Tuesday, August 18, 2015

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: What Are Voters Really Prepared To Do In 2016?

All the polls and all the signs indicate that American voters
are not only upset about the direction of the nation, but are
profoundly skeptical of virtually all elected politicians and
bureaucrats, especially those in Washington, DC.

In recent years, this negative feeling has been more or less
consistent. Some are suggesting that now in 2015 the cynicism
of voters is greater than usual. My friend Newt Gingrich has
just published an op ed in The Washington Times that cites
polls indicating that 75% of Americans think that corruption
is widespread in Washington, DC. From that, he suggests that
voters are prepared to break the political establishment rules
in both major parties and seriously consider candidates such
as Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina
and Ted Cruz to be nominated for president.

I agree there is widespread disillusionment, and observing
the disarray in the early stages of the 2016 presidential
campaign, the question immediately arises about what the
voters will do when the actual campaign begins circa early
January, 2016.

I am covering now my 12th presidential election as a journalist,
and while my readers know I have not been shy about making
provocative and contrarian predictions about national
campaigns (more than a few of these predictions have come
true), I remain skeptical about the nomination and election of
a true outsider to be president of the U.S. in 2016.

That is because the decisive vote in a presidential election
always comes from the political center. Michael Barone recently
wrote persuasively about the decline of the center left in the
Democratic Party. A case perhaps might be written about the
decline of the center right in the Republican Party. For the
moment, I would agree, both party bases are polarized to the
left and right respectively. But almost a third of the voters are
independents, centrists or non-affiliated, and I see no evidence
in polls or anywhere else that these voters are inclined to be
swept up in hard left and hard right movements, or in extreme
measures to resolve our national problems.

On the other hand, I would agree that the political environment
is unusually volatile, and that voters are no longer willing to
listen to political rhetoric as usual. So far, none of the
“establishment” presidential candidates in both parties have
seemed to figure this out, and they continue to do so at their
political peril.

I have written that political surprises lie ahead. It could be that
Mr. Gingrich is more prescient than now seems possible. There
are vacuums in both parties, and if history tells us anything,
someone will credibly figure out how to fill them.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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