This current presidential primary campaign is turning out to be like no other in recent American history. As they watch it unfold the American people must feel like they are a part of the audience at a “three ring circus”, i.e., something spectacular, tumultuous, entertaining, and full of confused action; all of which is going on simultaneously.
We hear the ringmaster utter the familiar words, “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, let me direct your attention” to the 2016 presidential primaries and the candidates currently taking part. This election, the debates, the candidates, their political ideologies, and the massive infusion of funding from the masters of Corporatism might accurately be described as a three-ring circus.
Here is what is happening right now in each of these rings:
In ring #1 we have Trump and Cruz performing to see which one can utter the most venomous, insulting remarks against anyone who doesn’t embrace their views. Trump, the billionaire, with the colossal ego and an attack dog mentality and personality, is still leading the pack in advance of the upcoming New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina primaries. But “The Donald” is getting a bit worried because Cruz is gaining on him, especially in Iowa where Cruz’ menacing demeanor seems to have a great appeal to the state’s militant right wing evangelicals.
Cruz has, of late, stopped acting as Trump’s buddy and has gone on the attack by saying that Trump does not possess the temperament to be president and that “I think the American people are looking for a commander-in-chief who is stable and steady and a calm hand to keep this country safe.” Contrast that remark about stability and calm with this statement Cruz made recently: Speaking of how he would deal with ISIS he said, “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion”, totally ignoring the fact that carpet bombing includes the mass slaughter of civilians.
Trump didn’t hesitate to retaliate with this remark about Cruz: “But he’s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.” And then he goes so far to say, “He’s a total hypocrite.” And then Trump challenges his right to be a U.S. president because he was born in Canada and had a Cuban father.
As Trump sees Cruz as a threat he decides to bring in extra reinforcements. We see the brilliant and highly-respected Sarah Palin come onto the scene, fresh from her various failed TV reality shows. Palin promptly delivers a blistering attack on President Obama, while singing the virtues of Trump in her usual shrill, screeching voice and obnoxious manner. Trump might be wise to keep her on a leash if he remembers how she helped to sink John McCain’s political ship in the 2008 presidential election.
But who really knows in this strange primary race, Palin’s involvement could very well help Trump by adding the support of many Tea Party members and evangelicals to his candidacy and, thereby, assure that he will become the GOP’s standard bearer in the presidential election.
In ring #2 there is the panic-stricken GOP leadership, together with Trump’s various rival candidates, none of whom trust the man, don’t think he is a real conservative and, in fact, is some form of liberal masquerading in Republican clothing to cleverly take control of the party.
They wonder how, if Trump would succeed and become president, they would even begin to co-exist because they possess totally different political ideologies. Would Trump try to “liberalize” or move the Republican Party away from the right and closer to the political center? To these true conservatives that would be a fate worse than death.
In ring #3 we see Hillary Clinton moving into an attack mode as she watches the polls indicating that Bernie Sanders has caught up and is passing her in New Hampshire and closing the gap in Iowa and, therefore, she has decided that it’s time to put him in his place. So she teams up with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, aka “the big dog”, to launch a series of attacks on Bernie and try to take him down before he gains further momentum.
Hillary strongly attacked Sander’s proposed single-payer health care system, contending that it is unworkable; also that his foreign policy positions are highly faulted, in particular, on how to fight against the ISIS terrorists. Sanders has not responded in kind by attacking Clinton’s positions to any significant degree but that could change in a hurry if she continues to go after him.
These attacks are actually a big gamble for Hillary and Bill since they could very well backfire. But the Clinton team is obviously very worried about Sanders growing popularity and support and the Iowa caucuses are right around the corner. They sense that Sander’s calls for a political revolution are beginning to take root and pay off and that is very worrisome.
The Clintons also know that if the investigation into her highly questionable use of her personal computer server indicates a very serious misuse of highly classified government information then the party’s all over for her; and Sanders will walk into the nomination. So the stakes could not be higher at this point in time.
Watching as this race unfolds is both fascinating and very troubling. When I look at the overall quality of a great many of these candidates, they’re less than impressive credentials to become president, and what they say and don’t say about America’s plethora of unaddressed problems I keep asking the question: shouldn’t America, a nation of over 320 million, be able to come up with a far better class of candidates? Aren’t we better than this? Or are these candidates actually a reflection of what America has now become?
Yes, on the surface, this primary campaign may resemble a three-ring circus but just below the surface, something extraordinary may be happening. We may be witnessing a political revolution in the making. We are seeing both Trump and Sanders using a strategy of tapping into the anger and frustration of the American people. However, they are doing it in distinctly different ways.
Trump’s message is one that creates unrest and dissension between various segments of this society; whites, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims and others.
It is designed to challenge the status quo and is highly critical of Washington’s failed political policies and actions. But it is largely negative, not at all constructive, and provides no specific remedies to turn things around. Anyone can rant and rave about America’s problems.
On the other hand, Sander’s message is one that inspires and motivates Americans to join the rapidly growing movement to bring positive and constructive change to this government. For each element of his criticisms of failed government policies, he puts forth specific recommendations on what he would do differently.
For some time now we have seen these elections being contaminated by massive funding provided by Super Pacs who support candidates who will advance their interests in Washington. All of the Republican candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton, rely heavily on Super Pac funding; Trump the billionaire funds his own campaign.
Sanders is unique in this election in that he is taking an entirely different approach with regard to campaign funding. He refuses to have anything to do with Super Pacs or corporate money. His campaign is, instead, fueled by many millions of Americans, who have had enough of the political incompetence and corruption in D.C.; who have been waiting and are ready for such a revolution; those who want to restore their right to have a voice in how this government functions and the direction it takes.
What we’re seeing is a clear indication that, when properly motivated and energized, the formidable power of the American people can go up against the mighty power brokers that currently control this government and they can prevail. The movement is gathering momentum; if it can be sustained it could prove to be unstoppable.