A week after the New Hampshire Presidential Primaries, what lessons, if any, can we take from the dramatic victories of two outsider candidates? Former New Hampshire resident and occasional Automatic Earth contributor Nelson Lebo weighs in.
Note: Nelson writes below that “Trumpification is a clear and present danger” for writers like me “who rely on the best available data, statistics, facts”. But so far I find Trump mostly amusing, and an excellent indicator of what America has come to. And there’s little he can do to make representation of the facts in the media even worse than it is. Turns out, it didn’t take Trump to Trumpify the media. It might well be the other way around, that the Dumbification of the press paved the way for Da Donald. Here’s Nelson Lebo III:
Nelson Lebo: While I’ve lived in New Zealand for eight years, most of my adult life has been spent in New Hampshire, USA – the Granite State – where the official motto is “Live Free or Die.” It’s on the license plate. You don’t get more Libertarian than that.
The state’s unofficial motto is “First in the Nation,” which refers to hosting the first Presidential Primary once every four years (Iowa is not a primary!). First of the first – since 1964 – has been the tiny hamlet of Dixville Notch, whose citizens have embraced the tradition of casting their ballots just after midnight.
Of the nine eligible voters in Dixville Notch this year, five voted in the Republican Primary and four voted in the Democratic Primary. Counting the ballots took 30 seconds. John Kasich edged Donald Trump on the Republican side 3 to 2, but Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton in a 4 to 0 landslide.
In order to vote in the primary one must be a registered voter: either as a Democrat, Republican or Independent. Registered Democrats and Republicans can only vote in their party’s primary, but Independents may choose either. I lived in New Hampshire for 16 years, and over that time my primary votes got more and more ‘strategic.’ I have voted in both primaries. When I was young I always cast my ballot for ‘my candidate’ – voting with my heart – but as I got older my votes became increasingly strategic – voting with my head.
Left, right or centre, one thing we the people had in common last Tuesday was the rejection of so-called “establishment candidates.”
Voters are fed up with money in politics.
Voters are fed up with cronyism.
Voters do not want a coronation of another Clinton or Bush.
What shines as a beacon of hope for democracy from what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire” is that no matter how much money and influence the powers-that-be throw behind their candidates, individual voters have the final say. I can’t say that tears came to my eyes when I heard the result, but it did notch up my wavering faith in humanity. Let freedom ring! Let freedom ring!
From this perspective, what happened on the Democratic side is nothing short of a Liberty Bell!
o Every major NH newspaper endorsed Clinton.
o Every establishment NH Democrat politician endorsed Clinton.
o Sanders came from a 50-point projected deficit to win by over 20 percentage points: 60% to 38%.
o Sanders won every demographic – including 70% of women-under-30 – except for over-65s and households making over $200,000.
This result speaks volumes about the current and future generation and wealth gap not only in America, but also in New Zealand and worldwide. In other words, it is a snapshot of what we will see more and more often as Baby Boomers hold on to their wealth and status while Millennials are left holding the bag.
Many of us have seen this form of intergenerational tyranny coming down the tracks for some time. To me it is as simple as this:
In the older demographics, we have a generation or two in America and some other countries who got free university education, bought real estate when it was cheap, and enjoyed decades of cheap energy while destroying the planet’s climate system. Meanwhile in the younger demographics we have a generation or two that did not. Who does not see the imbalance?
Like many culture shifts, this one will move like an earthquake: in creeps and ruptures. The New Hampshire democratic result was a rupture and a week later the aftershocks are still being felt as the political circus moves on to South Carolina. If anything, the gift of “superdelegates” to Clinton will only increase the tectonic activity between voter demographics, as did the condescending and sexist comments from Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem.
The fact that feminist icon Steinem made one of the most sexist comments I have ever heard in an attempt to rationalise why young women support Sanders instead of Clinton shows the desperation of the wealthy, retired left. It appears that as the older and the wealthier and the whiter see their positions of wealth and privilege threatened, they fight and fight to maintain them. As the late Joe Strummer sang, “Now war is declared and battle come down” (London Calling, 1979).
o Among democratic voters in NH the #1 issue was income inequality.
Without doubt, Sanders is the income inequality candidate and Clinton is not. I find it troubling that Hillary was paid reported speaking fees of $600,000 (US) by mega investment bank Goldman Sachs, but refuses to release what she spoke about. Goldman Sachs was at the eye of the financial hurricane that started in 2008 and has only grown richer and more powerful since. I seem to recall Clinton saying during a recent debate something along the lines of, “Of course Goldman doesn’t expect anything in return.” Right…
On the Republican side, NH had its largest turnout ever. Here is my favourite headline: “After running xenophobic & racist campaign, Donald Trump wins easily in New Hampshire.”
I have written about the Trump phenomenon in the past, most recently naming him my Person-of-the-Year for 2015:
Donald Trump is my Person of the Year. Who else has made a bigger splash in 2015?
Pundits say he plays on anxieties that exist among a certain voter demographic. He appears fearless in his attacks on political correctness. Bombastic is a term we hear to describe him.
But I say his most significant accomplishment has been in mastering a communication technique and ideology that has grown to achieve a critical mass of cultural significance: the double down. This is not to be confused with KFC’s Double Down – a beef burger between two pieces of fried chicken breast with cheese and bacon.
Doubling down takes many forms. It can mean making a false statement, and instead of admitting the mistake, vehemently insisting on the ‘truthiness’ of the statement in the first place. Alternatively, it might mean coming up with bad policy and then working tirelessly to try to justify it. It may be throwing good money after bad. In Trump’s case, it also means making outrageous or controversial statements and refusing to backtrack.
Doubling down means never having to say you’re sorry.
Trump is my Person of the Year not because he invented the double down or that he is the only person that does it, but because he has given it a living, breathing form. He is a meme with a comb-over and a personal jet.
Trump’s political success relies on the fact that many people only accept information that fits their existing worldview. Facts don’t matter. Research doesn’t matter. Trained experts don’t matter. As Ray Davies sang in 1981, “Give the people what they want.”
The Trumpification of Western society has reached its watershed moment. It marks the end of apology.
For writers like me and Ilargi and Nicole – who rely on the best available data, statistics, facts and sound research to build a case – Trumpification is a clear and present danger.
Like Sanders, Trump speaks to the economic angst many Americans feel. While both men have a populist message, they appeal to vastly different demographic sub-cultures. The irony of course is that a billionaire businessman has convinced thousands of minimum wage Joe Blogs that he will look after their interests. Right…
When I lived in New Hampshire I remember driving the back roads and seeing run-down, crappy mobile homes in the middle of nowhere with Republican lawn signs out front – Bush, Dole, Romney, McCain – and wondering why these people actively vote against their own economic interests.
Alongside Clinton, the biggest establishment candidate on the ticket was Jeb Bush, whose advertising budget in the state meant that at the end of the day his campaign spent $1,086 (US) per vote. He finished fourth, barely ahead of Marco Rubio.
The takeaway message from New Hampshire is powerful but not new. Voters in Greece have rejected establishment parties – twice. Voters in Portugal recently rejected the establishment. Voters in Iceland did so years ago and their nation is now thriving.
So what’s behind all of this rejection? I reckon it’s because you can only push people so far. As Popeye the Sailor is famous for saying, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.”
While Trump is a classic Bluto character – large, loud and aggressive – Sanders retains a classic Popeye attribute that has endeared him to an increasing number of voters: “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.”
Trustworthiness and integrity were the number one characteristic New Hampshire Democratic Primary voters were looking for in a candidate. From this perspective there can be no doubt about last week’s overwhelming result.