What if both establishments give their voters the finger?
Most will agree that this has been an election season unlike any other. The standard rules have been tossed aside. Reaching for a wrecking ball has replaced reaching across the aisle. Political incorrectness has replaced genuflection before the party elders. What else explains Donald Trump galloping toward the Republican nomination while the Republican chosen son and brother, Jeb Bush, quit the race before even leaving the starting gate?
On the other side of the proverbial aisle that only the establishment brags about reaching across is a self-described socialist, Bernie Sanders, who honeymooned in the Soviet Union and lived as a hobo until age 40. He is mounting a formidable challenge to the anointed candidate of the Democrat crony establishment, Hillary Clinton.
The political establishments have a long tradition of picking their party’s candidates, the only notable exception being Ronald Reagan in 1980. This year is shaping up to be another break with tradition, for both parties.
After South Carolina, the Republican establishment is marshaling support behind Marco Rubio, as the most electable candidate. Just as John McCain and Mitt Romney were the most electable candidates in the last two election cycles.
The Democrat establishment is using superdelegates to secure the nomination for their chosen one, someone they also believe is most electable in the general election.
In our two party system, the political establishments wield tremendous power and money. Jeb Bush started his campaign with $130 million and Hillary Clinton more than $170 million. Although this is small change in the big picture of dollars spent in a presidential election, and exponentially less than what will be delivered to donors and cronies by the eventual winner, 9-figure amounts of money are nothing to sneeze at.
Will the establishments sit back and allow outsiders, such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, to waltz in and grab the nomination? Will they permit we the people to override we the donors in choosing our next president? That’s not how the post-modern political system works. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t think the Republican establishment will allow this to happen and he wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the party elders are scheming and plotting in their now smoke-free rooms over how to pull the rug out from Trump and hand the nomination to Rubio or Kasich.
The Democrat establishment has superdelegates doing their dirty work. Despite barely winning two contests and getting shellacked in New Hampshire, Clinton now has 502 delegates compared to Sanders’s 70. That’s like giving Hillary a 20-yard head start in a 100-yard dash.
As this campaign cycle is from The Twilight Zone, let me throw out a scenario that, while far fetched, is not implausible.
Suppose both establishments rig the nominating process, pushing Trump and Sanders to the side, deliberately ignoring their respective voter bases. Imagine the outrage, or better yet revolution, among a large swath of voters, fed up with business-as-usual establishment shenanigans.
Grab the pitchforks and torches. Burn the house down. Out of the smoke emerges a Trump/Sanders ticket. Crazy? Probably. Impossible? Hardly.
How different are the two candidates? Policy wise, quite different. But this isn’t an election respecting the usual political boundaries of political philosophy and policy. Instead it’s contest between establishment and anti-establishment. The establishment candidates are, or were, Bush, Rubio, Kasich, and Clinton. The anti-establishment candidates are Trump, Carson, Cruz, and Sanders.
How similar are Donald and Bernie? Consider this exchange with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski last week.
“I wanted to describe a candidate to you,” she began. “The candidate is considered a political outsider by all the pundits. He’s tapping into the anger of the voters, delivers a populist message. He believes everyone in the country should have healthcare, he advocates for hedge fund managers to pay higher taxes, he’s drawing thousands of people at his rallies and bringing in a lot of new voters to the political process, and he’s not beholden to any super PAC. Who am I describing?” she asked.
Trump took the bait and answered, “You’re describing Donald Trump.” Wrong answer – you’re fired! She was describing Bernie Sanders.
“I’ll tell you, there’s one thing that we’re very similar in,” Trump admitted. “He knows that our country is being ripped off big league, big league on trade. The problem is he can’t do anything about it.”
Twin sons of different mothers? Both pariahs of their establishments. Why not join forces? In broad strokes, they are more alike than different. The policy differences can be negotiated between the two candidates in the ultimate sequel to “The Art of the Deal.”
As Newt Gingrich recently observed, “If you think Washington is so sick you want someone to kick over the kitchen table, then you like Donald Trump and you frankly don't care about the details." Do those ‘Feelin the Bern’ share the same sentiments?
If both party establishments gave their respective voters the big middle finger, the voters just might give both middle fingers back to the establishments, supporting a Trump/Sanders ticket.
Improbable? Absolutely. So was the idea, a year or two ago, of Donald Trump leading the Republican field and an avowed socialist beating the anointed one in almost every key demographic.
If anything, it’s something to ponder. And the fact that I would even put forth such a scenario is a sign of the desperation of the establishments. In their minds, desperate times call for desperate measures. Thwarting the will of their voters in the pursuit of continued power and money would not be a surprise. And neither would be a third party response.
Could such a ticket win? Who knows? If half of each party’s voters are fed up enough to vote for such a ticket, the plurality might be enough to win.
In a normal election cycle, Jeb and Hillary would be on their way to the prom. But this is an election season unlike any other so fasten your seatbelts.