Puny Gods

The Unifying Theory Of Political Everything
By Mike Lux, Crooks and Liars
3/31/16 8:00pm

The conventional wisdom punditry’s predictive power has never been sterling, but this year their prediction machine went straight over the cliff, being spectacularly wrong on pretty much all things. If there was a unifying theory of everything about political pundits, it would be: they are just wrong. They predicted Bush would win, probably easily; his name ID, money, and the affection for his family would allow him to dominate his rivals; his early stumbles would be overcome by his money. The pundits predicted that Trump would never run; he would never last; he would blow himself with his incendiary comments and outrageous proposals; he had a hard cap of support that would keep him from winning once the field narrowed. The pundits said that Rubio had the charisma and ability to unite the party’s different elements together; once he became the establishment choice, after Bush and Christie dropped out, he would start winning. Then there is the Democratic side: I can’t think of an establishment pundit who predicted Bernie’s crowds, money raising ability, or his strong showing and staying power in this race. If it was a job requirement for the political experts that they knew enough about politics to get even a few of their predictions right, they would all have lost their jobs this year.

The political version of the Unifying Theory of Everything is that the elites don’t get it. Real voters — the ones out in America’s heartland who rarely get raises, who are stressed and financially pressed by trying to figure out how to support their families and pay for their kids’ college tuition and save a little bit for their retirement — are tired of political BS, and tired of the people at the top getting all the breaks while they get none. For many of those folks, the breaking point came when Wall Street wrecked the economy through all kinds of reckless and fraudulent financial speculation, and not only got to keep from going to jail or getting fired, but actually got record bonuses just months after taxpayers bailed them out from the financial panic — an economic catastrophe which caused massive job loss and the crash of the housing market.

When that happened, Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters alike got incredibly cynical about American politics. In the decades before that, as family incomes stayed flat and politicians made promises they rarely kept, voters were getting fairly cynical, but with the financial crisis and the lack of Wall Street accountability, that cynicism exploded. Democrats less so than the other two categories of voters, because they understood the enormously complicated mess Obama had been left to fix and appreciated his progressive policies in other areas. But everyone except the elites in both parties were totally outraged by the stunning events of 2008-9, and that’s why the establishments of both parties, the pundits, and everyone else expecting business as usual have been so surprised by the events of the previous 12 months. On the Republican side, it has taken an especially nasty turn, as Trump and others have succeeded at getting their voters to believe that immigrants, Muslims, liberals, and poor folks are more to blame for their problems than Wall Street. Voters in general, though, are eager to reject an establishment they think has grown corrupt.

For those of us terrified by the idea of a Trump presidency and the prospect of fascism in America, we need to understand that business as usual in our election strategies is not the way to go. Voters are in a bad mood, and that’s why the analysis of Wall Street-funded organizations like Third Way needs to be rejected. The voters in Democratic primaries who are supporting Hillary Clinton are mostly not supporting her because they like the establishment and because they love careful moderation. The fact that most of Hillary’s margin has come from African-American voters when African-Americans are the most supportive of any demographic group of being tough on Wall Street, raising the minimum wage, and taxing the wealthy to pay for more government services puts that silly argument to rest. Hillary voters appreciate her experience and her toughness, they like her lifelong history of fighting for the needs of children, they might think she is more likely to get things done than Sanders, and probably most importantly are eager for the candidate they perceive as most likely to beat Trump. They aren’t rejecting populism because in fact Hillary has been running as a populist. She has run on a platform of taking on Wall Street and the drug companies and Big Oil, taxing the rich, raising the minimum wage, and expanding benefits and paid leave for workers.

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