Trump and the Testing Opt-Outs: Listen Carefully Republicans and Democrats

UNITED STATES - August 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump laughs as he is asked to sign a sketch drawing of h
UNITED STATES - August 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump laughs as he is asked to sign a sketch drawing of himself at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, August 15, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

There's much chortling and winking on the Left these days. "How about Trump?", "Yo, the Donald", "Can you believe he's ahead?" etc. And indeed the Republicans have a problem. Trump is the face of the problem, but the deeper issue is a Republican primary electorate that is way hostile to politics as practiced by Republican candidates. With continuing missteps, nominee Trump ain't impossible. And some kind of third-party outbreak is also possible if rank-and-file disaffection continues to grow.

It's been easy for Democrats to sit back and laugh. But Dems would be better served by a healthy dose of introspection. There are signs that significant numbers on the Left are disaffected in the same way we see in the Trump upsurge. It's not just Bernie Sanders, it's about issues and the failure of Democratic candidates to heed rank-and-file anger.

The evidence of Democratic disaffection runs to specific angers about policing, womens rights and more. It may be easiest to see the political future in the rebellion of public school parents with respect to high stakes standardized testing. In New York for example over twenty percent of parents have pulled their kids from the required standardized tests. Not just wealthy elite types but working class upstaters and mixed urban districts showed substantial refusal rates. The "opt-out" movement is an organic, deeply felt rejection of institutional truisms in education as powerful in its own way as the Trumpists rejection of Bush/Rand/Rubio etc. It hasn't yet expressed itself in politics. But it's a sign of dissatisfaction with the status quo that will inevitably show up in the electoral process.

In fact, American voters are deeply troubled by increasingly sclerotic and out-of-touch political and economic systems. If one is willing to listen to all this, there's a Left/Right convergence of anger about the concentration of wealth and power, about corporations dominating democratic institutions, and public officials more beholden to monied interests than to voters or ideas.

A Bush v Clinton election seems an inevitable precursor to this intensifying anomie and disaffection. Both are decent and intelligent conventional pols. Neither is going to disturb much in the way of redistributing wealth and power. There is no visible American politician who has the insight and skill to speak for a renewed American politics. But it's coming, sooner or later.