Saturday, January 23, 2016

Is a hole opening up in the center of American politics?

Although Hillary Clinton (51.2%) still leads Bernie Sanders (38%) in the most recent national polls among Democratic primary voters, according to Real Clear Politics, Sen. Sanders is now well ahead in New Hampshire (51.6% to 36.8%), closing the gap in Iowa (41.5% to 47.9%) and ripe with momentum just about everywhere. 

In mid-November, Sanders had trailed Clinton in Iowa by 25%. He has narrowed that to just 6.4%. In early December, Sanders was ahead by just 2% in New Hampshire. That lead has now grown to 14.8%. And Mrs. Clinton was ahead nationally by 27.4%. She now leads by half that, 13.2%. 

If Sanders could keep up this momentum and win the Democratic nomination, a great void would open up in the middle of the political spectrum. 

Sanders is far to the left of the American center on most issues. The Republicans will likely nominate someone who is either far right and unlikeable (Cruz) or simply too extreme (Trump) for the comfort of centrist voters.

That suggests that we may have a serious independent challenger who will run as a middle-of-the-road centrist. Normally, that’s a losing proposition for the person who tries. He won’t have a party backing him, helping get out the votes. And the two major party nominees normally moderate their views in order to draw as much as they can from the center in the general election.

But, if it is Sanders and Cruz, they each have very little appeal to the center. Each has always been on the extremist fringe. They have long records of not compromising their views. They are ideologues. No matter how much they might try, they will never win over the American mainstream.

Trump is a slightly different story than Cruz. His problem in the general election is less about him being too conservative. He does not seem to have a fixed point of view. Some times he is pro-choice, other times pro-life. He has been against guns and for the NRA. He has been in favor of single-payer healthcare and completely against it. His flip-floppy ideology has made him unpopular among dyed-in-the-wool conservative intellectuals, who see Trump as a philosophical fraud, not one of their own.

Insofar as Trump is just seen as an egomaniacal oddball, Trump will probably have trouble winning votes in the center in the general election.  Most middle-of-the-road Americans don’t agree with Trump on kicking out all 12 million illegal aliens; they don’t like his prejudicial views toward all Muslims; and Trump will very likely not be able to win the votes of the largest growing bloc of American voters, Latinos. 

Additionally, in trying to win the votes of Republicans, Trump has adopted a very right-wing view on all social policies, including a strong opposition to abortion, gay marriage and gun control. Those positions are not popular in the American center. Trump may or may not change those positions after he wins the GOP nod. However, if he does, it will only alienate him from the right-wing. A last-minute conversion is unlikely to win him votes from the center.

So if it is Trump or Cruz against Sanders, look for someone to fill the middle. A possibility for that spot is Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor.

“Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York mayor, is considering making an independent bid for the presidency, a move that could mark yet another wild turn in a 2016 race that has already seen more than its share of them.

Three associates said that several factors have convinced him that a run outside of the Republican and Democratic party process is worth another look.

One is the possibility that the Republican ticket may be headed by a polarizing figure, such as his fellow New York billionaire Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), the two leaders of the race at this stage.

The other is that the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, may turn out to be a far weaker candidate than was once expected — and might even lose the nomination to Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist whose mainstream appeal is in question.

If the right combination of those possibilities begins to look likely — something Bloomberg thinks could be clear in March, after the first big round of state primaries — it is possible they could create an opening for him to make a credible run as an independent.  …

In addition to his considerable financial resources, Bloomberg has a reputation as a skilled manager and political bridge builder. The onetime Republican has moderate views on social issues.

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