Electability, schmelectability: It’s the year of the angry, angry voter

February 10, 2016
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts on stage during his victory speech at his 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary night rally in Manchester, New Hampshire February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg  - RTX269BE

Donald Trump reacts during his victory speech at his New Hampshire primary night rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

New Hampshire is supposed to clarify things. It didn’t. What New Hampshire did this year was make the political situation in both parties a whole lot murkier.

The winners of both primaries were candidates who are widely seen as unelectable.  New Hampshire Democrats went for a socialist. New Hampshire Republicans picked a demagogue.

What we saw in New Hampshire was a massive vote for change. But here’s the thing: Voters went for change in two completely different directions. That does not bode well for bringing the country together.

Republicans are moving to the right and Democrats to the left. This year, 71 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters called themselves conservatives, up from 53 percent four years ago. On the Democratic side, liberals went from 56 percent in 2008, the last time there was a competitive Democratic primary, to 69 percent this year. The distance between the two parties is getting wider. That’s a formula for more gridlock.

Barack Obama was wrong in 2004 when he said, “There is no liberal America and no conservative America.”  Republicans are Democrats are living in two different worlds. Among New Hampshire Republican voters on Tuesday, 59 percent said they were “very worried” about a major terrorist attack in the United States. And among Democrats?  Just 22 percent were “very worried” about terrorism.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during his victory speech as his wife Melania, looks on at his 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary night rally in Manchester, New Hampshire February 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Jim Bourg - RTX269FU

Donald Trump gestures during his victory speech as his wife Melania, looks on at his New Hampshire primary night rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Donald Trump’s resounding victory — he got more than twice as many votes as any other Republican — was not driven by conservative ideology. Trump did carry conservatives, but he also carried  moderates, women, young people, independents — every type  of Republican voter.

What drove the Trump vote was anger. The angrier you were with the federal government, the more you voted for Trump. Forty  percent of Republican primary voters described themselves as “angry” over the way the federal government is working.

There are many sources of anger in the Republican Party. Some of it is conservatives who hate Obama’s big government liberalism, epitomized by Obamacare. Some of it is people who are hurting economically. Trump did best among voters who said they were falling further behind financially.

Some of it was also rage over the cultural and demographic changes happening in the United States. That rage is greatest among less-educated white voters, who feel they are being pushed aside. Trump got twice as much support from Republican voters who didn’t go to college (46 percent) than he did from voters with post-graduate degrees (23 percent).

Many working-class white voters feel embittered toward the whole political establishment.  Nearly half of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire said they felt betrayed by Republican politicians.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gestures during a rally at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire February 8, 2016.    REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTX260V1

Bernie Sanders gestures during a rally at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire, February 8, 2016. – RTX260V1

Democrats are also facing a revolt. But this one is coming from the left. Only 40 percent of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters said they wanted the next president to continue Obama’s policies. Forty-two percent wanted the next president to move in a more liberal direction.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has become the candidate of the status quo. She may have run against Obama eight years ago, but now she is thoroughly identified with his policies. What kinds of Democrats are unhappy with the status quo? Liberals.  Young people. People who feel they are falling behind financially. All of them voted overwhelmingly for Sanders.  So did the more than 60 percent of Democrats who said that they, too, are dissatisfied or angry with the way the federal government is working.

In 2008,  Democrats who were hurting in President George W. Bush’s economy went for Clinton over Obama. The economy was Clinton’s  issue, and she used it to win a surprise victory over Obama in the 2008 New Hampshire primary.  – The economy is not her issue any more.  Democrats who said they were very worried about the economy voted overwhelmingly for Sanders.

Insiders in both parties are trying to reassure themselves that, over the course of the campaign, voters will come to their senses and nominate more electable contenders. That may not be so easy, however.

Republicans who want to stop Trump can’t seem to come together. Conservatives are rallying behind Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who may be even less electable than Trump.  Mainstream Republicans can’t agree on who will be their champion. Last week,  after Senator Marco Rubio of Florida did better than expected in Iowa, he was the Republican “It Boy.”  This week the title goes to  Ohio Governor John Kasich, who did better than expected in New Hampshire (he came in second). If happiness in politics is a divided opposition, then Trump must be pretty happy right now.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s liabilities are becoming ever more apparent. Most voters don’t think she is honest and trustworthy. She has the image of political calculation. Republicans will claim that a vote for Clinton is a vote for a third term for Obama — and that is exactly what it looks like to many Democrats.

 

Only one in eight voters — in both parties — said they were voting for a candidate who could win in November. The message of New Hampshire was, “To hell with electability.  We want candidates who will shake things up.”

8 comments

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It’s not that Sanders is so appealing, but that the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to understand that so few people find something to LIKE about Clinton. She’s not likeable. One doesn’t have to dislike her, but the quality of acting, of posing, of ambition shine forth from her persona more than any other Democratic candidate in recent history serve to give sufficient reason for active dislike as well, for many.

Posted by danR22 | Report as abusive

Trump is Groupon. Sanders is Google.

Pick your prospects accordingly.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Rafael Cruz is not electable because he’s not a “natural born citizen” of the US. He is a US citizen by “statute” because his mother is a US citizen. Rafael Cruz is a natural born Canadian by virtue of him being born in Alberta Canada. And, up until June, 2014 he was a Canadian citizen.

Posted by IamBAD1 | Report as abusive

I’m an angry voter. I’m angry that so many Americans are so spoiled rotten, have their heads so far up, and contribute so little to the prosperity of the nation because they have no life, that they have all this time to wave don’t tread on me flags while trying to limit the activities of others due to their religions or ethnicity. I’m angry that 45% of voters are so ignorant they vote against their own financial self interests because their right wing masters say ‘look over here, somebody’s trying to take your gun’.

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive

If the voters come to their senses as insiders hope then no insider candidate will survive. The one thing you get with inside the party candidates is more of the same. It’s a bit of a shame though, that many americans only pay attention during president election years because congress and the governorships have a lot more to do with the long term political trajectory of the nation than the president does. The president can set some tone, and nominate supreme court justices but on nearly every other issue must work with congress. Even on foreign policy the president has little control as they are just spinners of the already approved long term foreign policy of the secret police and military industrialists. So, bottom line is that we should hope the people have finally had enough, but likely they will relent. In the end they will be the same weak and whiney people they always are and they will do as they are told or be threatened with unemployment. Like the good slaves that they are, they will go to work and vote for the choices of the wealthy.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

I wonder what the author thought of the 2008 election, when Democratic primary voters were both furious at the previous administration and supportive of little-known upstart Barack Obama over establishment candidate Hillary Clinton.

Posted by WickedEthicist | Report as abusive

The writer is WRONG. Liberals don’t hate Obama. We don’t hate Clinton because she looks like a third term Obama. We just hate Clinton because her husband deregulated the banks leading to 2008, she vote for and supported the war, lied about WMDs, was against equality for gay people… and in general she’ll say anything to get elected. She’s to the right of Nixon.

Posted by doren | Report as abusive

If you think America should be run like a business, are you prepared to shut down the Extra Dakota? And the redundant Virginia? And do we really need two Carolinas?

Business is business. Trim that fat.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive