By: Staff Writer Richard Wheeler
The 2016 primary season has been quite intriguing thus far, to say the least. Donald Trump, a radical demagogue, has trounced the rest of the Republican field. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, has collected a disturbing amount of Democratic delegates. No doubt much can be learned about the attitudes the American public holds toward their government from the results thus far. While the primary season has not yet concluded, let us consider several lessons that can be garnered from the current results.
First and foremost, the real winners of the 2016 primaries has already been decided: apathy and disinterest. It is not unusual for primaries to have lower voter turnout, and this trend holds true in the 2016 cycle. 15.1 million Democrats and 20 million Republicans have cast ballots this primary season, while about 100 million voters have stayed home. Mr. Trump boasts that he is increasing voter turnout, and while this may be true compared to other election cycles, still only 9.4% of registered Republicans have turned out to vote for him. The 100 million voters who have chosen to stay home this year reveal the true winner of the 2016 will be a lack of interest among American voters. (http://qz.com/644111/trump-voters-make-up-about-5-6-of-the-voting-age-population/)
Next, let us examine what the rise of the inflammatory Donald Trump can tell us about the attitudes of those who did decide to vote this primary season. Above all else, Mr. Trump is anti-establishment. His self funded campaign allows him to make very controversial remarks, not only about various out groups (ex. immigrants, Muslim-Americans), but also about the Republican establishment, without fear of retribution from donors. An extraordinary example of the Donald’s controversial and somewhat confusing behavior is his repeated attacks on Fox New’s Meagan Kelly. A highly regarded and established personality in the conservative sphere, Kelly is a surprising choice to target from a Republican frontrunner; it is difficult to see what exactly could be gained from such attacks on such a prominent conservative figure. Conventional knowledge would undoubtably consider such behavior disastrous. However, Mr. Trump has continually bashed Kelly throughout the 2016 primary season (@RealDonaldTrump). Perhaps Kelly is viewed as synonymous with the Republican establishment for Trump’s base, so his remarks resonate with them.
The outcome of this election cycle will be telling, for the GOP establishment ran their candidates in 2008 and 2012 (McCain and Romney, respectively), losing both times to President Obama. Can the anti-establishment conservative wing carry Mr. Trump all the way to the White House, or will his haphazard rhetoric bring his downfall in the general election? Another question to consider: if Mr. Trump were to secure the necessary 1,257 delegates for nomination, would he be able to employ enough resources to continue his self-funded campaign through the general election? Mr. Trump prides himself on being self-funded, free from the influences of super donors. He clearly holds immense wealth, but how much of it is liquid? Donald Trump claims a net worth upwards of $10 billion, but Forbes places his net worth at 4.5 (http://www.forbes.com/sites/randalllane/2015/09/29/inside-the-epic-fantasy-thats-driven-donald-trump-for-33-years/#7bbbd27f19ce). Whatever his actual net worth, one fact is undoubtably true: much of his assets are invested in his global real estate empire. Would Mr. Trump be willing to liquidate properties in order to continue funding his own campaign? Even if he were to be willing, could he? How long would it take to liquidate hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate? Secretary Clinton has already built up an impressive war chest for the general election. If Mr. Trump is to secure the Republican nomination, it will be interesting to see how the general election plays out in regards to these questions.
Looking across the aisle, what does the amount of support for Secretary Clinton’s challenger, Senator Sanders, say about the Democratic base? Do they share the same anti-establishment sentiments evident by Mr. Trump’s success? A self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Senator Sanders exudes some of the same anti-establishment attitudes as Donald Trump, albeit on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Sanders has promised to end “an economy and a political system that has been rigged by Wall Street” (https://berniesanders.com/press-release/sanders-wall-street-will-play-by-the-rules-if-im-president/). This is quite contrary to Secretary Clinton, who has received large donations to her campaign from Wall Street (https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cid=N00000019&cycle=Career). The Clintons have been long-time friends with big business, even receiving a $100,000 donation to their charitable foundation from Mr. Trump in the past (http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/donald-trump-donations-democrats-hillary-clinton-119071). On the subject of super-PACs, Bernie Sanders claims he has none (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/02/11/sanderss-claim-that-he-does-not-have-a-super-pac/). This speaks directly to the corruption he believes money brings into politics. Sanders has seen exceptional support among the younger population of voters, especially college students. This could be telling for the future of the Democratic party. On the contrary, it could simply be due to the Senator’s policy positions; no doubt free college and decriminalized marijuana appeal to the 18-24 demographic. While Bernie Sanders’ actual chances of securing the Democratic nomination were always slim, the support for the Senator in the primary season raises several questions about the attitudes of the Democratic base and the direction of the party.