Sunday, February 28, 2016

I hate to say I told you so, but ...

... I told you so, last summer, before the Independence Day holiday and a couple of weeks before anybody had heard the words "Black Lives Matter".

So while neither her convincing victory nor the associated demographic splits surprise me, what has been demonstrated in South Carolina (and will likely be in Texas next Tuesday evening, and several other southern states) is that Democratic voters have made up their minds, and did so long ago.  Sanders' core message (some would incorrectly say his single issue) was even transferred onto Clinton in the Palmetto State.

Large crowds at rallies and marches are, alas, not the same as voting.

Clinton supporters on social media have toned down the gloating to some degree, but my humble O is that reconciliation between the winner and the loser's campaigns isn't going to happen to the extent that Team Hillary may be hoping.  Then again, maybe they're not hoping that at all.

When (a Sanders volunteer in SC) finally finds someone willing to talk to her about the presidential race, it's an elderly man named Joel. "I'll be honest with you, I already made my decision," he said. "I voted for Kasich last week, because I'm so anti-Trump." (South Carolina has an open primary system, meaning that voters can choose which of the two party's primaries to vote in.) 
A Democrat, Joel said that he has a "lot in common" with Sanders, and that as a younger man his political views were further to the left. He told (her) that he likes Clinton's foreign policy experience, but there's a "trust factor." "I agree!" (the Sanders vol) explained. 
After we bid farewell to Joel and get back into the Prius, I asked (her) if she'll support Clinton if she's the Democratic nominee. "Hell no," she said. "Even if Clinton is running against Trump?" I pressed. "No!" she repeats. "I'll vote for Jill Stein!"

Clinton is already bleeding progressive support, and further antagonism of that bloc by her network is not going to cauterize the wounds.  Neither will using a "SCOTUS" cudgel to beat them onto the bandwagon.  But since this "support" isn't translating to votes, is it possible that Clinton's crew thinks they can win without them?

Repeating myself:

While Bush v. Gore was still winding its way to a legal conclusion in 2000, Jim Hightower wrote that 308,000 registered Florida Democrats voted for George W. Bush in (and some people still blame Ralph Nader).  Those Sunshine State Blues -- 191,000 of whom were self-described "liberals" -- must not have gotten Barbra Streisand's memo that year.

Does repeating 2000's mistakes seem like the definition of insanity to you?  Because it does to me.

The only rationale I can get to is that Clinton's 2016 PUMAs think they can recruit enough GOP voters who can't stand Trump to make up for what they will lose from the left wing of the Democratic Party.  That seems like a very dangerous strategy.

While Sanders' fate was apparent to me eight months ago, the future for a Hillary versus Trump matchup is much less clear.  A Ted Cruz victory in Texas in two days -- perhaps by a lot -- shakes up the Etch a Sketch.  And Team Rubio is counting on that split between the dueling Demagogue Caucuses to continue, as he can make hay with the Not Trump and Not Cruz Republicans who think he's brilliant (really, that's what I have read them write), and by asserting that the Democrats are afraid to run against him (he's pushing this line in Houston teevee ads airing this morning).

Mitch McConnell thinks Trump is not only a sure thing but radioactive for the GOP, and if he is correct then a lot of money that would have otherwise gone to the presidential candidate will flow into Senate races, strengthening the hands of Republicans clinging to the majority in that body.

According to the New York Times, McConnell is assuring Senate candidates running for reelection that they should feel free to run ads against Trump if they feel he is hurting their own campaigns. According to senators attending private lunches with the Majority Leader, McConnell is taking the approach that Trump will lose badly in the general election and that senators should sell themselves as a bulwark against a Hillary Clinton presidency. 
Pointing out that he still won easily when President Bill Clinton was reelected, McConnell reportedly told colleagues that the party will drop Trump “like a hot rock” if he is the nominee. 
News of the party’s preemptive rejection of the potential nominee comes after a luncheon meeting attended by Republican governors and donors in Washington on Feb. 19 where political guru Karl Rove warned that Trump may be unstoppable for the GOP — and that his nomination could destroy other Republican candidate’s chances in November. 
According to people who attended a private presentation hosted by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch,  Trump’s record was deemed utterly unacceptable, causing high profile donors to hold back on donations out of fear it will be money that will be wasted.

So a worst-case scenario for Democrats is that turnout for their standard-bearer remains unenthused and flaccid.  Even in Harris County, usually reliably blue in presidential years, is seeing a 60-40 split R to D with early voting in the can.  That could translate into a Trump defeat of Clinton, a Republican Senate that still holds a bare majority after November, and a status quo, red rubberstamp House of Representatives.  And a whole lot of Clintonoids blaming Sandernistas for it.

If Clinton wins the presidency and the Democrats can capture the Senate, we will have circumstances not far removed from where they were in 2010, when Obama called the Congressional races a shellacking and the GOP first won the House and then gerrymandered their way into permanent control of it.  In 2012, when Democrats held on to the Senate but with a 55-45 majority, the Republicans filibustered everything, rewarding us with more hindrances to governing.  But that wasn't enough to get Democrats to vote in 2014, and we saw Shellacking, the Sequel in the wake of historically low midyear turnout, which allowed the GOP to take back the Senate ... producing even more unprecedented obstruction.

So as it always does, the answers turn on who and how many turn out to vote in 2016.  Will Democrats who supported Bernie cross over to Trump, fall in line for Clinton, vote for the actual progressive woman running for president, or do something dumb like stay home or write in Sanders?  Will Republicans nominate Trump and then vote for Hillary, as Houston council member Paul Kubosh claims he has heard?  Will turnout ratios at 2-1 for the GOP result in a downballot wave washing Team Blue out to sea?  And if that happens in a presidential year, how much worse can it get two years from now?

For somebody who's predicted things pretty well up to this point, I have to say that I don't have a clue about how 2016 is going to go.

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

I think Hillary will run a very Rovian campaign, assuming she's the nominee, as seen ever more likely. She has an idea of what her "base" is, and will focus on that. If Trump's her opponent, she'll get lucky enough that some GOPers won't vote even as younger Sandernistas also don't vote (or,as we hope, vote Plan B). I wouldn't even be surprised to read about her making a phone call or an email (through intermediaries) to Dick Morris.