How people elect parliaments
Where on earth are the Americans leading us all?
It matters to the world who the Americans elect as their president. With an angry, volatile electorate, economic recession in many parts of the nation, continuing international terrorist alarms, and after two Democratic presidential terms, the prospects for the US electorate turning to a Republican alternative are very real.
But the Republican party and it’s supporter base seem to be going to very extreme places.
In the candidate campaigns and national debate we’ve seen in recent months, what used to count as ordinary Republican mainstream opinion – they now get called ‘moderates’ , although by Australian standards* they always looked pretty extremely right-wing – has been pushed to the back of the pack.
The Republican voter base’s two semi-attached wings – the religious right and the nebulous, rebellious, insurgent tea party movement – have successfully driven their candidates ahead of the representatives of the ‘moderate’ mainstream, and the two wings have at least partially merged – certainly in the figure of Ted Cruz.
The right insurgents bring with them will notions of ‘constitutional’ purity. It’s actually very much a modern fantasy account of what the US constitution is meant to be and do. If ever implemented, it would gut much of the nation’s institutions of democratic government. Their positions on domestic policies such as healthcare financing, gun regulation, personal freedoms and religious tolerance would also never find common cause with the mainstream conservative parties of Australia, Britain, Canada, France or Germany.
Yet in the hour of their ascendancy over the ‘moderate’ establishment, the wild, angry politics which has been brewing in the Republican base for several years has allowed an even stranger force to outflank them. The billionaire property developer, media personality and generally notorious celebrity Donald Trump is running, and winning the polls, and has become the centre of momentum in this entire presidential election year.
So the Republicans now have three forces in the field: Trump, broadly polling 35% support among Republican voters; a group of religious/tea party candidates broadly totalling 30%, and as many as six moderate establishment candidates totalling around 25% between them.
The Republican establishment hasn’t lost control of its party’s nominee since 1964 – over half a century ago. That didn’t end well. Now it’s hard to see how the establishment will regain control of a dramatic primary election season in just a matter of weeks.
This matters – to everyone in the world, not just americans.
(* Back in 2008, I had a conversation with one of the elders of the Australian Liberal Party’s economic ‘dries’ – the recently deceased Jim Carlton – in which even he suggested that on grounds of political policy, Australian Liberals would probably find Hillary Clinton the most appropriate 2008 presidential candidate to support. I wonder what they’re thinking now.)