The 2016 election is unlike any we have seen in recent memory with one word accurately encapsulating the whole circus: chaos. The Republicans have been in disarray since a crushing defeat in 2012 and haven’t been able to cooperate enough for some much needed party reform. The Democrats seemed to have their house in order until the late summer of 2015 when Bernie Sanders opened the floodgates and initiated a quasi-civil war within the Democratic Party that has become a liability of equal proportions to that of the GOP.
The election has already been deemed critical for the ideological direction of our country in the next few decades, but the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has now placed two, if not all three, branches of government into play. The political ramifications of this election are astounding.
The battle within the Republican party positions a more inclusive party for the future dominated by millennials and younger conservatives against the establishment and what I will refer to as “Trumpism,” an antiestablishment movement within the party promoting division fueled by prejudice. The Democrats are now experiencing a similar intra-party struggle: the establishment represented by Hillary Clinton pitted against the overwhelmingly millennial-supported progressive movement led by Bernie Sanders.
I believe the establishment Republican Party would have won the 2012 presidential election using its usual strategy if the country was comprised of the same demographically as the 1980s. Mitt Romney won the white male vote by impressive numbers; however, the modern American electorate did not support the Romney Republican platform. Barack Obama defeated Romney with the overwhelming support of women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, etc.
The Republican Party is not inclusive enough to expand to other demographic groups, thus hindering its much needed change and new direction. Many rising young conservatives were poised to begin a transition that would expand the conservative movement and update the Republican Party including Tim Scott, Mia Love, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal and others. Rubio and Jindal threw their hats in the ring for the 2016 election, and while Jindal never gained traction, Rubio’s support has been divided amongst the establishment party of the past (Bush, Kasich), the hardline conservatives (Cruz, Carson) and Trump.
While Trump has led the polls with a stronghold of 30-40% of primary voters since about September, he has not lost or gained any significant traction. It is unlikely his supporters will switch candidates, but it is evident nearly 70% of Republicans will not vote for him.
This is why the battle between the other candidates is so crucial. Cruz and Rubio hold around 20% each, with Kasich’s holding 10% following his post-New Hampshire surge. Ben Carson has drifted into irrelevance, and Jeb Bush finally did his civic duty by dropping out. Bush did not resonate with voters this election cycle, and the longer he stayed in the race, the more his reputation and credibility were diminished. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jeb Bush. I’ve met the guy and believe he has the experience necessary to lead this country, but it was very clear to millions of Americans including myself that this was not his time.
The main story of this election has been Donald Trump and the absurdity of the fact that he is actually the Republican frontrunner. I would define his brand of conservatism as Trumpism because for one, I don’t think it’s conservatism at all, and two, it gathers support from racism, hate and ignorance.
Let’s begin with the fact that Donald Trump isn’t even a real conservative. It is astounding that so many Republicans support a man who has been supportive of big government, thought the Reagan Administration was weak on the Soviet Union, was an active Democrat as recently as 2009 and has flipped-flopped on issues like no other just to appease hardline conservatives. He uses fear mongering to incite crowds and uses juvenile bullying to entertain the electorate in exchange for its feverish support.
Despite high levels of support in this moment, I don’t think he can gain more supporters, and once a clear alternative to him has been established, Republicans will flock to that candidate. The odds that that candidate will be Rubio are increasing, but Ted Cruz still has potential. Cruz is generally unlikable and far too conservative though, so I see his campaign sputtering out after Super Tuesday.
The Democratic Party has become a spectacle I never thought possible, and it is playing to the eventual Republican nominee’s advantage. The Democratic Party is quite divided right now, and I think Macalester is a great example of this. From what I’ve seen, Bernie Sanders is the candidate most Mac students would rally behind. His ideas are some of the most progressive and liberal we have seen from a national candidate, and he has no ties to Wall Street or the big banks. This guy is 100% grandpa goals.
Hillary Clinton seems to rub everyone the wrong way, both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans hate her — I can attest to that — but I honestly think an increasingly large number of Democrats find her untrustworthy, out of touch and unworthy of their vote. Hillary also holds many of the cards. Her husband is a popular former president; she won nearly all of the Democratic superdelegates, which I think are ridiculous and she has wide support amongst older people who are more inclined to vote in primaries and caucuses. If Hillary wins the nomination, I think she will struggle to gain the support of minorities and millennials like Barack Obama did, a failure which will severely hurt the Democrat’s chance of winning.
The big story of the last week, aside from Trump’s winning South Carolina and Hillary’s winning Nevada, has been the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the subsequent vacancy on the Supreme Court. Article II of the Constitution gives the president the power to appoint a supreme court justice in the event of a vacancy. Constitutionally speaking, Obama can and should nominate a new justice. The Constitution also gives the senate the power to approve or deny the president’s nominee.
The Senate can, and I believe should, deny the nominee until a new president is elected. The Republicans are doing exactly what Democrats have done before too. This is not unheard of. In 1992, Joe Biden argued to delay a supreme court nominee until after the 1992 election. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton filibustered the nomination of Samuel Alito. Both branches are acting under their constitutional duties. Leaving this nomination up to the next president allows the American people the opportunity to not only elect a new leader for the executive branch but also have some sway in the ideological leanings of the Supreme Court. The court is often criticized for being a body comprised of “unelected elites,” but a vacancy for the next president could change that, even if it’s just this one time. The American people will soon be able to decide what they want America to be again. Either way, the 2016 election just got real.