Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Who can win in November?

I was asked to write a piece for The Conversation about whether or not "extremist" candidates, like Trump or Sanders, can win a general election in November.  It isn't behind a paywall.  I will add a few points here.

First, if someone had asked me last year whether or not Trump would have a chance in the general election, I would have said no.  My piece at The Conversation is far more cautious.  Why?  That's a little something I like to call, "learning."  Trump's appeal is more broad than I thought.  How broad is it?  I don't know.  That's why I won't make a prediction about it anymore.

What, then, could allow Trump to win?  Aside, of course, from the possibility of the economy tanking.  It's time for another trip down memory lane.  Think back to the 2008 Democratic primary.  I'm not sure if anyone has noticed this, but Hillary Clinton is kind of ambitious.  And she really, really didn't want to give up the 2008 nomination.  Normally, once the contest is over, the party unifies around its nominee, and all is forgiven.  As the contest wrapped up in 2008, though, a group known as the PUMAs (Party Unity, My Ass) said that they simply couldn't back Obama.  Well, they did.  Why?  Because the alternative was McCain, with Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee.  Funny, but to Hillary's supporters, Obama started looking pretty appealing then.

This is what Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster are calling "negative partisanship."  People don't vote for their own party, they vote against a party they really hate.  And Republicans really hate Hillary Clinton.  For those who don't remember the 1990's, Clinton was accused of everything up to and including murder (specifically of Vince Foster).  Then, in the 2008 campaign, Republicans decided that if they praised Hillary enough, some of those PUMAs might vote for McCain.  It didn't work, but then Hillary became Secretary of State, which divorced her from partisan politics in some ways.  That kept her approval ratings artificially high.

This is where Benghazi comes in.  What was the point of all those hearings?  Republicans needed to pivot back to Clinton-bashing since she was the clear nominee.  Benghazi gave them a way to do so without causing journalistic whiplash.

And now, Republicans hate Clinton again.  How much?  Enough to turn out in droves to vote for Donald Trump, despite the rumblings of a party schism?  I don't know.  That's the point.

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