With the two major party nominees now decided, the 2016
presidential campaign moves toward the national party
conventions, and then to the autumn campaign. This
statement could have been made, at the same moment in
time, about the previous presidential campaigns in recent
But the 2016 cycle has been different in so many ways from
all the rest. Very little has gone as planned or predicted in
the contests in both parties.
Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee, and
in the flush of her victory there is both relief and alarm.
Bernie Sanders, a most unlikely challenger, made it a contest
to the end, and even now does not formally concede defeat.
But Mr. Sanders will concede, probably right after the DC
primary next week, and he will endorse Mrs. Clinton. The
Democratic Party establishment will make some face-saving
concessions to the Sanders wing of the party, the Vermont
senator will declare a “moral” victory, and the former first
lady will begin a relentless and brutal attack on her opponent
Donald Trump. That is the liberal party’s plan, but it has a
problem that has not gone away, and that problem is Hillary
Mrs. Clinton will now turn to the political center to conduct
her campaign. The Democratic electorate, however, has
changed. Bernie Sanders’ success in the primary/caucus
season was not due to his personality. It was due to the issues
he raised, issues which appealed to both the youth and to older,
more progressive voters. His endorsement will, of course, help
bring some of his supporters back to vote for Clinton, but it
will not bring a lot of them to the polls to vote for the
Democratic nominee in November. Many who voted for Bernie
are angry with Mrs. Clinton’s and the national Democratic
Party’s tactics in the primary/caucus season (“the system was
rigged”), and have no time for what they consider to be the more
moderate liberal policies which Mrs. Clinton and her advisers
truly believe in and would execute as president. These voters
probably number in the millions, and many could either stay home
or vote for the Green Party nominee (likely to be Dr. Jill Stein).
Lest Republicans take comfort from this dilemma facing their
opponents, they need to take a hard look at their own situation.
The conservative party, unlike the liberal party, nominated their
maverick outsider candidate. Donald Trump won the GOP
nomination “fair and square” --- and even against greater odds
because he was opposed by 16 other major candidates and
virtually the entire conservative establishment. Mr. Trump not
only defied conventional wisdom, he openly defied, as no major
politician before him had done, traditional political correctness.
He stated out loud what many grass roots voters, both Democrats
and Republicans, were thinking, and with his celebrity bravado,
he brought them to the polls. Unlike the Democratic Party process,
the GOP process was not “rigged” to favor an establishment
candidate, and at the end, he demolished his formidable array of
While Donald Trump might be a “gifted amateur” (as Newt
Gingrich describes him), a political amateur he remains, as
evidenced by the hubbub he unnecessarily provoked by criticizing
a federal judge after he had already secured the GOP nomination.
There are, for many conservatives, now understandable questions
about his temperament and how he might behave if he were chief
executive and commander-in-chief. While his political
“incorrectness” might have been often laudable and effective
during the primary/caucus campaign, there are obvious limits to
it in a brutal confrontation with his Democratic Party opponent
in the autumn campaign, especially one in which most of the
media will be pointedly hostile to him.
The current hubbub over his remarks about a federal judge will
pass (the hypocrisy of Democrats who said much worse things
about Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia is egregious).
But Donald Trump has now been given an opportunity that few
persons are ever given --- to be the major party nominee for
president of the United States. This office is not a mere real estate
deal or litigation; it’s being the leader of the free world. He can no
longer be seen as a spoiled rich kid or a TV entertainer. An
enormous weight has now been placed on his shoulders. He is
also, for the time being, the leader of his political party. Hundreds
of members of Congress in the house and senate depend on him
to help them keep their majority. He is no longer Trump Island; he
is part of something much bigger.
Each nominee has family associations which could help or hurt
their candidacies. In Mrs. Clinton’s case, it is her husband Bill, a
former president who remains a political force. But Bill Clinton is
a shadow of his former self, and once again controversial. In
Donald Trump’s case, it is his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law
Jared Kushner, two persons virtually unknown to the public. Mr.
Trump has designated Ivanka (over two sons) to be his business
successor should he be elected president (a rather irrefutable
argument against the charge that he is a misogynist), and there is
some evidence that Mr. Kushner who is both young and politically
inexperienced, is nonetheless acting as a very constructive
influence on his father-in-law.
In any event, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, each with
unprecedented negatives going into November, will need to find
ways to put the reasons for their negatives behind them with
general election voters. The one who does succeed in doing this
will be the next president of the United States.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.