A Sanders Presidency?

There is always something remarkable about US politics – if remarkable is a sufficiently appropriate word. But according to some recent research Bernie Sanders could become President.

Now the blog knows that is remarkably unlikely and the odds on Trump winning the Republican nomination are lengthening. But the blog’s friend John Dyett (readers should visit his Facebook page which, along with that of Race Mathews, is one of the most consistently informative Facebook pages around in Australia) has recently sent it a link to the New York Times which outlines the numbers which make it possible.

The blog realises from conversations with Jack, and his Facebook posts, that Jack that would preferably support Elizabeth Warren as a candidate – as the blog would if it had a vote. Indeed, given the damage US Presidents can do the rest of the world there is a strong case for giving us all a vote – if only to leaven the impact of the run of the mill insane US voters on our lives and futures.

Anyway the NYT  said in an article Electoral Map Is a Reality Check to Donald Trump’s Bid on 2 April 2016: “If Mrs. Clinton somehow loses the Democratic race — unlikely given her delegate advantage — Mr. Trump could fare even worse in a general election against Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has higher margins than Mrs. Clinton in head-to-head polling against Mr. Trump in most swing states.

“In recent head-to-head polls with one Democrat whom Mr. Trump may face in the fall, Hillary Clinton, he trails in every key state, including Florida and Ohio, despite her soaring unpopularity ratings with swing voters. In Democratic-leaning states across the Rust Belt, which Mr. Trump has vowed to return to the Republican column for the first time in nearly 30 years, his deficit is even worse: Mrs. Clinton leads him by double digits in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

“Mr. Trump is so negatively viewed, polls suggest, that he could turn otherwise safe Republican states, usually political afterthoughts because of their strong conservative tilt, into tight contests. In Utah, his deep unpopularity with Mormon voters suggests that a state that has gone Republican every election for a half-century could wind up in play. Republicans there pointed to a much-discussed poll, showing Mrs. Clinton with a narrow lead over Mr. Trump, to argue that the state would be difficult for him.

“Horse-race polls this early are poor predictors of election results, and candidates have turned around public opinion before…..But without an extraordinary reversal — or the total collapse of whoever becomes his general-election opponent — Mr. Trump could be hard-pressed to win more than 200 of the 270 electoral votes required to win.”

The NYT concluded that Trump’s net unfavourability rate was lower than “that of any Republican or Democratic nominee in recent history.” Indeed it makes Tony Abbott look like a shoe-in at the next election if only the Liberals had kept him as Leader.

Of course, if Sanders was the candidate Trump could still win. Reading the article the blog was reminded of the 1934 Californian gubernatorial campaign which pitched the socialist writer, Upton Sinclair, against Frank Merriam with a spoiler campaign from Raymond Haight. The full story is told in Greg Mitchell’s 1992 book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics. Why, by the way, do US books have such long sub titles?  Originally it may have been just to spell out what books were about but Simon Winchester told the audience at this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week that it was nowadays about search engine optimisation.

If you think Tricky Dicky, Rupert Murdoch, Fox News et al are bad you need to study the 1934 campaign. Hollywood moguls produced fictional ‘news’ footage to attack Sinclair; newspaper barons combined to peddle lies with William Randolph Hearst (in Europe for much of the campaign) cabling directions on how to cover the story; mainstream Democrats (including FDR) going to water; the much-respected (among some journalists at least) H.L. Mencken savaging and ridiculing Sinclair; and the Democrat establishment led by J.A. Farley organising for the Haight campaign to split the vote and let the Republicans win.

By the way, a sidelight to the career of James Farley, Post Master General and campaign strategist, was that he invented the ‘Farley file’. It was a simple card index system so that when a candidate went into a community he (that was the way it was then) would have some background on a local identity. The candidate would front up to the local mayor, shake their hand and ask how their son was doing at college or whatever. Needless to say the local was impressed. Nowadays computer programs do it for you but in Farley’s day it was a massively impressive data management task. The blog learnt about Farley files from, of all things, a sci-fi book which may have been by either Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein. Probably the first but it’s worth remembering that the latter would have found most of the current Republican candidates too left wing.

A further sidelight struck the blog when it visited Victorian country areas with its then boss, Frank Wilkes. The blog was always impressed by how warmly Frank was received in conservative strongholds until it realised Frank was giving the Shire Presidents the Masonic handshake. Frank, despite the criticism directed to him, did manage to win a bigger swing in his last election campaign than any of the swings which got John Cain, Steve Bracks or Daniel Andrews elected. In his funeral oration Daniel Andrews gave him due credit for this – which is more than some of Frank’s contemporaries did. And to cap it all off, when Frank died last year, he had the State Funeral to which he was entitled in a local Catholic parish church in his beloved Northcote.