Since starting my little experiment with blogging in December 2003, one recurring theme has been the conventional wisdom. I’ve often reflected it, been influenced by it, but noted at regular intervals not to TRUST IT. (I did one special column on it). It’s conveniently swept under the rug when proven wrong and immediately replaced by a new highly touted and parroted conventional wisdom about what something now “really” means or how it’ll “really” impact events of what despite events, headlines, polls etc suggests will “really” happen in the end. The only problem with that is that world history, political history and even entertainment history offer many examples where the conventional wisdom did not prove to reflect ultimate reality.
The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman raises the issue in a post. And, indeed, evidence that his cautionary note should be…noted…came quickly in THIS POST by the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza who shows a monster line of people waiting in the cold to hear Donald Trump in Massachusetts. He writes:
The building — named after the late Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas (D) — holds 8,000 people, and local officials were estimating that it was filled to capacity or beyond. That is a MASSIVE amount of people — especially considering that the high temperature in Lowell yesterday was 29 degrees and Trump’s rally didn’t start until the evening.
I know that crowd size is an uncertain indicator in politics. After all, if crowd size at rallies was determinative, Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, would be the heavy favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee. That skepticism of crowd size goes double for Trump since there are plenty of people who go to see him simply for the spectacle or to be near a celebrity, not because they have any designs on voting for him.
And yet, the willingness of so many people to wait so long in such cold temperatures simply for the chance to see Trump speak would suggest that the idea that his supporters won’t be the sort of people to sit through the long caucus process of Iowa or turn out to vote in the frigid cold of New Hampshire might be misguided.
Ditto the idea that Trump’s bubble would burst or the ardor with which his backers regard him would fade. The Iowa caucuses are in 27 days. New Hampshire votes in 35 days. The time is now, and people are still showing up in droves to see — and cheer — Trump.
Ditto on people who might dismiss with a wave of the hand the Democrat’s Bernie Sanders. The difference there is that Sanders is not in the polls among Democrats where Trump is among Republicans. Trump is comfortably ahead in almost all polls; Sanders is not.
But the cautionary note is the same here. Polls are snapshots in time. Articles, posts, and TV segments by partisans or spinners of campaigns are just that as well.
The reality won’t be known until the votes are cast and a lot of people make big bucks going on TV or the radio giving their gut feelings, doing an analysis that may be flawed, or trying to make a defense lawyer like case for their party or candidate. The trend today is for people to only read or listen to watch people with whom they agree.
But until the votes are cast, take all conventional wisdom about the “impossible” political possibilities with a huge CostCo sized portion of salt. The best person to read for accuracy and analysis not tainted by preference is the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato who in this post written last month looks at 10 factors that will determine who’ll be the next president. But, even here, it’s more like “likely” since this has been an unusual political cycle.
Fineman makes the point in a post that needs to be read in full. Here’s a chunk of it:
Today, with less than 30 days until the first votes are cast in Iowa, it feels like something was fractured that never healed. America’s confidence in itself is gone, replaced by a Republican strut that bespeaks insecurity, not real strength, and a Democratic earnestness that can seem all too naive.
Voters in 2016 are more skeptical than ever of leaders in all realms, beset by a lack of growth in real wages, and vociferously divided on immigration, race, religion, policing, guns, terrorism, refugees and drugs.
The kind of anti-establishment sentiment heard around the world — from the early days of the Arab Spring to the darker nationalist movements in Germany and France — echoes loudly in the U.S. Voters are drawn to the energy and electricity of candidates who vow to smash the power of institutions from Wall Street to Washington, from university campuses to the media.
His point is well taken. Americans are provincial in how they view their politics. When I lived in India and Spain I was better informed about politics reading Reuters, listening to BBC, and reading correspondents from British and Indian newspapers writing from Washington. In the 21st century, the Internet has brought the world closer; yet, it has increased segmentation. If the 20th century was the era of broadcasting and seeking diverse readerships, the 21st century is the century of narrowcasting and seeking niche audiences. There is a global context to what we’re seeing.
“Voters feel they have lost control of the world they knew, economically, culturally, socially,” said Tad Devine, a top adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“So they are lashing out in one way or another. For Democrats, it tends to be lost manufacturing jobs, low wages, Wall Street and the banks. Among Republicans, it’s immigration, courts supporting gay marriage, and big government, by which they mostly mean higher federal taxes,” Devine said.
This potent brew fuels “outsider” candidacies in both parties — led, of course, by real estate mogul and entertainer Donald Trump.
Time and time again, Trump has confounded media experts and leaders in his party. They predicted that he would not run, that he would never get off the ground, that he would have no staying power. Now they say his supporters won’t show up to vote for him at the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 or the New Hampshire primary the next week.
Maybe not, but for now he is the frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Fineman details some of the ironies of Trump’s candidacy and how he is perceived with the realities about Trump. He looks at some of the other GOPers — and then turns his attention to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton:
Floating above it all, for the moment, is Hillary Clinton — still the conventional wisdom’s pick to become the next president.
The former first lady/former senator/former secretary of state has organized intensively and tried to address the economic disquiet in her Democratic Party with solid policy proposals that move her cautiously into the anti-Wall Street camp. But the mood of the country is more dangerous to her chances than her supporters admit or outside analysts recognize.
This isn’t a good time to be the embodiment of a political insider. But she is. Clinton and her husband have grown very wealthy over their decades in politics. They have become experts at currying the favor of rich donors, many of whom are now their personal friends.
Among frustrated voters, however, the passage of time works against Clinton. Between her and her husband, they’ve been in electoral politics since 1974 — 1970 if you count Bill Clinton’s stint as a campaign aide in a Connecticut race while he was a student at Yale Law School.
“She and Bill represent the past in every way,” said Cruz adviser Rick Tyler. “They just aren’t interesting anymore.”
In the latest polls, she’s actually running behind in match-ups against both Rubio and Cruz.
As for Clinton’s lock on the Democratic nomination, it may not be as firm as most think. Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont, raised almost as much money as she did in the last quarter of 2015, and he did it with a record number of small donations nationwide.
Sanders’ angry populism doesn’t attack “big government” — he’s for more of it. Instead, he goes after Wall Street, the big banks and the big global corporate employers.
And it’s clicking.
“I’m not saying we are going to win,” said Sanders adviser Devine. “But we are not going away.”
The question for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is going to be not who is not going away.
The question will be who’ll be willing to come home when — invariably — not everyone’s choice wins their battle for their party’s nomination.
To the party that perceives it has the most to gain, the most to fear, most to lose and that can get their voters out by triggering the fight portion of the fight or flight mechanism goes the Oval Office prize.
And until SHE has sung, it ain’t over.
It may only be only just beginning.