At long last, there was some good news on the American political scene tonight. In the Republican primary here in my home state of Minnesota, someone other than Donald Trump won. I was very afraid that Trump would carry the Republican vote here, given the lack of attention that we usually get from presidential campaigns. And given how crazy things have been in this race, I was truly afraid that the folks that elected Jessie Ventura governor would roar back to the forefront. But cooler heads and a savvy campaign operation gave Marco Rubio his first win, and one he desperately needed. However, my elation was tempered by the fact that the Democrats went for Bernie Sanders. Sanders campaigned hard here, and I believe he got a bit of a boost by the mild weather that may have led to increased turnout of college students in the smaller outstate communities. But, then again, there is a large block of very liberal activists among the Minnesota Democratic voters these days.
An NBC exit poll on Super Tuesday confirmed the obvious – the Republican electorate is angry. Most of the anger is aimed at President Obama, and that’s only reinforced by their anger at their party’s leadership. They have soundly rejected all of the “establishment” candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and even hardliner Lindsay Graham. And their second choice is Ted Cruz, whose grasp on reality is only slightly less tenuous than Trump’s. The die-hard conservative line has been that the reason Republicans have lost the majority of recent presidential elections is that their candidates weren’t conservative enough. And this year they’re turning to a man who feeds that anger like giving Scotch eggs to protein addicts, even though his dedication to conservatism is open to question.
Yes, I’m scared of Donald Trump. Donald Trump should scare everyone. For the first time in my life, there’s a candidate for President with a serious chance of winning the election who could truly do lasting damage to the country. He has so very little understanding of the office that he simply wouldn’t be able to do the job. Trump’s success relies solely on serving pablum to the disaffected throngs, and they eat it with a spoon. They truly don’t care what he says, only how he says it.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bernie Sanders is not to be dismissed quite yet. He won four states on Super Tuesday, which means his campaign will almost certainly survive to the convention. This will, in turn, force Hillary Clinton to keep trying to find issues that will placate the left wing of the party without jeopardizing her chances in the fall election. The far left doesn’t care about moderation any more than the far right, and they’re just as willing to embrace a campaign that captures their anger about income inequality no matter how destructive the policies Sanders espouses might be.
The extremes on both sides are irresistable to those who believe in what I call the “Conspiratorial Theory of the Universe”. There’s always a tale about unseen hands controlling the lives of the unaware masses – an often-unnamed “them” who are the root cause of all of the world’s ills. This is the attitude that flourishes only when bluster is allowed to disguise ignorance. It’s easy to subscribe to this theory because it is intellectually undemanding. It is the philosophy of the guy at the end of the bar who whines about the rich and powerful feeding off “the little guy”, who’s always ready with a truckload of “little known facts” that never have any objective proof. The fix is always in according to him, and there’s always some group to blame. I generally prefer the Walt Kelly quote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It says more in nine words than all of the political campaigns of the last century.