Over the past few days I’ve become fairly well convinced we’re going to see a Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump general election for the Presidency of the United States. Of course, I could be wrong. So much could happen. But right now, that’s what it looks like.
In perfect honesty, I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter. For a while now, the anti-poverty effort and its offshoots (such as highlighting the injustice of wage stagnation and wealth and income inequality) have been primary concerns for me, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that in the Democratic Primary, I support the candidate who has similarly dedicated himself to those concerns.
I also believe the only way to fix our corrupted politics that have degraded our democratic Republic into a plutocratic oligarchy and a second Gilded Age, is to bring about a Campaign Finance Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This is another thing that Bernie’s on about, so I can get behind that.
But after South Carolina, Hillary Clinton has the “Big Mo.” Think of this as 2008 in reverse for her. In 2008, Barack Obama won in Iowa, lost to Hillary in New Hampshire, then won in South Carolina. In 2016, so far, Hillary has won in Iowa (barely), lost to Bernie in New Hampshire, and won in South Carolina.
On Super Tuesday, Clinton stands to win big. Her Big Mo will get even bigger. Sanders will try to hold on (like Hillary did in 2008), walking away with enough delegates to keep arguing he still has a shot (like Hillary did in 2008). Meanwhile, the pressure on him to withdraw will continue to mount (as it did on Hillary in 2008), perhaps all the way until June (which is when Hillary finally withdrew in 2008).
On the Republican side, the fight is more complicated. Suffice it to say that it portends to get nastier and perhaps drag on longer than any other Presidential primary in memory. Despite this, I fully expect Donald Trump to emerge as the Republican nominee, barring some very serious Republican establishment chicanery.
That freaks me out for many reasons and brings about in me a wide variety of emotions: Humor, shock, sadness, pity, anger, frustration, exhaustion. It does not, however, fill me with the confidence it once would have.
I truly believe that in a Sanders v. Trump, we could be pretty confident Sanders would beat Trump. What seems like an “anti-establishment” year would be decided between two “anti-establishment” candidates, one pushing a sense of generosity and community, the other pushing divisiveness, fear and hate. Easy choice.
Back in summer 2015, I called U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as the person the Republican establishment should line up behind. This was for the simple reason that as a young, energetic politician without much of a record and a chameleon-like knack of taking on new personalities at will, he would present the biggest challenge to Democrats.
I still believe he would, but I think the Republican establishment waited too long to confront the fact that Trump was emerging as a very real political force. I think they took too long to coalesce around their alternative. I think hangers-on like Ohio Gov. John Kasich are now not doing them any favors.
I think they’ll have a nearly impossible time convincing their primary voters to go with a “reasonable choice” a la John McCain’08 and Willard Mitt Romney’12 for a third time. I think Donald J. Trump is the Republican nominee for President.
And that brings me back around to what I think we’ll face in November: Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump. And as I said, as abhorrent a human being as Donald Trump is, I’m not filled with confidence.
Here’s why: A Clinton v. Trump contest is one between the two candidates with the highest unfavorable ratings of everybody running. Trump has unprecedented negatives at 60 percent. Hillary has very high negatives, but not unprecedented, at 53 percent.
I just can’t figure out how to balance it all out: Does Trump’s “anti-establishment” support in an “anti-establishment” year outweigh Hillary’s obviously superior credentials?
In Hillary Clinton we have a person who is by far, by resumé, the most qualified person to become our next President. She has also been subject to nearly 25 years of brutal Republican attacks, many of which have been totally disgusting and totally unfair.
On the other hand, some of the left’s criticism of Clinton is totally fair. Her hawkish neoliberal foreign policy agenda is a legitimate concern. Her coziness to Wall Street is a legitimate concern.
Some of us are really, deeply offended by the way our banking class has been grifting, degrading and destroying the American middle class since the Reagan era, and the Clintons often make me feel as though they’re just patting us on the head and patronizing us during primary season with no intention of manifesting real accountability.
Meanwhile, we have Donald Trump. And what does one say? Despite having the occasional “moderate” policy position – as much as one with an apparent hypoallergenic reaction to specifics on any proposal can have an actual policy position – the man is an egomaniacal sociopath with a flagrant disregard for the truth, obsessed and motivated purely and only by his own self-aggrandizement. Thusly, he is a major turn-off to people of all political stripes.
So does the hatred of Trump from both the left and the right outweigh the hatred of “the Clinton Machine” from both the left and the right?
How much does a Trump nomination de-energize the “establishment Republicans”? How much does a Hillary nomination de-energize the anti-establishment Democrats?
Does it all balance out to create a nail-biter? It looks to me right now like we’re destined to find out.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.