There is a prevailing thread or theme (or two) that dictates the outcome of each election – though they’re often only obvious after the fact. It might be a specific issue that resonates with voters, an event that takes place during the election cycle, an unexpected change in the needs of the electorate, or just about anything else.
How these issues manifest themselves is yet to be seen, but I believe there will be two themes that largely dominate the election cycle: authenticity and guilt by association. The candidates who are willing to tackle these working-class financial fears will be perceived as more authentic and cognizant of class struggles.
Those whose corporate donors make this approach impossible will rely on smoke and mirrors – headlined by bad faith “guilt by association” attacks, meant to divide the working-class voter blocs based on race, gender, sex, and “wokeness.”
The Story of Robert Barnes
An excellent example of someone spotting the trends before the media came to terms with reality, was Robert Barnes. His foresight in 2016 resulted in the Las Vegas attorney becoming the most successful political bettor ever.
While most of the planet – including the oddsmakers – had Hillary Clinton listed as a strong favorite to become the next President of the United States, the Chattanooga, Tennessee native astutely identified a growing populist sentiment spreading across the nation; a trend that’s also been visibly growing around the globe in recent years.
He was certain that the pundits and bookmakers alike had it all wrong and was willing to put his money where his mouth was. He owed this valuable insight to his working-class upbringing, which contributed to his populist political beliefs – beliefs that were only enforced during his time at Yale.
From Barnes’ website:
Sean Trende, senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics, met Barnes in a class on populism at Yale University.
“I’m from Oklahoma, and we kind of bonded in that sense,” Trende said. “I think that just about everyone in that classroom came from a working-class background, which was unusual at Yale. I think [Barnes] had some good [election] insight that a lot of people missed because he has this passion for populism. It was more than just seeing what he wanted to see; it was seeing what other people weren’t willing to see.”
That insight is what gave Barnes the upper hand on Election Day.
“[It was] like being in on a special secret usually reserved for the privileged few, but this time reserved for working-class folks,” Barnes said of placing his bets and calling the election.
On election night, instead of casting his vote at the polls, Barnes was across the pond, waiting in line at bookmaking shops in Ireland. He traveled from sportsbook to sportsbook, placing the maximum stakes he was allowed on Donald Trump, at 4-to-1 odds. When the results were in, the civil rights lawyer was roughly $500k richer.
Much of his confidence came, at first, from attending a Trump rally in Las Vegas.
“I thought it was going to be a little Lynyrd Skynyrd kind of crowd. But, when I went there, it was just the opposite,” Barnes said, “The people were all really friendly, really sociable, polite. It was then I realized, these are not the people who were bullies all their lives. These are people who had been bullied all their lives. And that’s what none of the media understood.”
Barnes continued his research on the road, stopping at small towns as well as attending both parties’ national conventions. Once again, from his own site:
Barnes attended the Democratic and Republican national conventions and traveled to small towns in between.
“If Hillary campaigned there instead of among Starbucks gentrified kids, they would have seen Trump coming 10 miles away,” he said.
After that road trip, Barnes knew he had a winner in Trump. And for once, the odds were in his favor. The more people discounted Trump, the higher the odds.
“After the road trip, I just watched in amazement as the odds climbed and climbed,” Barnes said.
More of the Same in 2020?
Oddly enough, not much has changed since the 2016 elections. You can look at Bernie Sanders on the left and Trump on the right and see the trend of populism continuing. It’s also apparent that the affluent donor and pundit classes haven’t learned one iota from their previous mistakes.
Still, they pull out all of the same moves – those that worked against Bernie in the last primaries (with lots of help from shady DNC dealings, in collusion with the Clinton campaign), and the same ones that failed to stop Trump’s ascent – and have continued to fall short for the entirety of his administration.
Fortunately, the wealthy liberal establishment figures are still two steps behind. Well, it’s not exactly “fortunate” for our republic, but it very well could be for political handicappers! The longer they take to come to terms with politics changing, the greater the rewards will be for the next generation of Robert Barnes’.
Thus far, in 2020, the media has managed, once again, to get everything wrong – pertaining to their early Democratic primary predictions. Joe and Bernie were supposed to be too old and past their prime, and, as white men, less appealing than many of the younger, more diverse options in the field. Yet, the closer we get to the Iowa caucus, the more the contest becomes a two-person race.
Meanwhile, pundits and strategists have chosen to focus on Russia, Ukraine, and identity politics rather than policies and character – the things that matter to working-class Americans — at the cost of accuracy. Every step of the way the candidates we were told would be contenders have floundered and dropped out, while Bernie continues to surge.
Plus, Bernie’s primary focus is on healthcare, which has become one of the main sources of economic strife in the 21st century. President Trump knows to run on the economy as well, though I think he’s off the mark focusing on GDP and other numbers that don’t reflect the realities on the ground for most of us.
The Obama Effect
Thanks to Donald Trump, many Democrats look back on the Barack Obama administration longingly. He always came across as supremely intelligent, poised, and classy. You were never embarrassed to be represented by him on the world stage, even if you didn’t agree with his politics (that might not be totally true for some on the right).
It doesn’t hurt that the 44th President of the United States’ time in office was sandwiched between Trump and George W. Bush – possibly the two worst orators in the history of the country. Regardless, I strongly believe that Obama was the single most destructive Democrat in the party’s recent history.
In 2007, Obama’s campaign was the first ever to inspire my interest in politics. He had all the right answers; we were going to close Guantanamo Bay, create a “contracts and influence” database that tracked what federal contractors spent on lobbying, restrict warrantless wiretaps, and provide us with universal healthcare.
By the time Barack Obama was taking on John McCain, he was almost a Messiah-like figure in the media and amongst young voters like myself. Then he got into office, and nothing changed.
After receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, Obama increased drone strikes and increased our aggression in the Middle East – including the troops’ surge in Afghanistan (a war which we now know was an enormous disaster all along), toppling Libya, and getting involved in a regime-change war in Syria.
Guantanamo Bay never closed down, nor did America’s torture program. He also prosecuted whistleblowers aggressively – including some high-profile cases like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange.
Then, there was Obamacare.
What was initially sold to the country as “universal healthcare” turned out to be nothing more than a bail-out for massive insurance companies – which he allowed to write the entire bill. Sure, you couldn’t be turned away for existing conditions anymore, but the rates and deductibles have gotten more absurd, and you have to sign up, lest you be fined an exponentially larger amount each subsequent year.
But even granting him those things, it’s become abundantly clear that Barack Obama was never the person we thought he was in 2007-08. Emails leaked that showed Citigroup to choose his cabinet – which might explain why the banks got bailed out without anyone going to prison. Instead, their executives got bonuses.
All-in-all, by the end of the Obama presidency, working-class millennials (technically, I’m a xenial, also known as “the Oregon Trail generation”) like myself had become disenfranchised with the whole system. The same old promises of “hope” and “unity” weren’t going to cut it anymore.
From now on, we either wanted something tangible and real for our vote, or we wanted to shake up the system to its core. Hence, Bernie Sanders’s unexpected performance against Hillary in the primaries, and Trump’s eventual victory.
The 2016 election was a major tipping point in US politics. While many liberals treat Trump’s win as a fluke, I believe it highlights significant changes in the electorate – mostly due to income inequality and an economy that’s only working for the owners of capital.
The same “conventional wisdom” that held true for decades no longer applies. Strategies that worked against Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and Howard Dean – with the media launching unrelenting attacks on candidates deemed “unviable” until it became a reality — aren’t resonating with voters anymore.
The media has surrendered their power in this regard because the public has lost their trust in the fourth estate, but they aren’t adapting to the current reality. Instead, social media platforms and alternative media sources are filling that void and giving voters access to information outside of what mainstream “journalists” feel comfortable sharing.
Candidates can also appeal directly to their constituents without needing the establishment’s help. While networks like MSNBC and CNN launch full-scale attacks on President Trump, he hops right on Twitter to dispute them in public.
Lastly, it doesn’t help that the liberal media has spent all of the Trump administration pumping up bogus scandals while continually promising that “THIS will be the one that pushes him out of office.” Between Mueller and Russiagate and the Ukraine impeachment trial, they’ve been wrong every single time.
At this point, their endorsements do nothing to inspire support of chosen candidates, just like their ire fails to generate the desired abandonment of anti-establishment politicians.
Over/Underperformers in the 2020 Democratic Primaries
Looking at the Democratic primaries, to me, it feels like the traditional tactics that have been used to limit voters’ choices for so many years are no longer effective. People are focused on their position and prospects in the current economy and want to elect someone who will actually make decisions with working-class Americans in mind.
- Why is Andrew Yang far exceeding initial expectations, while formerly-promising candidates like Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Julian Castro have all flamed out far earlier than anticipated?
- On that note, how many primary candidates showed up in 2019 trying to recreate the 2007 Barack Obama campaign, only to fail ever to find a foothold in the race?
- How does Bernie Sanders continue to gain momentum after having suffered a heart attack and, despite, at any given time, either being ignored or attacked by the mainstream media?
- Why does Trump get away with saying outrageous things about his political opponents, comments that would previously be seen as unbecoming of a President?
People can tolerate crudeness or ideological differences, as long as they feel like the candidate can correctly identify the pain and suffering the current economy is causing, and their primary goal is to fix it. They also want honesty, even if the truth hurts.
I suspect that’s why Elizabeth Warren’s attacks on the Sanders campaign backfired so spectacularly. The entire episode felt contrived, and the timing was suspicious, given the proximity to the Iowa caucus and considering the conversation in question happened a year prior. Rather than hurting Bernie, we saw an influx of progressive voters abandoning Warren for Senator Sanders.
Guilt by Association
Another prevailing theme that will continue to play a central role in this election cycle – and for the foreseeable future in American culture – is guilt by association. What do you do if your opponent’s public record doesn’t leave much to attack? Find someone close to them (or not even all that close, really) and accuse your rival of tacitly approving any wrongdoings, lest they denounce their ally or friend.
Similarly, you can use the behavior of a candidate’s supporters or an unsolicited endorsement against them. We’ve seen the guilt by association strategy put into overdrive since the 2016 elections, most notably with regards to all things “Russia.”
Joe Rogan Endorsement Fuss
There may not be a more glaring example of both the political world-changing while neoliberals cling to ‘guilt by association’ strategies than what happened with Joe Rogan’s pseudo-endorsement of Bernie Sanders recently.
Shortly after the Sanders campaign acknowledged Rogan’s comment about “ probably voting for Bernie,” the machine kicked into gear, digging through ten years of podcasts to find every case of Joe being politically incorrect, if not downright “problematic.”
Joe Rogan is a comedian, so it didn’t take long to find several video clips that would create outrage if they were said today. The Twitter “blue checks” and mainstream pundits got to work, calling the number-one podcaster in the world a racist, homophobic, and transphobe and imploring the Sanders campaign to disavow the endorsement.
Ultimately, the whole charade was embarrassing and reeked of desperation from “old media.” But that doesn’t change what they attempted to do. Despite every major candidate having begged Rogan for an interview, once he picked an outsider candidate, the liberal elite immediately set out to turn this vital endorsement into a liability.
Attack Your Enemy’s Strength – “The Bro’s”
Another excellent example of the “guilt by association” strategy in action is what liberal pundits are attempting with Bernie’s massive, enthusiastic, online base. This isn’t a new approach, by any mean, the Hillary Clinton campaign tried this attack on Barack Obama and his supporters back in 2008.
In 2016, Clinton went to the well once again, reusing the same techniques against both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, to discredit their bases of support. When faced with a growing populist movement, fueled by large quantities of working-class voters, the move is to make them out to be racist or sexist and primarily white.
These massive movements help campaigns like Bernie’s control the narrative online and quickly shoot down any dishonest attacks, which dampens the impact of mainstream liberal journalists. By making them out to be rage-filled young white guys, it discredits their defense of their chosen candidates.
This is playing out once again in 2020, though primarily just on Sen. Sanders’s side of things – the Trump supporters seem to be ignored as something of a lost cause.
…we see personalities from CNN, MSNBC, or a million other liberal think tanks posting inflammatory comments about Bernie on social media, only to react as if they’re unfairly targeted and attacked as soon as the rebuttals come in.
Now, these same bad faith actors are blaming the candidate for everything one of his supporters may say as if Bernie Sanders is the only politician with aggressive or rude followers. That’s because the majority of his campaign platforms are popular these days, while his voting record is pristine – in terms of attracting populists with economic concerns in 2020.
By playing the “guilt by association” game, liberal media members hope to turn supporters of other candidates away from Bernie as their second choice. The more bitter they can make the primaries, the easier these voters will be to control when their favorite candidates begin dropping out.
Using this Information for Political Betting
|Dem Nomination Winner||Betting Odds|
* Odds from MyBookie.ag
The people of America want some relief from wage stagnation, out of control healthcare costs, and income inequality. With each passing election cycle, the traditional sources of news are losing their influence, while voters become more desperate to find a politician that will enact real change.
On the Hill’s “Rising” morning show, co-host Saagar Enjeti shared a Tucker Carlson quote that I think was right on the money (I know – I’m shocked too).
That’s exactly right. Watch the Democratic primaries closely. If the party successfully derails the Sanders campaign, all of the working-class voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan will return to Trump, ensuring his reelection. The only way the President will meet a legitimate challenger is if Bernie wins the nomination and receives the full weight the DNC’s support in the general election.
At the moment, it’s impossible for me to picture the affluent liberal elites ever doing such a thing. They’d prefer four more years of Donald Trump over a candidate who will tax the wealthy and nationalize the health insurance industry. There’s too much cash on the line for the ruling classes.