This presidential election is crazy. American politics is supposed to be a civil and moderate affair. Name calling, socialists, nationalists, street fights and silencing of opponents was stuff that happened in Europe, but not on this side of the Atlantic. I don’t know if we are ever going to get our old system back.
Yes, I know back in the day someone was caned (beaten with a cane) to near death on the Senate floor. That definitely wasn’t cool. But when that went down America was essentially a third world country and slavery was still the law of the land..
What we are seeing this year just kind of blows my mind. None of the candidates are saying anything too out there, but their supporters (or protesters) are really ratcheting everything up to the next level, a level foreign to our political system. In just the last week we’ve seen violence at campaign events. We’ve seen activists shut down roads in an attempt to silence a candidate they do not agree with. Top party officials are on the record saying things like, “Democracy is pretty popular but it’s simply not the way we do it.”
At moments like this I am tempted to feel despair. To wonder whether the civil political discourse I grew up with will be gone for good. But for every piece of bad news I see something that restores my faith in American democracy. Primary turnout is near record highs. The record for individual contributions to a campaign was shattered before 2016 even started. HeadCount teams are shattering venue and festival registration records every week.
Maybe it took some chaos to make people care, but at this moment our democracy is as robust as I’ve ever seen it. Friends of mine who had never followed politics are talking about this election on Facebook like it’s a new Game of Thrones trailer. People are reaching out left and right to register to vote. And most importantly I am not shunned by friends when I change the conversation from sports to politics.
So how is this insanity translating into the ballot box? Well last week Hillary Clinton shocked even her biggest supporters and won a clean sweep of Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. And in an act of refreshing civility Bernie Sanders elected not to seek a recount despite Clinton’s small margin of victory in Missouri. Heading into today’s contests Clinton leads Sanders by 306 pledged delegates.
Donald Trump is maintaining his lead in the GOP delegate race. Last Tuesday he won in Florida (by such a large margin Marco Rubio dropped out), Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. John Kasich picked up his first state, as the favorite son governor won Ohio. Currently Trump has 680 delegates, Cruz has 424, Kasich sits at 143, and despite suspending his campaign, Rubio has 166 delegates pledged to vote for him on the first ballot. To win the primary contest without a brokered convention Trump or Cruz would need 1,237 delegates. Will he get them? I have no idea, but 538 breaks down his chances in a fascinating read right here.
Three states are voting today, both parties holding primaries in Arizona, both parties hosting caucuses in Utah and Idaho hosting a Democratic caucus (the GOP primary was on March 8th). So not too many delegates are up for grabs, but by the end of the day we will be able to gauge the strength of the Democratic campaigns and whether the GOP’s Stop Trump movement is picking up steam.
So this is a weird election cycle. But as everyone who has met me knows, weird isn’t always bad. In fact sometimes weird is good, and I for one hope that’s what we are seeing in 2016.