by Marion Marks
“Electricity — we depend on it every minute of every day. And yet to many of us, electricity seems a mysterious and even magical force. Before Ben Franklin did his famous and very dangerous kite flying experiment, electricity was thought to be a type of fire.” – WGBH lesson plan for 3rd and 6th graders.
The anger and frustration in the American political process is as dangerous as the electricity harnessed by Ben Franklin’s famous key on a kite.
Raw energy and unbridled power pushes today’s anxious voters who believe their resources and energy have been squandered as they are herded through the election process. These voters are disgusted and frustrated with the election process and the politicians they believe should get out of the way of progress, yet they continue to play the game. Particularly the young and other newly engaged voters feel they have been disenfranchised, yet they find hope in the campaigns and words of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Amazingly, these voters don’t look at details of candidate platforms or the ramifications of electing these candidates – they are enamored and entertained.
Frustration runs a course that is not limited to a single party. Rather, presidential primary frustration lies with the level of patience expended or political capital risked without ever seeing a return on investment. Many of the “Hope & Change” Democrats of 2008 who may have been expected to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton have watched the Clinton machine play the same political cards the Republicans played with Wall Street, big banks and the 1% who seem to call many of the shots in Washington and elsewhere.
The Republican establishment seems to indicate that the Bush name may have run its course as well, as Jeb has put his campaign on hold after a dismal South Carolina finish. Donald Trump’s showmanship and ability to read voter sentiment easily harnessed enough votes in South Carolina to take all the electoral ballots in play, and he did this with a minimal increase in his negative rating. The christian conservative vote is not acting as unified as some would expect, but their power is yet to be felt.
Jeb Bush may have kept his powder dry to continue influencing the 2016 ballot, even with the suspension of his campaign. Trump effectively narrowed the field of active candidates, but he still cannot count enough votes at the convention to guarantee that he will be the Republican Party candidate. A brokered party primary remains a possible outcome as long as Trump has a large negative sentiment among those who will be at the national convention. The Republicans can thank Trump for enlarging their voter base with his populist message, even through it condemns previous national messages of the party and moves many issues to the left.
Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that Hillary’s trust issues will haunt her in her own party, even when she works hard to tell the truths that remain clouded by troubled clarifications. Bernie’s youthful and minority supporters were the difference makers in Obama’s 2008 victories, and unless a unified party mobilizes these segments during the primary, the Trump legions will have an upper hand in November.
The electricity of American presidential politics remains a mystery to foreigners who marvel at the every-four-year peaceful change of power in Washington. Yet, harnessing the lightening’s power, and the potential of the deadly bolts, will not maintain the status quo. It may reshape everything we know about how things work in Washington, healthcare, the military, foreign policy and the Supreme Court. It may unleash the whirlwinds.
However, the electric circuit in educational theory doesn’t relate well to Trump supporters, it takes far too much logic. As seen last December, “What is motivating Trump’s supporters is an overpowering sense of resentment against a world that has passed them by, a world dominated by highly educated elites who dismiss them and their values, and who, far from offering them a hand up, keep them pinned to a demeaning position, elites who flaunt their success at the very same time they are denying this group access to success. I am describing a world in which, for many people, what has been lost is not just the means of making a decent living, but something far more important to them: their self-respect. Poverty can be lived with. The perception that one is despised by the group one is entitled to belong to is something else altogether.”[Huffington Post]
The Trump and Sanders supporters are not the mainstream of either party and they resent the mainstream pattern of party hierarchy. They are motivated often by personal loss or fear. They feel threatened by the status quo, and are proud to feature party cross-overs! The new-to-the-party voters are often dominated by the middle class, who have been squeezed financially and politically because they are excluded from the fruits of success. The large growth in new voters in South Carolina was the voter who may not have been old enough to vote in 2008 or those who did not feel they were included in the failures of the Obama movement.
The new voter has a vested interest, because he or she has a desire to learn and benefit from the system, even if it is a hollow benefit. The 2016 voter may resemble the 2008 “Hope & Change” voter, but the proof of the new voter’s success will be after the election, if the eventual winner can make a difference for this angry or frustrated American.
The American election process continues to spark hope because new voters believe, perhaps naively, that electing a leader who has not been a part of the failures of the past can and will create change. Hope springs eternal, especially when the motivation is in only the election phase of the political process. Currently there is little expectation for workable plans or proof of platforms after the election. Right now it’s all about form and no one is expecting much in the way of substance.
As Trump explains his solution to the economy, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” And, on his less-than-conservative leaning regarding healthcare and the social network Trump states, “You can’t let the people in this country, the people without the money and resources, to go without health care.” Where are the details to these brilliant political statements?
Perhaps Trump will lead us to the Holy Grail, find the Fountain of Youth and no states will have school that are failing. Trump’s casinos will guarantee winners, and it’s the place to go for winning lottery tickets. Details will follow, but expect to see lots of fine print…