A year ago, I was bracing for a monotonous presidential primary with the same old ideologies locked in predictable ping pong, Instead, it's been as refreshing as a night at the improv. Why is Trump unshakable? What is going on with Bernie? The befuddlement of so many observers inspires me to opine about the traditional wisdom. It says Bernie should be folding back into the Democratic ranks right now. It says Trump is inconsistent; he plays to the negative, and his solutions, like Bernie's, aren't practical.
Ironically, as pundits ask the traditionally reasonable question, "What do white working class males see in Trump?" Their egregious demographic-speak calls out the very cultural divide they seek to explain. In fact, these Trump voters are not likely to be self-defining as "working class white men."
For example, they would be more likely to see themselves as the ones with the frontline tactical sense, fighting an onslaught of remote book-sense. They are the ones who do and build things - without reading the directions. They are the factory linemen trying to convey simple process improvements to a distant manager who runs operations from a procedural handbook. They share this lineman's frustrations. As they report, "it's not working," the manager replies, "but this is how we do things." These Trump supporters probably also see themselves as the good guys who have been taken for a ride while they were taken for fools. They now see con men under every rock.
The wisdom says these voters just need to be "enlightened" as to Trump's flip-flops and half-truths. They don't. They get it. But the common sense part is simple: "Donald Trump may be a con man, but he's our con man." They've known him for years as their houseguest. In their living rooms, he gave them the nod as he winked at them about those other guys, the losers, through reality TV. Trump echoed an ideology (partially born in and now coming back to bite an agenda of government privatization) that says business rules, business is ruthless, business gets it right. So that now, as pundits ask this group of voters to "just see reason," the response they're more likely to get is "we were the only ones being reasonable all along - living within our means, balancing the checkbook, struggling to remain self-sufficient." And as they did all this, the rhetoric of a generation confirmed they were the cream of the crop. But they did not rise to the top. And now they realize they had been swabbing a sinking deck while the captains scuttled the ship.
It's not just about anger. It's about the scales falling off mesmerized eyes. It's why so much reasonable argumentation seems to boomerang. What many Bernie and Trump voters have in common is a disdain for the punditry of "reasonable" and "realistic." To Trump supporters, the gospel of reason sounds more like the language of "shut up and sit down." It probably has a similar ring to Bernie's millennial voters, though they do not carry the twenty-year baggage of feeling conned. To them these "reasonable" arguments probably sound more like paternal condescension or old-school dodder. Shrugging off cautionary voices is part of the maturing process. That's why the more the pundits - who think they're revealing insights - talk about what's not "reasonable," the happier Trump and Bernie supporters are with their candidates. Furthermore, taking blanket ideology off the table, a Bernie to Trump crossover vote is not so preposterous.
As much as Bernie fits the climate of the times, Hillary's dominance clings on by one question: how much anti-weight will the charges of Trump the racist/misogynist carry, and for how long? Or can the shape-shifting Trump charm his way out of these labels? Hillary's predictability and lack of freshness (along with what that presages for four years of President Hillary) should be in the minds of those Democratic super-delegates right now. While there are huge swaths of the electorate that no one is really reading right (apart from "they're angry"), Hillary's future is easy to read. Is it really a winning future? As super-delegates weigh their Clinton loyalties against the mood of the times; as they stand in the rocking boat of their "reason" -- that Bernie voters are at bottom Democratic voters and that Trump will crash and be hoist by his own petard in the general election -- they also have to be asking themselves, has Hillary passed her sell-by date?