10 February 2016

New Hampshire votes against the establishment


Several hours after the polls closed in New Hampshire last night, it appeared that the night’s two winners, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, were leading the next most popular candidate of their party by a margin of about twenty points. Their victories, and the voter turnout, appear to have been historic in the state which prides itself on holding the first primary contest in the country.

A year ago, their victories would have been almost unfathomable. In February, 2015 Hillary Clinton was leading Sanders by almost 50 points. With her twenty point loss last night, that means Clinton’s support plummeted about 70 percent in just one year. If that’s not an indictment of Clinton’s campaign on standard Democratic policies and platforms, nothing else could be.

Democrats aren’t just sick of the corruption and lies from the Clinton camp, but the status quo of the entire party as well. If Democrats wanted a comparable alternative to Clinton, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley would have garnered more than 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses. Democratic voters want a drastically different candidate, and they have found it in avowed socialist Bernie Sanders.

The exact same can be said about Trump’s candidacy, which has coalesced into an indictment against how the “establishment” of the GOP has nominated more moderate candidates with Mitt Romney and John McCain in the past two election cycles.

Sanders is in a two-man race with former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, while Trump is pitted against a fractured Republican field which split the rest of its support fairly evenly between four other candidates.

On the GOP side, the race has been volatile from the start, where Donald Trump’s presence was treated as first a source of amusement, then later as a nuisance, and finally, as a threat to the establishment of the Republican Party. Because the GOP field is so fractured, it’s unable to form a coherent front to counter Trump’s candidacy in a serious way.

The GOP field has winnowed slightly already since the results of the New Hampshire primary were announced, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announcing the suspension of his campaign. Unfortunately the elimination of a handful of bottom tier candidates won’t do much to unite the party against Trump’s demagoguery.

Anyone hoping New Hampshire, generally a bellwether state for determining party nominees would slow down or stop the more extreme wings of the Democratic and Republican parties should brace themselves for a long and tumultuous road ahead. All eyes are on South Carolina, which, if polling in the state holds true in two week’s time, might deliver a similar result we saw tonight in New Hampshire.

Bethany Mandel writes on politics and culture.