Monday, 11 April 2016

2016 Primaries...View from Britain

I've had a few people ask me recently for my thoughts on Trump and the primaries in general.

The US 2016 Presidential Election is shaping up to be a fascinating train wreck. The Republicans started the primaries with a massive field of candidates, some with serious credentials and some hard to take seriously. The early debates, with over a dozen participants, were fun to watch and laugh at, at first. Behind the late night TV jokes, though, there is the chilling reality that these candidates actually believe the outrageous things they say, and some (very few but vocal) Americans actually agree with them. Bigotry, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, ableism, anti-immigration...Even though Donald Trump is the most visible bigot of the group, he's not the only one with these ideas. Other candidates who aren't getting as much coverage have similarly offensive positions. Ted Cruz wants to build a wall, end funding for Planned Parenthood, believes in an "America-first foreign policy" and has defended the Second Amendment in Supreme Court cases as an attorney. I'm with Lindsey Graham, who said choosing between Trump and Cruz is like choosing between being shot or poisoned.

The Democrats started with just Hillary Clinton--the one we didn't pick in 2008, but she got the consolation prize of being Secretary of State and having the chance to run again in 2016. I'm 100% certain that she thought she would just walk to the DNC this summer and accept the nomination. She must be so irritated by Bernie Sanders' success. At the moment, she still leads in the delegate count and she may still get the nomination--but it certainly hasn't been the easy journey she expected. Bernie Sanders is hugely popular with the kids, the hipsters and the Democrats Abroad. He's a Democratic Socialist, and many Americans abroad know what it's like to live in places with the types of programs he's proposing, like universal healthcare and free tuition. We know how his ideas work in practice--we know that they can and do work, and that they're not just the rantings of a crazy old man.

At the moment, I'm not ready to make any precise predictions, but I will say this: whether it's Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders against either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, I genuinely think the Democrats are going to win. The U.S. economy is doing well--unemployment is half of what it was when Obama took office, gas prices are less than half of what they were then, and I saw a headline the other day saying the economy is like it was in the boom times of 1998/99 under Bill Clinton. When the economy is doing well, the incumbents win. Also, the GOP is increasingly divided, with a lot of animosity directed to both Trump and Cruz. Neither of them are going to get enough support to win in the general election. I'm nervous but cautiously optimistic about November...