With the Iowa caucuses a week away, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, who leads in all the polls, is Donald Trump.
The consensus candidate of the Democratic Party elite, Hillary Clinton, has been thrown onto the defensive by a Socialist from Vermont who seems to want to burn down Wall Street.
Not so long ago, Clinton was pulling down $225,000 a speech from Goldman Sachs. Today, she sounds like William Jennings Bryan.
Taken together, the candidacies of Trump, Sanders, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz represent a rejection of the establishment. And, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, other Republican campaigns are now channeling Trump’s.
This then is a rejection election. Half the nation appears to want the regime overthrown. And if spring brings the defeat of Sanders and the triumph of Trump, the fall will feature the angry outsider against the queen of the liberal establishment. This could be a third seminal election in a century.
In the depths of the Depression in 1932, a Republican Party that had given us 13 presidents since Lincoln in 1860, and only two Democrats, was crushed by FDR. From ’32 to ’64, Democrats won seven elections, with the GOP prevailing but twice, with Eisenhower. And from 1930 to 1980, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for 46 of the 50 years.
The second seminal election was 1968, when the racial, social, cultural and political revolution of the 1960s, and Vietnam War, tore the Democratic Party asunder, bringing Richard Nixon to power. Seizing his opportunity, Nixon created a “New Majority” that would win four of five presidential elections from 1972 through 1988.
What killed the New Majority?
First, the counterculture of the 1960s captured the arts, entertainment, education and media to become the dominant culture and convert much of the nation and most of its elite.
Second, mass immigration from Asia, Africa and especially Latin America, legal and illegal, changed the ethnic composition of the country.
White Americans, over 90 percent of the electorate in 1968, are down to 70 percent today, and about 60 percent of the population.
And minorities vote 80 percent Democratic.
Third, Republicans in power not only failed to roll back the Great Society but also collaborated in its expansion. Half the U.S. population today depends on government benefits.
Consider Medicare and Social Security, the largest and most expensive federal programs, critical to seniors and the elderly who give Republicans the largest share of their votes. If Republicans start curtailing and cutting those programs, they will come to know the fate of Barry Goldwater.
Still, whether we have a President Clinton, Trump, Sanders or Cruz in 2017, America appears about to move in a radically new direction.
Foreign policy retrenchment seems at hand. With Trump and Sanders boasting of having opposed the Iraq war, and Cruz joining them in opposing nation-building schemes, Americans will not unite on any new large-scale military intervention. To lead a divided country into a new war is normally a recipe for political upheaval and party suicide.
Understandably, the interventionists and neocons at National Review, Commentary, and the Weekly Standard are fulminating against Trump. For many are the Beltway rice bowls in danger of being broken today.
Second, Republicans will either bring an end to mass migration, or the new millions coming in will bring an end to the presidential aspirations of the Republican Party.
Third, as Sanders has tabled the issue of income equality and wage stagnation, and Trump has identified the principal suspect — trade deals that enrich transnational companies at the cost of American prosperity, sovereignty and independence — we are almost surely at the end of this present era of globalization.
As in the late 19th century, we may be at the onset of a new nationalism in the United States.
A vast slice of the electorate in both parties today is angry — over no-win wars, wage stagnation and millions continuing to pour across our bleeding borders from all over the world. And that slice of America holds both parties responsible for the policies that produced this.
This is what America seems to be saying.
Thus, given the deepening divisions within, as well as between the parties, either an outsider prevails this year, or Balkanization is coming to America, as it has already come to Europe.
For the Sanders, Trump, Cruz and Carson voters, the status quo seems not only unacceptable, but intolerable. And if their candidates and causes do not prevail, they are probably not going to accept defeat stoically, and go quietly into that good night, but continue to disrupt the system until it responds.
Unlike previous elections in our time, save perhaps 1980, this appears to be something of a revolutionary moment.
We could be on the verge of a real leap into the dark.
Where are we going? One recalls the observation of one Democrat after the stunning and surprise landslide of 1932:
“Well, the American people have spoken, and in his own good time, Franklin will tell us what they have said.”