Lessons from the 2016 Presidential Race: Establishment Politics is Dead


With the race for the Republican nomination beginning to all-too-closely resemble an episode of Jerry Springer, just what has happened to dignity in the political arena? Martin Andersen explains.

“Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, he referred to my hands – ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

Holding his hands up to a cheering debate audience, those were the words of billionaire businessman and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. In rebuking Marco Rubio’s comments from earlier in the week, Trump epitomised the 2016 Presidential Race in a few tragically comical seconds: as a graveyard for professionalism, reason and politics as we know it.

Far from the dignified legacy of Lincoln’s party, this year’s brazen mudslinging contest is symptomatic of changing times in America. But why is brutishness, bigotry and bullying the new black?

With the election of the new leader of the free world due in less than 10 months, the rest of the world are only just realising that the race is not a reality TV show. With every passing caucus, primary and debate, our fingernails grow ever-shorter.

As vexing as it may seem, the simple answer would be that many Americans think their great nation is in crisis – two-thirds of them in fact – and, of course, Washington D.C. is the target of their blame.

Essentially, this explains why sweeping change is very much on the agenda this election; why self-declared “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders has done enough to dent what was expected to be nothing more than a coronation for Hillary Clinton; and why Trump’s proposal of a Muslim identification system and a “Great Wall” has garnered so much praise.

US Presidential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: US Embassy, Flickr)
US Presidential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: US Embassy, Flickr)

Further, it goes a long way in explaining why the aggressive and domineering Trump has been able to come this far, and why Marco Rubio, a polished – albeit, sometimes too polished – candidate has struggled to regularly register at over 15 per cent of the vote.

Looking deeper into the quagmire, it seems that, beneath the muck, what most disillusioned voters really want is unity. But the opposing teams have starkly different views on how to achieve it. Take the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, for example.

On the blue side, both Clinton and Sanders have involved themselves heavily in black communities and have aligned with BLM, who protest racial profiling and inequality in America. To them, unity means acknowledging the flaws in the system and working towards eradicating them, to ensure what they see as true racial equality.

However, the red team oppose the movement, just as many of their supporters oppose the feminist movement, by claiming that groups such as BLM are inciting a race war. The much used response of “all lives matter” suggests an interpretation of BLM’s mission as being “destructive, hateful, racist”.

To them, unity simply means realising that in America, everyone is more or less equal, and that pro-African American campaigns are inflammatory and perpetuate victim culture. At a time where supposed political correctness is as despised as ever, this conflict of ideology does not look set to be resolved any time soon.

And from this climate springs Donald Trump, whose conflict with the Republican establishment has only parlayed his support amongst those who fear another four years of government inaction; amongst those who believe inaction on ISIS, Syrian refugees and illegal Mexican immigrants is simply down to a weak brand of American diplomacy which has been overrun by political correctness and does not befit the world’s most powerful nation.

So as disillusioned voters continue to vouch for sweeping change, on the GOP side at least, it appears boorishness will continue to triumph over actual values, knowledge and philosophy. With John Kasich still standing firm to his principles amidst the chaos, to limited success, and with Jeb Bush’s unceremonious fall from grace now complete, the GOP establishment is pulling out all stops to barricade Trump’s path to the White House.

Unfortunately for them, however, is the lack of a candidate to unite behind, especially because the only opposition Trump has met so far is Ted Cruz – another anti-establishment campaigner.

While there might not be a problem with the size of Trump’s hands, with only 1,200 delegates to go, there certainly is one for the Republican Party.


Martin Andersen is a high school student and an American political enthusiast. He's based in Brisbane, Australia.