Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Contest Begins

America's perpetual election cycle is preparing to take another pause for actual voting. Obama is in his last full year as President of the United States and so the contest to replace him will soon officially get underway. Of course candidates have been jockeying and competing with one another for well over a year but the actual voting does not begin until February 1, the date of the Iowa Caucus. For those of you who may not have followed an American presidential contest before, it can be a complicated process. Each American state/territory holds a caucus or primary to select delegates for the national convention that chooses the presidential candidate.

The Democratic contest has been rather sedate. Hillary Clinton is by far the front runner. She leads in every poll, and most state polls that I have seen. Her challenger is Bernie Sanders, Senator for Vermont. Sanders has been the progressive conscience of the congress for many years and is a self-declared socialist. Sanders only hope is if the anti-Clinton vote manifests again, but that seems unlikely given his firm left-wing positions.

Most of the excitement, it is fair to say, has been in the Republican contest. Donald Trump leads in all the early primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida). However his lead has been slipping, mostly to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. I shared an article by David Brooks last week in Worth Reading. Despite the legitimacy conveyed by his title Cruz remains a harsh ideologue. This should not be interpreted as a sensible move towards the establishment by Republican primary voters.

More moderate, sensible Republican choices such as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Carly Fiorina are nowhere in this race. Bush leads this group and he's polling at 5% in Iowa and 8% in New Hampshire. Despite an open shot at the White House Republicans seem poised to select what can only be described as a fringe candidate. Donald Trump's right-wing populism and success of other outsider candidates like Ben Carson, has pushed the more 'normal' candidates into extreme ground.

I'd like to dismiss the possibility that Donald Trump might become the Republican candidate for president, but looking at the polls it is hard to shake. It seems pretty clear that his support has been slipping over the last couple of weeks, but Cruz has been the primary beneficiary.

Years ago I listened to Republican and Democratic strategists repeat the basic theory that if the Republican Party remains the party of White Men then it is doomed. America is becoming increasingly diverse. Having candidates that openly alienate entire segments of the population, i.e. Latinos is a recipe for irrelevance.

I stopped following American politics closely around 2009, but the prospect of these primaries has awoken my morbid sense of curiosity. I haven't been paying close enough attention to make any predictions as this stage, but with a tight Republican contest I will definitely cast my eye southwards from time to time. 

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