1. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump scored impressive victories last night. One was predicted – Trump’s. In Bernie’s case, it was unexpected; it surprised the pollsters, and many others, including myself. Both outcomes change the landscape and dynamics in different ways going forward.
2. Bernie’s victory stretches out, probably into the summer the Democratic primary process; any hope that Hillary had in securing the nomination early seems a casualty of last night’s results. Trump’s victory, on the other hand, makes likely, if not inevitable, that he will be the presidential nominee of the Republican Party. And it could be sooner rather than later. At the same time, it raises some grave dangers and places a responsibility on both Bernie and Hillary and their respective supporters to compete on high ground going forward, and with the understanding that both sides will campaign in the fall for whoever the eventual nominee is. Anything less could enable Trump – not to mention Republican candidates for Congress – to emerge victorious in November. And that would be a huge setback with possible disastrous consequences.
3. Trade and jobs appear to have figured heavily in last night’s outcome on both sides. And they are likely to be a important factor in the primaries ahead. Many voters in next week’s primaries were clobbered by the restructuring of manufacturing over the past 30 years and are still reeling. Last night this ugly, unhealed wound expressed itself in positive and negative ways. Expect more of the same.
4. While I don’t want to take away from Bernie’s victory last night, it is worrisome that people of color, and especially African American voters, haven’t embraced his candidacy so far. In some ways this is understandable. Hillary is well liked by African American leaders and familiar to African American voters, while Bernie remains somewhat of a stranger. Of course, Bernie can change this dynamic. But that will take, among other things, a greater fluency on racism and racial equality than he and his campaign have demonstrated up to now. Hillary, on the other hand, has a lot of work to do to gain the trust of sections of white voters – high school educated and young voters in particular.
5. The influence of sexism was a factor in both parties’ presidential primaries. On the Republican side, Trump eagerly deploys it to win supporters, while on the Democratic side it is a factor that influences some of Bernie’s supporters. To what extent is difficult to ascertain. What gives it greater potency is that Hillary has been in the cross hairs of a right wing attack for two decades that was dripping in misogyny. How to address this in the coming primaries, and, in the event that she is (which is still likely) the nominee, is a major challenge.
6. Last night’s results in Michigan are fresh proof that Bernie and Trump are creatures of the political turn that their respective parties took in the early 1980s and pursued since then. The Republicans slid into the cesspool of right wing extremism, while the Democrats under the pressure of an ascendant right and mounting economic difficulties, embraced the politics of centrist (third way) triangulation – politically and ideologically.
But here’s the difference in the two candidates: Trump is a continuation of GOP extremist politics, albeit in more extreme. reckless, and dangerous forms. He is the rebellious son, who leaves home and causes wreckage everywhere he goes. He speaks in an unfiltered tongue that the old guard of the right wing counterrevolution deems unwise; they prefer dog whistle and coded language to frame their backward policies and obstructionism.
Worse still, he mock them. But he has no intention – any more than Cruz or Rubio do – of changing the direction of the counterrevolution that they began and have been prosecuting: the unchallenged supremacy of capital and the overthrowing of the “rights revolution” of the 20th century. In that regard, he is their prodigal son, even if they haven’t quite come around to that realization so far.
Bernie, on the other hand, is also a rebellious son. But his desire is to radically change the direction of the Democratic Party. He isn’t in the race to collaborate with capital for mutual advantage, but to contest its rule. In contrast to Trump, a new direction is at the heart of his campaign. His values and experience tell him that people and nature should trump profits.