Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

February 19, 2016

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

Our latest issue raises the alarm about the twilight of the political establishment. Or it re-raises the alarm, or re-re-raises it, depending on when you started paying attention to this presidential campaign. The phenomenon is evident at one level simply in the primary results so far. In New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders, the self-described Democratic Socialist, clobbered Hillary Clinton by 22 points, a historically huge margin for a contested Democratic primary there. Among Republicans, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, both anathema to party elites, have split the first two contests. They seem poised to finish first and second in South Carolina, voting today in its Republican primary, while out in Nevada’s Democratic caucuses, also today, Sanders appears to have closed rapidly in on Clinton. Both competitions could take months to sort out.

But the horserace isn’t an end itself. The early voting signals an electorate rejecting what remains of consensus-style leadership in Washington. And no matter how the campaign concludes, the next president is primed to take power facing a public more divided along class lines, with lower-income Americans increasingly distrustful of the government’s ability to improve their lives. Indeed, a majority of Americans, 54%, now think the country’s economic and political systems are “stacked against them,” while nearly seven in 10 describe themselves as angry that the government “seems only to be working for those with money and power, like those in Washington or on Wall Street,” per a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC survey.

Those sentiments sound like they could easily describe either Sanders or Trump supporters. And the two fire-breathing populists do in fact share an enemies list when it comes to drug companies, the financial services sector and all manner of jobs exporters. (Their similarities flummoxed Trump himself this week when he stepped in a poorly-laid trap during an MSNBC town hall.) But focusing on their staying power in the primaries would miss how the pressure they’ve already applied has shifted the terms of the debate on both sides. Witness Marco Rubio’s abandonment of his work toward comprehensive immigration reform with the Gang of Eight, and Clinton’s disavowal of the Trans Pacific Partnership she championed as Secretary of State. Either one may prove the sort of primary-season contortion a president unwinds once in office. The new assertiveness of anti-corporate factions in each party suggest that would prove unusually difficult. Eyeing the field this week, one veteran GOP lobbyist sniffed, “There may have to be some accommodation to the angry, fearful crowd.” At the moment, at least, that hardly appears to capture it.

Tory Newmyer @torynewmyer tory_newmyer@fortune.com

Top News

Clinton shows off her immigration policy chops

If Hillary Clinton is to pull off a victory in Nevada Saturday, she’ll do it on the strength of her Latino support. She certainly helped her cause in a forum on Thursday night when she displayed her detailed knowledge of immigration law, and what needs to be done to keep immigrant families together in the United States.  New York Times

Is Ted Cruz a Natural Born Citizen?

Donald Trump has made headlines with his insinuations that because that Ted Cruz is ineligible to be President because he was born on Canadian soil. Those accusations will now be aired out in court, after an Illinois judge agreed to hear arguments from a voter alleging that he should be disqualified from the Republican nomination. 

 Politics in South Carolina are as dirty as ever

The birthplace of Lee Atwater and the site of George W. Bush’s famously nasty campaign against John McCain in 2000 is living up to its reputation for being a mud pit. South Carolina’s place as the third nominating contest in the Republican calendar means that it’s all but guaranteed to be the place where candidates do whatever it takes to win. Washington Post

Around the Water Cooler

How Bernie Sanders Surged in New Hampshire

Nevada was supposed to be the first state in Hillary Clinton’s firewall, where a diverse population and her close ties to the labor movement would finally halt Bernie Sanders momentum. But the Vermont Senator’s message of an economy riggged against average Americans, plus his talent for building motivated grass route support has all but eliminated her lead in the Silver State.  'Politico

 What’s At Stake In The South Carolina Republican Primary

Come Sunday, it’s possible that more than a couple Republican presidential candidates’ 2016 fates could be sealed. While Donald Trump is the heavy favorite in South Carolina, whether or not any of his rivals have a chance to take him down later in the process hinges on how well they do in Saturday’s contest. Without a strong finish, Jeb Bush could well be finished, and Ted Cruz must prove that he can appeal to more than just the hard right.    <em>FiveThirtyEight</em>

Nobody Cares About the Wonks

You used to be able to tell the difference between a Republican and Democratic campaign proposal by how detail-oriented they were. Democrats tended to court the vote of policy wonks, and were concerned about showing that the math added up. Republicans, on the other hand, often used policy proposals to signal their priorities, rather than their arithmetical capabilities. But Bernie Sanders might be changing that all as his campaign relies on economic analysis that mainstream economists find fantastical.  Vox

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