Who’s the real Trojan horse?
Imagine a most imaginary conversation that could have taken place shortly before the unpleasantness of the 2016 presidential campaign began:
“Bill, this is The Donald returning your call. Hope you’re doing super.”
“Well, gosh, um, that’s just it. I need your help. You’re such a great supporter, and you know, this next presidential race — it’s really Hill’s time. And me, I just can’t wait to be back in the Lincoln bedroom.”
“Yes, that’s gonna be great, that’s gonna be fantastic, terrific! How much? You and I both know it takes somebody else’s money.”
“Well, this time it’s more than money and a few appearances. Here’s the problem; it’s this Bush thing, this whole Bush-Clinton dynasty thing. Our family legacy is on the line. If it comes down to a choice between stupid and crooked, we’re just not sure who America will pick to win.”
“Yeah Bill, I get that. People are so unpredictable. You’ve got a legacy; it’s huge; it’s huge, terrific! You know I love winning.”
“Right Big D, and that’s just it — gosh, you’re so big, sooo popular; people just love you! The whole ‘Apprentice’ thing, just masterful! And Obama, that whole birther thing, ridiculous, brilliant! You’ve really got it all dialed in.
“Here’s the catch: we need more of this. We need you to go under deep cover and run for president as a Republican. You’re great under the covers, right? It will totally annihilate their party. We both love winning. It will be fabulous, fabulous for your ratings. We’ll both win! Super!
“How about it, Donald? You can’t say no. Remember, the Lincoln Bedroom? It’s yours or mine; it’s ours either way! Win-win! You’ll be big, really big! Too good to be true, you can’t say no!”
“Bill, gotcha, super, super idea, let me think, you know me, that doesn’t take long. Just between the two of us, right? Let’s get together soon on one of my many, many courses, we’ll have to put the kibosh on golfing together for a while after this goes live. This is gonna be wonderful, wonderful…”
Okay, so much for the hypothetical. Maybe this isn’t exactly how these campaigns started, but fast-forwarding to the spring of 2016, the primaries have unfolded with the same result.
Following his loss to Ted Cruz in the Wisconsin primary, Donald Trump called Cruz a “Trojan horse for GOP bosses.” But, who’s the real Trojan horse? The Trump candidacy has splintered the Republican Party, repeatedly foreshadowing an independent run in the general election, which would eliminate the possibility of a Republican majority.
Less attention has been focused on divisions among Democrats. Who knows what kind of negotiations between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren resulted in Warren rejecting the idea of a run this year.
Still, almost inevitably, Bernie Sanders has risen as a standard bearer for disaffected Democrats — coming across as the kind of crazy grandfather that every kid finds hilarious — and also irresistible. Sanders may not be a Trojan horse, but he’s certainly gotten the camel’s nose into the tent.
The elite Republicans and Democrats alike have proven themselves Washington-centric. They’ve completely lost touch with their respective voter bases, which are shrinking demographically and shrinking away from both parties’ worn-out electoral platforms.
For example, it’s well documented that church attendance has been shrinking for decades, yet evangelicals still cling to the idea of a majority, even a white majority.
On the policy front, trickle-down economics, popularized during the Reagan era, have never performed as promised. If anything, they’ve contributed to economic inequality. The wealthiest Republican loyalists have reaped rewards. The less-well-to-do have waited three decades for the party’s populist promises to materialize. Their patience has served their party well, but it’s now past the breaking point.
On the Democratic front, clinging to a monochromatic black and white worldview for votes in the South, as well as a labor-centric paradigm for votes in the Northeast and Upper Midwest also is increasingly outdated.
Decades-old, civil rights-driven loyalty is much to be admired. But how ironic to see the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement during the final term of the country’s first African-American president. Ongoing growth of Latino and Asian voters is dramatically and permanently altering the politics of race.
Much like shrinking church attendance, labor unions have been on the decline for decades. Today, even Michigan is a right-to-work state. Policy-wise, protectionism is just as much a broken populist promise as it is a failed economic one.
Traditional thinking on independent voters is that they ultimately side with one party or the other. That may no longer hold true. The number of so-called independents is on the rise; increasing extremism in both major parties has alienated voters.
Late July will bring the political conventions. The Republicans will convene in Cleveland, followed a few days later by the Democrats in Philadelphia. Imagine this very imaginary scenario: A brokered Republican Convention leads to a third-party candidacy. The following week, Democratic dysfunction pops loose a fourth candidate. The camel’s nose comes out of the tent. Now who’s the real Trojan horse?