–“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”–
The classic 1976 movie Network, written by Paddy Chayefsky, included this line from the now famous rant by the burned out newsman Howard Beale, one which captures the mood of the American electorate this year. Voters appear angry at establishment politicians and American elites, with that anger expressed through support of political outsiders.
Donald Trump — a political outsider widely mocked prior to the GOP primaries — is the presumptive Republican nominee for President. Trump is waging a campaign that is more like reality-show The Apprentice than typical campaign: heavy with insults but light with facts and policy substance. Hillary Clinton has now mathematically sewn up the Democratic nomination, but is still contending with fierce opposition within her party from another outsider in the person of the self-described “democratic-socialist” Bernie Sanders.
Current polls suggest that Clinton has the inside track to win the general election. However, Trump has overcome the conventional wisdom of ‘experts’ throughout this race, so it is premature to discount his chances to overcome the gap with Clinton. Despite the strong negative reaction by many to Trump, polls indicate that more than half the electorate have a negative impression of both candidates. Whether fair or not, current polls indicate a deep dissatisfaction with the leading candidates to be America’s next president.
Observers looking for clues about how to understand this election may be better served by binge-watching Survivor, The Apprentice and The Real World and reviewing Facebook and Twitter trends than by listening to the ‘insiders’ who typically analyze political developments.
“I Don’t Know”
The character played by Sean Penn gave this deadpan answer to a teacher’s question in the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Despite daily speculation about how President Trump would lead the country, I don’t think anyone (including the candidate) really knows how a Trump administration would work.
Would Trump tone down his demeanor if elected, or would he insult world leaders, start trade wars and use the mechanisms of government to attack domestic critics? Beyond Trump’s rhetoric, he’s offered little policy detail and few clues about how he would govern.
Clinton has more of a track record to draw from, and several world leaders have publicly and privately expressed their comfort with her as the potential successor to President Obama. However, political analysts speculate about whether Clinton would tilt in favor of more liberal policy approaches to attract supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, or whether she would move toward the centrist approach adopted by Bill Clinton during his presidency.
Considerable uncertainty about how each candidate would govern is likely to remain, even after election results are in.