The so-called “road to the White House” is strewn with potholes this
cycle, and no one is getting there at full speed with their gas pedal
down all the way.
Both parties have road crews out this spring trying to repair the road,
but so far it’s difficult to stay ahead of new potholes appearing to
disrupt the political traffic.
Since the Republican nomination is so far firmly held by incumbent
President Donald Trump --- and his assumption of vindication
following the issue and publication of the redacted Mueller report,
and since he already occupies the White House, the road’s potholes
are primarily an obstacle for the historically very large field of
Democratic challengers. (But Mr. Trump has his own set of
Early assumptions made in late 2018 and early 2019 have mostly
been upended already, and the Democratic Party itself seems to
have decided the potholed road isn’t worth the trouble --- and
seem ready to take a detour to the house on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Their problem is that there is no known map to guide them on
such a detour, and they risk ending up in a political cul-de-sac with
no timely exit.
The surprise election of Donald Trump in 2016 has seemed to usher
in a suspension of many political rules and cliches both in the U.S.
and across the world.
A Jewish TV sitcom comedian (with no political experience) has
just been elected president by a landslide in historically anti-semitic
Ukraine. Upsets from the left and right have recently taken place in
Brazil, Italy, Austria, Mexico and elsewhere in Europe and South
America. Hitherto popular leaders in France, Canada, Spain,
Germany and Turkey are seeing grass roots uprisings challenging
their power. Citizen everywhere seem to be upset, impatient and
I think it is time to recognize that the U.S. presidential political
rule book will be of little use this cycle. A new strain of political
microbes seem on the move globally, and there is not yet a way for
political establishments to thwart them.
Even the re-election of Israeli Prime Minster Bibi Netanyahu’s
government recently reflects voter agitation with conventional
political wisdom. Accused of wrongdoing, challenged by a united
group of respected generals in a new party, considered by many
older voters to have been in office too long, Netanyahu was written
off by hostile U.S. and Israeli media as a sure loser. And indeed,
many older Israeli voters who had supported him in the past did not
vote for him. But unexpectedly, young voters did vote for him, and
his party not only gained seats, but won more than any other party
--- which was unpredicted.
The first U.S. presidential TV debates, less than two months away,
will clarify some voter attitudes toward the large number of
Democratic candidates, but even that won’t stop the surprises.
The 2020 political road is likely to be bumpy all the way.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.