Thoughts on New Hampshire Primary

My ability to predict the outcome of elections is as bad as my ability to predict football games. Here’s what I wrote this past Sunday morning:

As for tonight’s [Super Bowl] game, I pick the Panthers. Since I’m making predictions, on Tuesday in New Hampshire, I think Donald Trump will just barely hang on and win the Republican primary, but I also think Hillary Clinton will overtake Bernie Sanders and will win on the Democratic side.

How’d I do?

Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10. I thought the Panther’s explosive offense and the mobility of quarterback Cam Newton would overwhelm the Bronco’s defense. I was wrong. The Bronco’s defense was just as effective against Carolina as it was against New England two weeks ago. The outcome of this game did put the Patriot’s loss to the Broncos (Denver 20, New England 18) in a much better perspective for New England.

As for politics, here are the final results percentage-wise for the New Hampshire primary:

Republicans —– %
Trump – 35.1
Kasich – 15.9
Cruz – 11.6
Bush – 11.1
Rubio – 10.6
Christie – 7.5
Fiorina – 4.2
Carson – 2.3

Democrats —- %
Sanders – 60.0
Clinton – 38.4

I didn’t put a lot of faith in the polls, however, they turned out to be quite accurate. I had memories of 2008 when it looked like Barack Obama’s momentum from Iowa would put him on top in New Hampshire, but Hillary Clinton pulled out a victory. I thought the same thing might happen this year despite Sanders being from a neighboring state (and despite the polls).

On the Republican side, I thought the national media had anointed Marco Rubio to be the “serious” alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but that was before Rubio’s Saturday night debate melt-down. I don’t know if that will prove fatal to his candidacy, but I’m reading stories quoting unnamed associates of his saying things like “Marco is a great guy but he tends to freeze-up in times of crisis.” Not exactly the campaign slogan you want attached to you when seeking the presidency. Even though the pack of “establishment” Republican candidates would surely divide up the vote, I never imagined that Trump would remain 20 points ahead of the pack.

But even more astounding than Trump’s finish was that of Sanders. Someone once said that Americans like everything about socialism but the label. Or as I sometimes put it, a program that benefits me is good government; a program that benefits you is socialism. When did socialism (OK, “democratic socialism”) become acceptable in mainstream America? Could it be that the Republicans have so over-used the term during the Obama presidency that its negative connotations have dissipated? I certainly hope so. My political sentiments are more in line with Bernie Sanders’s philosophy of government than they are Hillary Clinton’s. But unlike so many liberals, I’d rather win than be right, so I will vote for Clinton. In a national campaign against any of the Republicans, I think she stands the best chance of winning which is most important to me. For all the enthusiasm of Sanders’ supporters, I don’t believe the socialism-slur is as dead as we like to think it is. The billions of dollars that corporate America and the country’s monied interests would spend in a general election to demonize Sanders and socialism would tip the election in favor of the Republican candidate, whoever that might be, which would be disastrous. Don’t get me wrong: I think Hillary Clinton will make a fine president and I have no hesitation supporting her, both for her policies and for her gender. (And as for gender, I think the negative treatment of women in America is one of the most under-reported and under-acknowledged stories in American history).

One thing that struck me about the “average voter” profiles various media outlets shared in the run up to the New Hampshire primary was how often those interviewed struggled to choose between Trump and Sanders as the recipient of their vote. Trump or Sanders? That’s not exactly a choice of ideological nuance, is it? The only thing those two have in common is their status as outsiders, as rogue candidates who are challenging the insiders of both parties. I’m not sure that Trump has espoused a coherent philosophy of government as much as he has held up a mirror to the fears and grievances of those who support him. And while Sanders has most assuredly laid out a clear philosophy of governance, I don’t believe many who voted for him have given that much thought. If they did and then embraced it, that’s wonderful – but I just don’t think so many New Hampshire residents shifted from condemning socialists to being socialists in the course of this election. In the cases of both Trump and Sanders, I see their victories as a protest against the prevailing ways of government regardless of party. Will that protest continue across the country? I hope so, but I also doubt it. But then again, I picked the Panthers to win the Super Bowl.