So now with the capitulation of conservative Ted Cruz and whiny moderate John Kasich, we are left with two big-government Democrats, insiders both of them, each with problems with the truth:
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
And one will be president of the United States.
You might be asking yourself: What difference, at this point, does it make?
Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. She’s the ultimate insider, the queen of what’s left of the American political establishment. Republicans approach her on bended knee. Corporatists sing her praises. And the neocon hawks who pushed the war in Iraq now run from the GOP they helped ruin and yearn for the warmth beneath her wings.
And Trump is the economic nationalist, a vulgar braggart. There’s nothing remotely conservative about the man, a guy who’ll use the hammer of big government to exert his will, as would she.
Though formally the Republican outsider, he made much of his fortune playing the insider game, writing campaign checks to Democrats, buying politicians the way some of us buy pets. His admission that he knows the corrupt system inside and out — and his vow to disrupt it — has been part of his appeal.
Perhaps the safe thing to do is line up with the meat puppets of one tribe or the other and shout slogans. You can play the woman card against Trump or the neverhillary card against Clinton. There’s nothing as soothing in times of uncertainty as screaming insults while blaming others for insulting you.
Anger and witless adolescent snark is always the easiest play during times of uncertainty like this one. Political operatives love it, because it helps herd voters into the feed lots, to fatten them up for November.
Those who resist going tribal will consider there is the makeup of the Supreme Court to think about, and the economy, and all of this against the backdrop of Trump’s insane and boorish insults, and Clinton’s long history of lies and deceit.
You’ll see the Republican establishment play the blame game, as Democrats hope Hillary is given a pass from that all-important FBI primary — that investigation into her private-server emails while secretary of state.
One thing the GOP establishment is good at is assessing fault, as long as they’re not wearing the jacket for it. Right now it’s being heaped on conservative Ted Cruz.
But this wasn’t Cruz’s fault. Yes, he pulled out of the campaign after losing in Indiana, and yes, he had the overbearing public speaking style of a fire-and-brimstone preacher warning us of eternal damnation.
Yet what really hurt him was TV, particularly Fox News, latching on to Trump early on, feeding his cult of personality, quickly killing off my favorite candidate, libertarian Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. And the other networks followed suit, playing for ratings by going all Trump all the time.
The blame game is all about noise. It’s about self-preservation, about insiders and their toadies keeping their posts secure, their access to power operational. It is the way of all chattering classes in an empire. These aren’t the revolutionaries who are shot after the revolution is over. These are the ones who make moves and prosper. They live in Virginia and Maryland, or Georgetown. And they have much to lose.
What should terrify them is that we’re at the beginning of a political reformation, amid clear signs that the corrupt political establishment of both parties — that gooey, crony-capitalist center — is imploding.
Americans are tired of them. And they know it.
That caving center is what made Trump the presumptive GOP nominee. And it also drives the young on the political left to socialist Bernie Sanders.
The conventional wisdom is that Clinton will destroy Trump in November. I’ve always pictured him as a useful barbarian, one to break the GOP establishment gates to terrorize those fat cats inside who deserve it. But I wouldn’t be so sure he loses this one.
He’s led an anti-establishment revolution on the GOP side, but the Democrats are just as radicalized behind Sanders, with Clinton barely holding on.
Trump, the other ultimate insider, is now positioned as the anti-establishment change agent with his new deal of economic nationalism and threats of trade war.
Clinton is stuck with the old New Deal, apportioning out government goodies by demographics, by race and class, the way old-style Chicago ward bosses handed out turkeys and hams for Christmas.
Trump is a vicious, reflexive political counterpuncher — as sharp with his elbows as the Clintons — and that is considered a strength.
But that’s also his weakness. It often makes him appear wildly unstable. Trump can be lured into a trap this way, and I suppose the Clintons are working on a few.
Clinton has a similar problem, though it doesn’t get as much attention.
While the Donald can be a wild-eyed cartoon fibber, pulling fantasies together from the air, Hillary serves her deceit cold, her mouth pursed, eyes flat, as she did in West Virginia the other day.
She told that desperate coal miner she really hadn’t promised to put all coal miners out of work. She said her words were taken out of context — even though she said exactly that on tape. And when she was done, she gave him a look of pity and concern.
So what difference, at this point, does it make?
One of these two will be president. Perhaps we deserve them.
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