The relatively mild winter in New Hampshire has welcomed the mobs of press and campaign staffers ahead of next week’s first-in-the-nation (trademark pending, if the locals have their way) primary. The cause of the polite weather has been wryly attributed to the extra warmth generated by the crowds of transient pols and press, but the true cause of all this heat may be the anger bubbling up from the several campaigns and the fervor manifesting in followers of the front runners.
As of this writing, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are way ahead of their rivals in New Hamphire polling. This, in itself, is remarkable. Sanders is an Independent, and Trump has never run for elective office. However, like the mild weather, these two campaigners have defied expectations and, like a prolonged Santa Ana wind, are blowing lots of hot air into the campaign season. This is not a snark or a metaphor for ridicule – the cold, stiff manner of politicians and political gridlock needed changing, loosening, warming…and therein lies the recipe for what’s happening.
People have been clamoring for a genuine and unababashed personality to vie for their interest. Now each party has produced one. In some ways this is no surprise. The parties, particularly the GOP, have been lambasting the elected political class for decades. It is unlikely that this constant drumbeat would have produced anything other than disdain for established politicians. However, this year the effect is furthered by the important factor of the candidates’ personalities. Both are unafraid to offend expectations of what a politician should advocate for (social medicine, anyone? How about mass deportations?) and both could get along just fine with their lives without becoming president. The embrace of anger by the leading campaigns is the other important factor in this electoral mix. Anyone outside of a bubble knows that apathy toward political stagnation turned at some point to anger and caused people to become, unexpectedly, engaged in the process again. Obama hopers, and Tea Partiers are recent examples of this, and increased voter turnouts, though modest, are extremely important in an era of close elections.
People all over are acting on their anger with the status quo, and aware politicians are giving ’em what they want – the feeling that they are being heard, that their existence in the system matters, and that their anger can be put to good use. Of course, the savvier politicians are then gathering these people into their respective folds.
The genesis question may remain regarding this phenomenon – whether the anger brought about the politician or the politician brought about the anger, but it is largely moot now, or will be by this Tuesday night. When the votes come in from Dixville Notch, and Nashua, and Manchester, two politicians who rose from outside of their just recently chosen political parties will have ridden a wave of fed up voters into prominence and changed the way we forcast the political weather for the foreseeable future.