Modern Populism: Right and Left

There is a new national poll out today. Trump is not only leading but his percentage is about equal to the sum of his two nearest competitors, Walker and Bush, who are about equal in the poll. There is a separate Iowa poll that shows him in second place behind Walker. Even this is remarkable because Trump has never appealed to the evangelicals who dominate the Iowa caucuses. Meanwhile Sanders is surging in New Hampshire and is drawing rowdy crowds that Clinton must view with some envy if not concern.

Now all of this needs to be taken in context with previous cases of voter insurgency. During the same period of the last Presidential election cycle, the leading Republicans were Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, both of whom quickly disappeared. But this time might conceivably be different. mad-as-hell3There is a growing and vocal segment of the voting population whose principal message is one word: dissatisfaction. They occupy both sides of the political spectrum and may even customarily vote a straight party line. It takes a lot to nudge them off their habitual votes, but perhaps this time might be the charm.

There are always intra-party disputes, but they very rarely rise to a level where party allegiances fracture. Parties have enormous leverage over our political system, but I wouldn’t say it is impossible for new parties of real significance and persistence to arise, leading to a parliamentary flavor for our legislative system.

There is a possibility that right now we are evolving into a true four-party system: the two classical parties plus a substantial outlier on each of their fringes. These outliers really have no party allegiance. They share some beliefs with their parents but they are losing any hope that they can find common ground with them because there is basic disagreement on some crucial issues.

The principal spokespeople for these insurgencies at present are Donald Trump on the right and Elizabeth Warren, or her surrogate Bernie Sanders, on the left. Listen to what each is saying. I see a fundamental disconnect with their nominal party affiliations. Some of their diagnoses may be the same, but their prescriptions are radically different. And perhaps just as significant, even these leaders are not quite in tune with the grumbling masses who yearn for even more radical change.