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The Backstory Behind 2016's Headlines

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 13
Publish Date: 
Thu, 02/11/2016

 

In this topsy-turvy election year, wonders never cease, as Americans Think Again about how to throw the bums out, even unelected bureaucrats.

 

The willingness to break with long-standing political norms isn’t surprising, considering voter anger, pessimism and spiking anxieties. Recent surveys of Americans show overwhelming majorities believe the country is on the wrong track, the American Dream is unachievable, and our powerful, unaccountable government is America’s biggest threat.

 

Consequently, political dynasties have been rendered passé, as mega-donor darlings Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton discovered en route to their coronations. Not even their powerful Super PACs (funded by unlimited individual, corporate and union support) can assure their victories.

 

The standard trump cards aren’t working either, including the gender card, played recently by former Secretary of State and Hillary-backer Madeleine Albright who admonished, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

 

For Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, the normally formidable race card trumps nothing. But a blustering and incoherent Donald Trump trumps everything, thanks to the limitless free airtime the ratings-hungry media grant him. ”I’m winning by a lot,” the self-funder boasts, but “I spent almost nothing.”

 

Meanwhile, the media leaves unexamined Trump’s assertion that his wealth is a scorecard of his abilities.  Some analysts calculate the present value of Trump’s inheritance would approximate his current net worth, if he’d simply invested it in the S&P 500.

 

Undermining Trump’s inevitability, the self-described winner’s first electoral outing was a loss to Cruz and near-upset by Rubio, as 76 percent of Iowa caucus-goers voted not-Trump. His New Hampshire victory was impressive, capturing all demographic groups, but two-thirds still voted not-Trump.

 

As under-performing contenders like Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina exit the crowded field, the eventual consolidation – and Trump’s record-breaking unfavorability in the general population – bode poorly for his candidacy.

 

Nevertheless, the ratings-magnet is well positioned to parlay popularity into a Trump network, like the media platform that made Michael Bloomberg – who’s contemplating his own self-funded presidential campaign – one of the world’s richest.

 

Another surprising result was Cruz’s defeat of King Corn in Iowa. The anti-Washington agitator won record numbers of votes in a historic GOP turnout while arguing that farmers are hurt by government ethanol mandates – not helped, as powerful agribusiness lobbyists allege.

 

Most extraordinary is Bernie Sander’s durability. Polls show the septuagenarian-socialist tied with Clinton nationally, after narrowly losing Iowa but routing her in New Hampshire where 93 percent of Democrats prioritizing honesty preferred Sanders.

 

Are voters drawn to Sanders’ socialism, or is he the beneficiary of a “no more Clintons” mindset, especially after reports the Clintons “earned” $153 million in speaking fees since leaving the White House?

 

It’s probably both, since Sanders’ support skews young. Thirsty for trustworthy leadership, “Sandernistas” have witnessed government bailouts and rampant cronyism, while suffering through the feeblest economic recovery since the Great Depression.

 

According to Pew Research, this generation is “the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment and lower levels of wealth and personal income.”

 

No wonder they find political revolution tempting. But they should study the American Revolution before accepting Sanders’ plan to concentrate ever-growing government power in the name of “social justice.” 

 

As founder James Madison explained, “The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”  Concerned that a government would eventually encroach on rights and liberties, Thomas Jefferson forecast “debt, corruption and rottenness,” absent constitutional guardrails.

 

That’s why, after overthrowing King George’s arbitrary and unfair rule, America’s founders established a government with limited powers to protect the equal rights of the people, believing the boundless potential of individuals operating in a free society would “make America great” – and they were right.

 

Yet as government has grown, so have its anti-competitive powers, corrupting our founders’ liberty-preserving system with cronyism that rewards political connections over competitive excellence.

 

Using massive powers to legislate, tax, spend and regulate, policymakers have rigged the economy and undermined the principles on which freedom, fairness and opportunity rely – equality under the law, property rights and sound money.

 

Given America’s heritage and Big Government’s dismal track record, it’s stunning that Sanders and Trump -- both advocates of using unprecedented government power to centrally plan and control economic life – could win New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” state.  Have its freedom-loving voters forgotten the national purpose their state helped found – the democratic self-rule of a free people?

 

Hopefully, America is in revolt and casting about for outsiders not because they want more government, but because of the failures of our hyper-politicized, unaccountable government: contaminated water, terrorist attacks, dying vets, IRS harassment, illegal immigration, health care chaos, and murdered U.S. diplomats and border guards.

 

Think Again – in this anti-conventional wisdom year, may our founders’ wisdom about the dangers of Big Government ultimately prevail.

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Your column is an excellent

Your column is an excellent summation of where we are at this point in the campaign.

I would, though, like to assert that the Republican Party itself is to blame for the disruptive nature of it all. This disgust with the party has been brewing for years and the smart ones thought they could maintain their power with opposition to those who point to changes that are necessary. Whether it was immigration, the debt, social issues or whatever, their main thrust was to tamp down the opposition. They mounted effective opposition to the tea party, impugned or co-opted those we elected as conservatives for their purposes and attacked the ones in Congress who had conviction.

When a true conservative privately tried to explain their position to the party leaders, they were basically told to shut up that they knew best; then the opposition resorted to public exhortation, which is continuing into this campaign. This politics of personal destruction by the Republican Party, the Republican leadership and the useful media have all played a part in what is happening.

Why do they say the only real Constitutionalist in the race -- Cruz -- can't win? Is it because the Republican Party has been the gang leader in his destruction. Imagine if they had understood they did not have the power to tamp down the disgust with the party that has been brewing for years?

Neither political party deserves to win with the candidates now considered the front runners, Trump, Sanders or Clinton. Is there still time for redemption; knowing the players, probably not and if we don't elect someone who has shown by deeds they have fought the good fight, we are just prolonging the political and financial agony Americans face someday very soon, if it isn't happening already.

Right now America is looking to the wrong fighters.

I've repeatedly admired your

I've repeatedly admired your work, Melanie, and your article above is good. The only problem I see is that you, like other writers, don't seem to honor the deep discontent among the voters on both sides. I will not vote for Jeb unless it's between him and Hillary, and even then, I may write in my own name. I know that I love my country and not power.Our interests and the interests of globalist don't seem to intersect. We are not the bad guys because we see what the Chamber of Commerce and open borders is trying to do.

Melanie, I don't view Trump

Melanie, I don't view Trump as an advocate of "using unprecedented government power to centrally plan and control economic life."

Today's central planners are the people who meet in Davos, who have no regard for American sovereignty or nationalism anywhere. It is global control of our economic life that the people of New Hampshire voted against.

Sanders has reignited "Battle of Seattle" anger at the WTO, and Trump is the second coming of Pat Buchanan (who also won the New Hampshire primary in 1996), who like Ross Perot railed against the "giant sucking sound" of jobs going to Mexico thanks to NAFTA and GATT. For the American worker, such international trade arrangements have been a one-way bad deal (except for bringing about cheaper consumer goods). If the New Hampshire vote wasn't an expression of "Live free or die," then I don't know what that means.

The Buchanan insurgency concluded with the nomination of Bob Dole -- hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished. Are Republicans going to do that again? I don't think the electorate is going to allow it this time around.

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