To say that enduring a volatile time is like riding on a rolling
coaster is a cliche, but enduring the 2016 presidential campaign
is something more --- like riding a roller caster in hell -- and
like nothing else we’ve been through collectively as a nation in
modern times. (There were some "infernal" campaign cycles in
the 19th century.)
There are now about two weeks to go. The formalities of the
primaries, caucuses, vice presidential choices, conventions
and TV debates are concluded. A few October “surprises”
have been trotted out. The polls are inconclusive (the most
accurate poll in 2012 shows Trump ahead by 2 points, two other
major polls show race tied, several major media polls show
Clinton ahead by several points).
Conventional wisdom, encouraged by the political and media
establishments, is now settling on a comfortable victory by
Hillary Clinton, a narrow take-back of control of the U.S.
senate by the Democrats, and major gains (but not control) in
the U.S. house by the Democrats. In short, a liberal landslide.
It could indeed turn out that way, but I would not rule out some
surprises, even astonishing ones, election night. Is that because I
know something secret, or even wish for something shocking at
the polls? No, it is because a presidential election cycle with so
much volatility, unconventionality, and surprise is more likely to
end with a loud noise than with a whisper.
Over the past eighteen months, I have commented regularly about
this election. After miscalculating which candidates would emerge
and win in both parties, I got the end of it partially wrong. Even
though I have been writing about voter dissatisfaction for years, I
did not see its apotheosis coming in 2016. I dismissed Donald
Trump early and often, especially after his celebrated “gaffes,”
and watched him rise back again.
I finally came up with the notion of the “mutiny of the masses,”
an uprising of a hitherto unrecognized group of Americans, many
of whom do not regularly vote, and some who usually vote for the
major parties --- all of whom are profoundly unhappy with how
government is managing its public affairs and duties.
After Bernie Sanders, the object of the liberal members of this
group was defeated for the Democratic nomination, the only
remaining champion of these mutineers was Donald Trump, the
Republican nominee. After the major party conventions, most
of the major media, including some in the conservative media,
turned their wrath on Mr. Trump in what I described as a
“media coup d’etat.” Mr. Trump, in the most unorthodox
presentation of a presidential nominee in memory, made his
way through three TV debates. Polls then wavered wildly as the
media and his opponents battered Mr. Trump even as more and
more damaging disclosures were made about Hillary Clinton,
her husband and their controversial mutual foundation.
Air Force One 2017 is now setting up its landing pattern over its
home air base. On the ground, millions of Americans await its
final touchdown, and to see who comes out the door as it pulls
up to the electoral count. Perhaps conventional wisdom is right,
and the now-predicted winner will be the new president. Perhaps
the “mutiny of the masses” will have been only a passing phase,
and perhaps the media coup will have succeeded in its goal. I
have little concrete evidence against this conventional wisdom.
But in Brexit in the United Kingdom, national elections in
virtually all European countries, and the recent referendum in
Colombia in South America, a worldwide “mutiny of voters”
has defied the polls, the media, the experts and most
Can that mutiny happen here?
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.