There has been no shortage of clichés to describe this presidential campaign. But clichés are not necessarily wrong; they’re just tiresome. Here are three of my favorites:
“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Actually, for the Democrats, it is over. Clinton will be the nominee.
“Chickens coming home to roost,” and its cousin “If you sow the wind you reap the whirlwind.” Many pundits are using these last two clichés to write the obituary for the Republican Party. Here’s their evidence: establishment Republicans decided to obstruct most of President Obama’s agenda and in doing so made government seem ineffective, if not disreputable. This played into the hands of Tea Party Republicans, who exploited voter discontent and disillusion. The combined result was that the mainstream Republican Party had little of substance to offer voters.
Along come Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump has precious little substance for voters but lots of attitude, defiance and easy targets. To keep the clichés coming: Trump is now hanging ten on a giant wave.
Polls show Clinton, who will wrap up the Democratic nomination soon, beating Trump. So for many political analysts the big question is: How long will Clinton’s coattails be?
Many suggest that the GOP will lose the U.S. Senate and have its House majority drastically reduced. They will lose state legislative seats and some governorships they might otherwise win. These are likely outcomes. It could be a good Democratic year.
But it should be a good Democratic year anyway. The electorate during a presidential year is different from an off-year like 2014 – younger, less white, more liberal. Democrats would do pretty well regardless of who is at the top of either ticket.
So in my opinion the big question is not how long Clinton’s coattails will be. It is: Are Democrats going to let a Clinton victory, which will be historic to be sure, distract them from fixing the serious problems that in 2010 and 2014 cost them dozens of Congressional seats and hundreds of state legislative seats?
2016 will not be what political scientists call a realigning election. If it is a disaster for Republicans it will most closely resemble 1964. Barry Goldwater led the GOP to a crushing defeat at all levels. Four years later Richard Nixon won, won again in 1972, and soon thereafter Republicans were positioned for the Reagan era. The GOP learned their lesson after 1964.
The fundamentals of American electoral politics will not change because of the 2016 election. The two-part system will endure. The GOP will keep control of lots of state legislatures, Missouri’s included, until at least 2022. Because of those off-year wave elections in 2010 and 2014, the GOP farm system is flourishing and the Democratic farm system is in disarray. And finally, Republican voter flirtation with demagoguery will be a spent force.
So the pertinent cliché for the 2016 election may be another classic from Yogi Berra, may he rest in peace – It’s déjà vu all over again.