Toward a Diagnosis of Our Politics

Trump Sanders Clinton

I’ve said for years that President Obama — the quasi-monarchical head of a selectively but systematically lawless regime — is more of a symptom than the disease. I think the same of Donald Trump. I don’t mean Donald Trump the person; I mean Donald Trump the Republican front runner. Donald Trump of reality television (pardon the oxymoron). Donald Trump the foul-mouthed verbal bully. Donald Trump, the least convincing conservative impersonator¬†we’ve seen at the head of the pack in a long time. (Rabid right-wingers will insert their own snide Mitt Romney joke here, I suspect. But he would have been a great president, even if he’s not conservative enough for you and you and you and you and maybe me.)

Meanwhile, with a less partisan Department of Justice the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton, would probably be facing — and in fact may yet face — federal indictment on many counts of knowingly treating classified and secret materials with all the seriousness due to recipes published in the food section of last week’s Sunday Times. And she’s losing states to Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist whose appeal crosses demographic lines, but is particularly strong among young adults who have not yet been required by curriculum or circumstances to learn how the world works.

The symmetry here is that millions of voters are so hostile to establishment candidates on both sides of the aisle that they are voting for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. It is a remarkable time in our politics, though not a particularly encouraging time.

There are some very smart people (among many others) thinking and writing about this. Here I’ll offer some highlights from the best recent explanations I’ve seen. Peggy Noonan looms large here; she’s a perennial favorite of mine. I’ll also throw in some George Will, some Charles Krauthammer, some (American-turned-Brit) Janey Daley, a bit of Mark Steyn (an Aussie), and even some David Brooks (who sometimes plays a conservative on television but must, in general, be embraced with particular caution).

In each case I am excerpting longer essays or columns which you should read in their entirety. I offer the excerpts as much to persuade you of that as to offer an explanation of the Trump/Sanders phenomenon here. (Note: The fact that I have called the phenomenon after its most prominent current symptoms does not mean they are the only symptoms, or that the disease is not rampant at other levels of government. We’ve been fighting it locally in my city, American Fork, Utah, for some time in our own quirky way.)

Notes on Election Results (and Some Housekeeping)

Let’s review some election results and consider what we’ve learned and what we might foresee.

United States Senate

Republicans seized a majority in the US Senate, picking up at least seven seats. However, they don’t have a veto-proof or even filibuster-proof majority. So expect gridlock to shift around a little, and the President to have to trade his golf clubs for a pen now and then to veto some bills. But at least a lot more bills — substantive ones, I mean — passed by the House might get to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. That will be a nice change.

It appears that Senator Orrin Hatch will become chair of the Senate Finance Committee and President Pro Tem of the Senate. We’ll find out if that’s worth something (as I thought when I campaigned for him) or just a nice-sounding theory (as the opposition thought).

US House of Representatives

As I write this, we’re still waiting for some returns from the Western US, especially California, but it appears that the Republicans will increase their House majority by at least ten seats. They still won’t have a veto-proof majority, but with their different rules they don’t have filibusters, so 60% is not a meaningful threshold.