Our Political Parties Are Behind the Times

REAL CLEAR POLITICS is offering a mind-bending set of survey results showing how respondents would vote in hypothetical general-election match-ups.  A number of organizations conduct these surveys, and at the moment the results of all of them are pretty consistent.

Clinton vs. Trump
Clinton would win

Clinton vs. Cruz
Clinton would win, but more narrowly

Clinton vs. Kasich
Kasich would win

Sanders vs. Trump
Sanders would win

Sanders vs. Kasich
Sanders would win

Sanders vs. Cruz
Sanders would win

These fascinating results help correct the myopia that sets in during the primary season, when passions within the parties control the focus.  On the Democratic side, Sanders is losing the delegate race to Clinton, yet in a general election he might fare better than she.  His positions, though untenable, might be more palatable than the kinds of ideas the Republicans are touting, for according to the polls, he would beat any of the remaining GOP candidates handily.

Interestingly, Clinton, though holding her own within her party, would fare less well than Sanders nationally.  She will be lucky if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, because, of the three remaining GOP candidates, he is the only one she can probably beat.  She might be beaten by Cruz, and the lowly Kasich, according to these numbers, would defeat her easily.

Overall, these surveys highlight the blinkered condition of the parties.  Sanders, the candidate the Democratic establishment has refused to accept, points up the existence of a dominant voter base that Clinton’s candidacy isn’t capturing.  Clinton is electable, but Sanders is even more electable than she.  Old-style Democrats don’t want to see this.  They don’t want to abandon the comfortable centrist positions they’ve grown accustomed to.  They’re ignoring the reveille: new, more egalitarian policies are what the nation wants and needs.

On the Republican side, we see confirmation of what we knew from the start, that the Republican field was weak though large.  The two Democratic candidates are more in sync with national sentiment than are their counterparts in the GOP.  Overall, the Democrats are more likely to prevail.  Meanwhile, the GOP’s most viable candidates, Trump (on the basis of primary support) and Kasich (on the basis of electability), are those the party has been most unfriendly toward.  Cruz’s candidacy provides the sole hope for the staunchly conservative wing of the Republican party, a minority element that continues to jeopardize the health of a national mainstream Republicanism.

Neither political party has proved adept at accommodating the sentiments of the voters, who are demanding new leadership and significant ideological reform.

6 responses

  1. Gee, very interesting poll numbers. I had no idea that Sanders was more favored than any of the three GOP candidates. Hmmmm and hmmmm again. He has been amazingly adroit at raising vast amounts of money from millions of small contributors–that tells a story in itself. As far as I recall, the last candidate to raise major bucks from millions of small donors was Obama. . . . Nice essay; as always, your clear and cogent writing is a dream to read !

    • It’s worth noting that Sanders has refrained from attacking Clinton on several fronts where she is likely to be attacked in the general election. In that sense, her candidacy has not been vetted thoroughly in the primaries. Last night, we saw a preview of the attacks she’s going to receive if Trump is her opponent. He is going to depict her as an ineffectual Secretary of State, he is going to make the email issue into a major rally cry, he is going to associate her with NAFTA and job flight, and argue that she knows nothing about job creation. I think she’s going to have a tough time winning, particularly if Trump stays on message and argues ‘it’s all about the economy’ (which was her husband’s winning mantra, ironically).

  2. What a perfect, or as someone else said, a very clear and cogent analysis. Even my right wing Trump supporters will understand this! You are so right about Bernie Sanders! Well done as usual!

    • Thanks, Michele. The entrenched pols are certainly less eager for change than the voters and several of the candidates. There is going to be a colossal amount of deal-making leading up to both conventions. Do you think either of the parties is going to change much? It’s still not clear.