what we now see playing out in this primary season: Even though it’s the older voters in each party driving the nominations of, respectively, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, each likely nominee’s base reflects the coming realignment. Trump is attracting downscale social conservatives who want more government, to the disgust of traditional GOP elites; Clinton is winning Democrats who want to feel liberal but are decreasingly interested in Sixties nostalgia and large government programs, especially of a redistributionist hue. Increasingly, if you want to design the New Economy, you vote Democratic; if you want government money, Republican.

As always, I would love to know your thoughts.  Feel free to leave your comments below.

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One Comment

  1. April 11, 2016 at 2:02 pm

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