Walt’s Soapbox: Battle of New Hampshire

It was around 7:00 PM when I woke up from an ill-advised nap. It had been somewhat of an off-beat day; no nearby substitute teaching gigs for the new job. But I still had the New Hampshire primary to look forward to.

I lit a cigarette and turned on MSNBC. They were showing Trump and Sanders with strong leads in the early returns, roughly 5% of precincts reporting in. An hour later, they called it for both candidates with less than ten percent reporting. It seemed too quick. So I stuck with the news to see if the results would change once a significant amount of the vote was counted.

The base numbers didn’t change much; Trump indeed did take New Hampshire with a commanding lead, ultimately winning 35% percent of the vote. The Huffington Post reported Trump’s victory with possibly the best headline in recent American political journalism, saying “A Racist, Sexist Demagogue Just Won The New Hampshire Primary”. It sounds cruel, biased, and maybe not in the ethics of “objective journalism”, but it’s also the truth.

Trump has ridden his Presidential Campaign on virtually nothing but cheap attacks, bigoted rants, and an ego bigger than John Holmes’s dick. The Donald certainly seemed better than he did after his loss in Iowa last week; there was none of the swallowed pride feel, no holding back, he spoke with signature crass megalomania that we’ve come to expect.

But the real surprise on the Republican side came from second place winner, John Kasich, one of the only GOP candidates who may not be certifiably insane. Kasich has had difficulties gaining any traction; his numbers in Iowa were so dismal that no major news network saw fit to even mention them. He pulled in a respectable 16% percent of the vote, getting some national coverage that his campaign desperately needs. And his victory speech before a crowded room of supporters spoke of the very things he seems to be campaigning on, saying that there might be room yet for a candidate who doesn’t engage in cheap insults and the politics of scum. The GOP establishment may soon be looking at Kasich if he can carry some momentum into Nevada and South Carolina.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who gambled virtually his entire campaign on New Hampshire, came in at sixth place with only 7% of the vote. Shortly after the sun rose the next morning, news was coming that Christie would be suspending his campaign. So long Governor, it just wasn’t your time.

Noted GOP underdog Jim Gilmore managed to crack triple digits with 131 votes. Fellow political junkie Pat Noble told me, “Jim Gilmore is going to take it. No one can stop the #Gilmentum.” Why not Gilmore? Certainly he’s better than Trump, even though we know pretty much nothing about him.

On the Democratic side of things, it was nothing short of a brutal stomping as Bernie Sanders took 60% of the vote, over 50,000 ahead of Hillary Clinton who took 38%. Sanders results are being reported as the biggest victory by any candidate in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary. Before a packed house of supporters, Bernie proclaimed “This is nothing short of a political revolution!”.

It certainly may signal the beginning of a major shift in the way Democrats run political campaigns. Bernie has been running a ground game that is unbelievable, shunning the big money donors and the Super PACs, and instead, going wherever there’s a mic and a place to speak. He has been going out of his way to keep his shoes on the floor and shake hands with every potential voter and goddamn, they seem to be listening.

It’s not just his ground game that is driving Bernie’s rise on the campaign trail, it’s his steadfast refusal to engage in the low-brow mudslinging that has been a hallmark of Presidential politics since god knows when. That should have been a suicidal move. Nobody plays dirtier than the legendary Clinton machine. But his puritanical campaigning seems to be working. Bernie’s focus on issues and where he stands is not only getting people excited, it’s getting them to the polls.

Maybe it’s not a political revolution, but a refreshing chance for someone to make a good stab at the Presidency without being a scumbag. We’ll see how his campaign carries into Nevada and South Carolina.

Clinton has certainly held nothing back in the past week since Bernie took her to a fierce dead heat in Iowa. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said at an event last week that there was a “special place in hell” for young women who didn’t vote for Hillary. And on Bill Maher’s show, Gloria Steinem said that the reason young women were flocking to Bernie’s campaign was because “that’s where the boys are” (Steinem later apologized for her remarks). Clinton’s campaign is showing serious signs of damage. She seemed willing to write off Iowa as a fluke and while she probably didn’t expect to win New Hampshire, being that Sanders is a Vermont Senator; she certainly didn’t expect to lose like she did.

What is Hillary to do? Her well-oiled political machine seems to be rattling apart and she’s getting a harsh lesson that big money donors and big endorsements won’t carry you to a guaranteed victory. It may be too late for her to do a radical reconstruction on her campaign.

The one last card she seems to have to play is her favor with the Democratic establishment; while Bernie won the popular vote in New Hampshire by a landslide, Hillary got a bigger share of the delegate count.

How? Well, New Hampshire has what are called “superdelegates”. Basically, party hacks who are allowed to commit to whatever candidate they want and to hell with what the votes say. Out of eight superdelegates, six pledged their support to Hillary, with the other two remaining uncommitted. With the superdelegates, Hillary’s count of committed delegates from New Hampshire is 15, while Sanders received 13.

On the outside of things, Vermin Supreme picked up 256 votes in the Democratic Primary. He has been campaigning on a pledge to give every American a free pony and well, “Who can argue with that?”. If he picks up more steam as the campaigns move into Nevada and South Carolina, maybe the country can get behind him. Who doesn’t want a free pony?

The bottom line is that this election season seems to be rattling the nerves of both parties. Neither Trump nor Sanders is a favorite within the establishment. The GOP knows that giving Trump the nomination would be a death wish for the party, throwing them into a spiral of bigotry and ignorance not seen since the Dixiecrats. The DNC knows that a Sanders nomination would force them into a more progressive stance, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. The Democratic Party has been a center-right party for the last thirty years, a step to the left could only help them in the long run.

 


Featured image credit: http://oogeewoogee.com

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