Our quadrennial presidential tournament was playing out like the normal boring political cage match six months ago. While the smart money remains on the choices of the major party elite, things are getting interesting here on the eve of the Iowa Caucus.
The latest polls show the competition is fierce. Or not. Never one to trust polls, I instead rely on direct observation and clearly the gladiators know this will be a battle not an anointing. This is good news because watching otherwise intelligent people defend Hilary and The Donald is better than Super Bowl commercials. But sadly no more substantive.
This is all very entertaining for those of us excluded from the process.
I wish the headlines shocked me. “As Trump and Cruz Soar, G.O.P. Leaders’ Alarm Grows”, and “Two Hired Guns for Clinton and Sanders in Iowa Showdown” are the policy bereft lead stories for the New York Times as I write. Apparently, actual statements of policy greater than tweet-sized are the sole province of the Brookings or Cato ivory towers. Cheering Americans are again lining up on the Democratic or AFC sidelines to watch our gladiators throw down.
It’s déjà voters all over again.
Legislation has infamously been compared to sausage making. Politicians suggest that citizens do not really want to see how it is done, but it is clear that ugliness doesn’t bothers Americans—indeed, they love their politics grisly. Though often lacking even a fundamental understanding of the issues, they viscerally discern that too much unlabeled pork is making it into the all-beef sausage.
Money trumps our high ideals every time.
On a good election day, roughly 50% of Americans sleep in rather than go to the polls. I am convinced that they find the uncompromising dysfunction of government simply exhausting. Why bother when authentic change cannot rationally be anticipated from the limited choices on their ballots? They feel disenfranchised, not apathetic.
But there is a hint this year—just a hint—that change may be in the air. “Outsiders” like Bernie Sander and Donald Trump are, if you are the sort that pays attention to polls, encroaching on the anointed of the political machines.
And now, we hear Michael Bloomberg may toss his hat (and his billions) into the ring. Just when I thought I’d seen everything now that a barrel of oil costs less than a salmon, we may have a socialist, a megalomaniac and a bizillionaire moderate vying for the oval office.
A moneyed non-partisan might just have a shot in this strange brew.
Don’t worry: I’m not getting my hopes up. The partisan drums beat loudly and the American voters will, as is their tradition, respond. Pundits are already churning out analysis of whether Bloomberg would hurt the Reds or the Blues more.
Perhaps Bloomberg is just what is needed to shake up the ruling class and get We the People out its two-party malaise. I do not yet know if Bloomberg is someone I can get behind or not. But I do know that the over-sleeping 50% are a reservoir waiting to be tapped. For the first time in a very long time, there is the possibility of an authentic change agent on the ballot. Perhaps I too will set my alarm early on November 8th.
But don’t hold your breath.