New Orleans Like every true progressive, I’m rooting for the Republicans to continue to bully Donald Trump and hurt his feelings. Who knew “The Donald” was so sensitive? Certainly none of us would have known this from listening to what comes out of his mouth. But, if this is what it takes to force him to choose to run for President from the platform of his own independent party, then what a break for our prospects of electing someone more progressive in November 2016 over just about any Republican. If a candidate like Trump could siphon over the hardcore hater vote, Republicans who both pander to that vote and desperately depend on it, don’t have a chance against almost any Democrat including an old shaggy dog if she was barking on the ballot.
Sadly, this is probably more Trump bluster and bluff, but, tellingly, he was quoted saying that he and his small team had looked at the matter and in so many words, it was “affordable.” You don’t hear Senator Bernie Sanders, long elected as an independent but caucusing in the Senate as a Democrat, threatening to run as an independent for the White House if he doesn’t get respect in the Party. It wouldn’t be good politics for him to entertain such a notion now when he’s in the thick of the early going and rallying the progressive Democratic base to his standard. Even if it were an option for Sanders, the reason he would likely have to resist when all is said and done, would likely be less political than financial.
The last thing we need is yet another lesson that politics at this level is a rich man’s game in addition to a way to get rich, but both of these two things seem to be true.
Ross Perot, the rich Texan from Dallas who made his fortune in the early iterations of big data and government subcontracting, by running as an independent listening to his own drumbeat and some kind of sucking sound from Mexico, was a lifesaver for Bill Clinton’s first election, taking enough votes from Bush to elect Clinton without his achieving a majority of the votes in the election. Hillary or any of the rest of them would be grateful for a similar favor. Other Republicans wonder why Bill Clinton called Trump after he announced, but it seems obvious. It’s a wonder that Bill didn’t make a contribution to the campaign, but we’ll have to check the FEC reports later. Perot was rich enough to buy his shot, and so is Trump.
Pundits seem to wonder at the host of candidates running for President, but for many politicians, especially those whose careers have termed out or plateaued, this is also a way to take the main chance and get rich in the process. Or maybe a job in the next administration, a spot as a commentator on the news, a Fox talking head, or a radio ranter. Listening to Hillary and looking at their tax returns the Clintons are a model for this work going from “dead broke” to 7-figure annual paydays as corporate toastmasters and cheerleaders. When Trump defended his relationship with Clinton, he was painfully transparent. He said it was “transactional.” The same answer could be given for many in the lineup.
We need an independent or alternative party at the local and federal level to win on our issues, but as long as politics and money are the two peas in the pod, and transactional politics is about the short term, quick result, and not the long term investment in permanent political capacity, we just aren’t rich enough, and the rich aren’t committed enough to our team, to put the ante down on this play. Leaving us only the choice to build on the local and state level, but that’s not a bad play either if we’re willing to go with transformative and leave the rich and politicians with the transactional.