Comedy. Tragedy. Reality Show. All television genres, and all terms used to describe this presidential election.
Americans are — rightly — mad at Washington for its inability to get anything positive done. We watch as the fur flies and fingers are pointed, with Republicans and Democrats laying the blame on each other or the bogeyman du jour on this week’s episode of “Congress.” Meanwhile, the Washington literati have decided it is the GOP’s fault; the once-Grand Ol’ Party is now full of partisans and people unwilling to compromise.
So, with only three candidates remaining in the race to lead our nation, let’s hit the “info” button on our political remote and see if we can’t find the uncompromising and the partisans.
We will begin with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, by any objective measure, is an ideologue. That is one of the reasons people love him. He wants universal, government-provided health care, government-provided higher education, and countless other items on the progressive wish list. He advocates for them unabashedly and unapologetically; incrementalism is a dirty word. Nevermind the analysis of the left-leaning Brookings Institution, which shows his proposals run afoul of basic math, the magical Berning Political Revolution will not be stopped.
Yet despite Sanders’ strident ideology, he is not a partisan. He only recently joined the Democratic Party, apparently for the sole purpose of running for president. While he is an avowed socialist, he does not seem to put his newly-adopted party above his core tenets — see the Goldman Sachs attacks against Secretary Hillary Clinton. When Bernie lambasts Republicans, it is because he disagrees with them, not merely because they are members of the GOP.
Meanwhile, Hillary is the negative image of Bernie. She isn’t particularly ideological, having “evolved” countless times over her career. Indeed, much of her campaign celebrates “getting things done” — code for compromise — to distinguish her from Sanders.
But, while she sets aside ideology for pragmatism, she is very much a partisan Democrat. Her first residency in the White House included tinfoil-hat accusations about a “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy,” while in the present campaign she describes her fellow Americans in the Republican Party as her enemies. She ignores the fact that, in foreign policy, she is probably more of a hawk than the GOP frontrunner.
Lastly, there is that frontrunner: the man, the myth, the Donald. Behind the image and rhetoric, he doesn’t hew to a particular ideology. That is the major accusation conservatives levy against him. He thinks wages are too high in the United States versus the rest of the world, but wants states to raise the minimum wage. Under his administration, we will scale back our international footprint, but our allies will know we are closer than ever. He even proposes massive tax cuts while simultaneously supporting tax increases (like fixing carried interest, which is a good idea).
As for partisanship? It is hard to call someone who wrote checks to John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Chuck Schumer a partisan Republican. The war of words between him and others in the GOP have been more heated than those directed toward the Democrats; Reagan’s 11th Commandment is shredded confetti lining the road to Cleveland.
In a nation of 320 million people, three New Yorkers remain: an ideologically pure socialist, a pragmatic partisan Democrat, and Donald Trump. The plot twist? Behind the persona and speeches, Trump is the least partisan and ideological candidate remaining. He is all about “making deals” — exactly what Washington and Democrats have called for from the Republican Party.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, live, from America, it’s Election 2016. And no matter how much the ratings drop, we can’t turn it off.