FLeaders

The Economist Jan

The brawl begins

From  The Economist   -  Feb. 2016


Marvel at the jaw-dropping spectacle. Then worry. American politics has taken a dangerous turn



THE muscle-bound rivals have entered the ring. The verbals are at fever pitch. On February 1st Iowans will caucus in the opening round of America's presidential tussle. Just over a week later, voters will gather in New Hampshire. From there the contest will move on towards Super Tuesday on March 1st, and beyond that to the conventions in July. It is the world's greatest electoral tournament. It is not going to plan.


Across America, political elites and moderate voters are in a state of disbelief. Hillary Clinton, as much part of the establishment as the Washington Monument, is under pressure from Bernie Sanders, a crotchety senator from Vermont who calls himself a democratic socialist. The sensible squad on the right-"Jeb!" Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich et al-have been impaled by the gimlet gibes of Ted Cruz and swamped by the sprawling, tumultuous diatribes of Donald Trump.


The choice was supposed to be between a Bush and a Clinton-more a coronation than an election. Instead, the race for the world's most powerful office has been more dramatically upended by outsiders than any presidential campaign in the past half-century. America, what on earth is going on?


Bigger and brasher


The United States is not the only country where the establishment is on the ropes. Britain's Labour Party is in thrall to a man well to the left of Mr Sanders. In the first round of France's recent regional elections, the far-right National Front won the largest vote. Populists are leading the polls in the Netherlands and running the government in Poland and Hungary. In politically correct Sweden, nativists are polling at 30%.


Like voters across the West, Americans are angry-often for the same reasons. For years a majority of them have been telling pollsters that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Median wages have stagnated even as incomes at the top have soared. Cultural fears compound economic ones: in 2015 a Pew poll found that white Christians had become a minority in America. And in recent months, fears of terrorism have added a menacing ingredient to the populist brew (see pages 18-20).


Though the trends are common, populism in America is especially potent. Europe has grown used to relative decline. As the sole superpower, America has smarted at the rise of China and the spread of jihadism from parts of the Middle East that it had poured blood and treasure into trying to pacify. When Mr Trump promises to "Make America great again" and Mr Cruz vows that the sand of Iraq and Syria will "glow in the dark", they are harking back to a moment, after the fall of the Soviet Union, when America enjoyed untrammelled power.


A second reason is that, in America, outsiders channel popular anger into a political duopoly. In Europe Mr Trump and Mr Sanders would have their own protest parties, which inevitably struggle to win high office. In contrast, America's two-party system sucked in Mr Sanders, who joined the Democrats last year, and Mr Trump, who rejoined the Republicans in 2009. If they win the primaries, they will control political machines designed to catapult them into the White House.


And a third, related, explanation is that elites cannot easily manage America's raucous democracy. Populist insurgencies are written into the source code of a polity that began as a revolt against a distant, high-handed elite. The electoral college devolves power from the centre. Primaries attract the 20% of eligible voters most fired up by politics. Candidates with money behind them-his own in the case of Mr Trump, someone else's for Mr Cruz-can sneer at their party's high command.


Hence populists and anti-establishment candidates make frequent appearances in American presidential races. But as the thrilling spectacle runs its course and voters reluctantly compromise with reality, they tend to fade. That usually happens early (Pat Buchanan, a Republican firebrand who promised a "pitchfork rebellion" in 1996, won the New Hampshire primary, but was out of the race by the end of March). On the rare occasion when insurgents win the nomination, they have collapsed at the general election: Barry Goldwater lost 44 of 50 states in 1964. Those who stand as independents (as Ross Perot did in 1992) have also failed-which would not bode well for a self-financing candidate like Michael Bloomberg.


For the Democrats, history is likely to be repeated in 2016. Even if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, it is hard to see Mr Sanders thriving as the race moves to the delegate-heavy South. Mrs Clinton has money, experience and support from black Democrats. National polls put her 15 points ahead.


But this time really could be different for Republicans. Gold-water's surge came late; Mr Trump has mesmerized crowds, and been rewarded in the polls since July. Some Republican grandees who detest Mr Cruz even more than they despise Mr Trump have fallen in behind the billionaire. Perhaps on the day people won't turn up for either man; perhaps the two of them will throw enough vitriol to destroy each other; perhaps what is left of Mr Bush's $ioom war chest will leave the elite time to mount a counter-attack. As of now, both populists have a chance of taking the fight to the convention and even, barring a backroom establishment deal, of winning the nomination.


The 50:50 nation


That prospect worries this newspaper. Neither Mr Trump nor Mr Cruz offers coherent economics or wise policy. Neither passes the test of character. Yet, merely by being on the ballot in November either would come close to the presidency.


General elections have become 50:50 affairs, determined by a few votes in a handful of states. Mrs Clinton is not a good campaigner; Mr Trump and Mr Cruz are. In so far as he has policies, Mr Trump borrows freely from right and left. He could win votes by tacking brazenly to the centre. In a close race, a terrorist attack or a scandal near polling day could be decisive.


Pessimism about America is misplaced. The economy is in better shape than that of any other big, rich country; unemployment is low; so is violent crime. But mainstream Republicans have pilloried Barack Obama with such abandon that they are struggling to answer Mr Trump and Mr Cruz. If anyone should regret the spectacle about to unfold, it is they. ■


THE  USA  POLITICS  TENDS  TO  BE  ALL  GLOVES  OFF  AND  LET'S  FIGHT.  THIS  LEAD-UP  TO  THE  PRESIDENTIAL  ELECTION  WILL  BE  NO  DIFFERENT,  AS  IT  LOOKS  IT  WILL  BE  WORSE.


IT  REALLY  MAKES  NO  DIFFERENCE  WHO  EVENTUALLY  GETS  INTO  THE  WHITE  HOUSE  -  GOD'S  CLEAR  MESSAGE  TO  HIS  PEOPLE  ISRAEL  FOR  THE  END  TIME,  IS  VERY  CLEAR.  IN  THE  PROPHECIES  OF  EZEKIEL,  GOD  SAYS  OUR  LEADERS  ARE  MAD  AND  OUR  PROPHETS  PROFANE!


WE  HAVE  NO  ONE  TO  BRING  OUR  NATIONS  BACK  TO  SERVING  THE  ETERNAL  GOD  AND  HIS  WORD  AND  COMMANDMENT  CONTAINED  IN  THE  HOLY  BIBLE.


WE  HAVE  STEPPED  OVER  THE  LINE  OF  NO  RETURN…… IT  IS  ONLY  A  MATTER  OF  TIME  BEFORE  WE  REAP  FULLY  WHAT  WE  HAVE  SOWN.


Keith Hunt