As a long-time champion of the preeminence of the political
center in U.S. presidential elections, I am wondering aloud
what is the mood of most voters in the 2016 cycle.
In the recent past, we have had the “radical” center, the
“moderate” center, the “silent” center, and even the “populist”
center. None of these epithets seems to fit in the current cycle,
although there are radical elements, moderate impulses,
silent voters and populist trends visible in the campaign so far.
These tendencies might exist, but they do not seem to be the
primary quality of the majoritarian center of the American
The term “angry” has already been applied to the more leftist
and rightist elements of both parties, but I think that the
so-called establishments of each major party have missed the
essential reality that it is primarily the center of the American
electorate which is most importantly “angry” about politics
What’s so critical about this observation is that it is usually the
political center of the electorate, and of both parties, which
normally counterbalances the “anger” of the left and the right,
and eventually produces candidates with broader appeal than
just the party bases --- that is, candidates who have some appeal
to the growing number of so-called independent voters --- the
voters who usually decide who wins the presidency.
The crisis for each party is that their major candidates so far
do not seem to understand the true nature of voter “anger” in
2016. The Democratic establishment made the crucial mistake
of conspiring to have only one major candidate for president this
cycle. This arrogance deprived most Democratic voters of their
right to choose their own nominee. Not only that, the anointed
candidate was a figure from the past, embroiled in constant
controversies, unlikeable and not a skillful campaigner. No one
is entitled to a presidential nomination, much less the presidency,
without the consent of the voters, and the Democratic voters
were not consulted. It was a relatively few party leaders who
decided this. Virtually every credible poll indicates that most
voters no longer trust or like Hillary Clinton.
The Republican establishment made a similar mistake. Many of
them rallied behind a bright and competent former governor
who, once the campaign began, did not fit the expectations of
Republican voters. In the recent past, this establishment
support might have been enough, but it is becoming quite
apparent it is not enough in 2016. Unlike the Democrats, there
were a large number of Republican presidential candidates,
most of them with serious credentials and political experience.
But it is not resumes and past offices that the voters seem to
be seeking this year.
The nomination contests in both parties are not over, but their
cast of candidates has probably been finalized (unless Vice
President Biden makes a late entry). Conventional wisdom has
now asserted that Bernie Sanders cannot be nominated, and
Donald Trump cannot be stopped.
But with a center in mutiny, an angry left and an angry right,
anything is possible --- even now.
Those leaders in the political center, both liberal and conservative,
Democrats and Republicans, need to take a very deep breath,
remain calm, and then make some useful sense out of what the
majority of voters want today.
If they do not, the two party system, at least for this cycle, will not
hold together. A mutinous political center, temporarily allied with
the right and the left, is poised to replace the captains and officers
of these two ships, and should this happen, no one knows what
their destinations will be.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.