After a long political preseason, the opening game is at hand. The Iowa caucus on February 1 promises to be momentous for both Democrats & Republicans. In a bizarre & unprecedented set up, the “establishments” of both parties are doing every thing they can to defeat their own front runners in Iowa.
The Democratic Party is deadly scared of seeing its favorite & presumptive candidate, Hillary Clinton, lose to a rank outsider for whom she has exhibited nothing but contempt. But Bernie Sanders seems to be on a roll. The Republican race seems almost over except for Iowa and the “establishment” finds itself in the dumbest spot possible – dead set against both candidates running to win Iowa. The key for Trump & Sanders is to get their supporters to attend & vote in the caucuses, supporters who have not traditionally bothered to vote in the informal caucus process. If they do, Trump & Sanders will win.
If Trump wins in Iowa, then the Republican race might well be over. In a brand new Zogby Analytics poll of likely GOP caucus and primary voters, Donald Trump receives 45% of the total vote, with Ted Cruz in a distant second place at 13%, followed by Marco Rubio with 8%. What Donald Trump has achieved in a few months is unprecedented. He has launched a movement to take America back to its winning ways, to a new morning in America to use a phrase of Ronald Reagan, the last transformative President we had.
President Reagan followed eight years of economic malaise & policy incompetence from 1972 to 1980. It seemed then as if America was losing at every thing. Today, it feels even worse. The last 16 years have been so bad for the majority of American people that hope of a better future is slowly getting extinguished. Donald Trump has asked the people to trust him to pull America out of today’s malaise & to make America great again. It has become a movement, a movement even bigger than Reagan’s movement at the corresponding stage of the campaign.
But what about the movement that Bernie Sanders has created? And it is a movement as his recent surge in Iowa has demonstrated. This is the first week when we felt the “Bern” ourselves. He has tapped into something deep in the psyche of the American people, a nostalgia for the values of the last transformative president of the Democratic Party. And FDR was a more transformative president than Reagan.
How did FDR transform America? He penalized the rich to build security for the average American. He was unabashedly anti-rich. Not only did he rail against them, he actually taxed the highest incomes at 90%. He set up Social Security, created the FDIC to protect savings of the American people from mistakes of Banks & greedy bankers. Listen to Bernie Sanders and you will hear echoes of FDR. His is also a hark back to the good days of America, when life was simple and people felt their country was for them.
So a Trump-Sanders election may pit the visions of the last two transformative Presidents against each other – the vision of Ronald Reagan against the vision of FDR. Now that would be a campaign, right? It would also be a campaign to determine whether the big American corporations are viewed as agents of prosperity for all or as robber barons of today.
You know what is amazing? It would actually be easier for Donald Trump to move left & adopt the FDR banner than it would be for Bernie Sanders to move right to appeal to Reagan supporters. But remember FDR was also born into privilege & wealth. Trump has already stated flatly that he supports Social Security & Medicare and that he would make them stronger. He has promised to replace Obamacare with a bigger & better program. Trump is already on record supporting universal health care. People hear this message from Trump even if political pandits don’t. That is why so many Democrats are moving to express their support for Donald Trump.
If Trump is echoing Reagan and Sanders is echoing FDR, what message is Hillary Clinton sending? Or what parallel are people seeing in Hillary Clinton? Many see it but only Jeffrey Lord publicly expressed it on CNN. The answer is Richard Nixon. There was never a question about Nixon’s competence. He achieved a great deal in foreign policy. But his image was always “Tricky Dick”.
The image of Hillary Clinton is actually worse. She is regarded as a dishonest panderer even by people who support her candidacy. Trump & Sanders are crystal clear about what they stand for. What does Hillary Clinton stand for? All she has left now is “electability”. Wasn’t that the message of Romney & McCain to Republicans? Having said that, Hillary Clinton is still the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. That is because no one knows how well Bernie Sanders will appeal to African Americans & Hispanics who are crucial to winning primaries outside the Northeast.
Speaking personally, we would much rather see a Reagan-Trump vs. FDR-Sanders campaign for the hearts, minds & votes of the American people. But whether we see it or not is first up to the good people of Iowa on February 1.
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