South Carolina, the nation turns its troubled heart to you. And we expect you will rip it apart.
In Texas, they say, politics is a contact sport. In South Carolina, it is a savage, gladiatorial spectacle. Case in point: The George W. Bush forces who ran the John McCain Straight Talk Express off the road in South Carolina and then pulverized it. McCain didn’t know what hit him.
And when a not-insignificant number of New Hampshire voters say they are torn between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, that is a confused electorate.
Historians undoubtedly will say that one reason for the wild 2016 electoral ride was that Americans had lost faith in their institutions and didn’t believe government worked for them. A pox on all their houses.
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Another factor has been the strange pull of celebrity on our psyche. Wealthy celebrities such as the Kardashians and Justin Bieber do outrageous things, but we’re still fascinated by them. Trump says ridiculous, profane, stupid, insulting things, and he keeps winning.
Possibly the strongest reason for our chaotic political system, in the short term, is that we are more polarized than we have been since the Civil War. Democrats are moving way to the left; Republicans are moving way to the right. The center does not hold.
Iowa spoke. New Hampshire nodded. And now, after a brief interlude in Nevada, the South will yell.
Are Sanders and Trump the inevitable nominees? Nope.
The reason is that we don’t elect our government by popular vote; we have an electoral college. Percentages of the popular vote elect delegates who elect nominees both for the primaries and the general election. Super delegates (establishment types) will help Hillary Clinton. Independents will hurt Trump. (And we can never forget that in 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote but not the presidency.)
Does that mean Sanders and Trump are finished? Nope.
Trump has one-third of Republicans in his pocket, and his supporters are having a great time listening to him spout nonsense. He says so many outrageous things that we forget from week to week his latest assault on civility.
Remember when he was saying he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose a vote? Remember when he bragged he’s got a great gene pool because his uncle taught at MIT? Remember when … well, it’s too disheartening.
Sanders also is having a great time, reminding us inadvertently of how irritatingly insufferable Clinton can be. And what’s up with her friends telling us we’re going to hell if we don’t vote for her and, really, young women voting for Sanders are just interested in stud muffins flocking to the campaign. Really? Sanders?
At this stage, it is still a horse race.
Oh, no. Chris Christie is faltering. Oops, he’s out. Here comes Marco Rubio, riding hard on the inside stretch. Oh no. He stumbled. And there is John Kasich, the long shot, getting everyone’s blood pumping. Oh my goodness. Jeb Bush is still flogging his horse, Also Ran, refusing to give up.
And what about what’s her name, Carly Fiorina, who can’t even persuade the boys to let her on the debate stage. Oops, she’s gone too. Does anybody know what happened to Ben Carson?
After the Nevada Democratic caucuses and the South Carolina GOP primary Feb. 20, the Nevada GOP caucuses Feb. 23, and the South Carolina Democratic primary Feb. 27, we’ve got Alabama, the Alaskan GOP caucuses, the American Samoa Democratic caucuses, Arkansas, Colorado caucuses, Democrats abroad, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota caucuses, North Dakota GOP caucuses, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming GOP caucuses. All on one day!
Mark March 1 on your calendars for another long night of TV. MSNBC’s Brian Williams is salivating. He’s baacckk.
But the pundits (those self-important, despised, always-wrong political prognosticators) say we might not know who the nominees will be until well into May. We can only hope, what with “The Good Wife” going off the air.
Oh yes, friends, we have miles to go before the nominating conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia in July. Miles and miles and miles and miles. Isn’t this fun!
Be gentle, South Carolina.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.