The election circus is now in full gear. Last week we had a Democratic and a Republican debate, then the New Hampshire primary, and this week we already had a Democratic debate that tonight will be followed by a Republican debate, before the Democrats are off to the Nevada caucus and the Republicans to the South Carolina (SC) primary. Both contests will be interesting, but the confrontation of the GOP candidates generates the highest expectations because of unique properties of both SC and the contestants. In SC the voters want to see if the candidates can take a punch, and therefore the primary has a reputation for violent exchanges and dirty tricks. Simultaneously, in the Republican field are the two biggest douchebags that have run for the party’s nomination in a long time, Trump and Cruz, who are projected to come in first and second. The plot is even thicker because although South Carolinians want to see the proverbial fight to the death they don’t want to hear any profanities, which takes away about as many tools from Trump as if he had his middle finger amputated, especially if Cruz gets under his skin.
The overtures to tonight’s debate have been promising. Lately Cruz has run attack ads against Trump focusing on the Donald’s attempt to use Eminent Domain to expand one of his casinos in Atlantic City in 1993. Trump continues to expose Cruz’s misleading flyers and robocalls in Iowa – which constituted voter intimidation and misinformation, by suggesting that Ben Carson had dropped out of the race – as fraud that cost him the victory in the caucus. Yesterday Trump announced that he has standing to sue Cruz for having been born in Canada and therefore not being eligible to run for the US presidency, and said that he would do so if Cruz doesn’t stop performing dirty tricks and lying about him. All these issues are expected to be front and center tonight. With this brutality going on the three remaining ‘establishment’ candidates, Kasich, Rubio and Bush, get very little attention. After first dropping his family name Jeb! dragged his 90 year old mother out on the frozen tundras of New Hampshire, and in SC his brother Dubya, a war criminal, is his main asset. And nobody understands why Ben Carson is still on the ballot.
On the Democratic side things are still more civilized but also heating up. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders largely share the same goals, so their main point of contention is about process, Hillary’s incrementalism versus Bernie’s political revolution. Sanders’s weakness when it comes to foreign policy is glaring, and in their most recent debate Hillary Clinton scored some points by saying that one correct vote on the Iraq war does not constitute a strategy against ISIS.
Now that the contest is moving from Outer Whitelandia to ethnically more diverse states the allegiance of the black voters to the Clintons becomes an important issue, and Hillary is fully exploiting Bernie’s criticism of Barack Obama, while presenting herself as the guardian of the president’s legacy. Sanders’s problem here is that he has written and said things he cannot deny.
If Bernie knew more about foreign policy, in particular the Middle East, he would be able to criticize both Obama and Hillary, but that is the blind spot that for now disqualifies him for the US presidency. His only hope is that young black voters break for him the way young whites do.