The Age of Discontent

Party leaders did not anticipate their bases’ feelings, which have caught their preferred candidates by surprise
The Age of Discontent
Foto: Twitter

 

The presidential election period is about to begin with the Iowa caucuses next week. The candidates of both parties have been actively campaigning and debating for months, in which they have discovered that this cycle’s prevalent mood among voters is of disgust – a factor that has turned around previous expectations.

The anticipated rivalry between two political dynasties – Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Jeb Bush for the GOP – seems to have evaporated amidst the anger and frustration of the bases. Both progressive and conservative voters are tired of a system stuck in Washington which does not let advance anyone’s agenda – neither the Democrats holding the White House, nor the Republicans who dominate Congress. The prevalent mood is anti-establishment.

The GOP is experiencing an internal war as chances grow that millionaire Donald Trump wins the nomination with his obstinate populism. The most realist option today is Sen. Ted Cruz, who is universally disliked among his party’s leaders due to his independence. Maybe there will be changes ahead, but there is no question that Trump and the anti-government mood caught Bush unaware.

But the voter mood should not have surprised Hillary Clinton. Again, like in 2008, her supposed coronation as Democratic candidate is at risk. Like back then, she is seen as an establishment candidate who fails to stir the base. Her problems with personal e-mail use during her tenure as Secretary of State are indicative of why distrust is her candidacy’s weakest point.

In both parties the establishment failed to anticipate their bases’ feelings. Worries about the income gap are boosting Sen. Bernie Sanders’s chances, as Clinton is considered too close to Washington. Meanwhile, a tycoon/celebrity earns the trust of Washington-weary Republicans only because he speaks his mind.

The situation can change in the next months, and success in November will depend on which party can better mobilize its base and offer a candidate who can attract independent voters. This is not an easy task in the age of discontent.