Richard Hoover: Campaign politics: Anything can happen

Richard W. Hoover

With oceans of time before the 2016 party conventions, and with voter passions and divisions soaring, anything can happen.

Andy Schmookler’s April 5 column may well foreshadow big political developments. All of seven times he writes “big money” as the cause of America’s apocalyptic slide toward the autocratic if not feudal conditions which characterized the pre-1776 world, a time when the few dominated the many. He suggests that conservatives join liberals to save the country, to save our inheritance received from the Founding Fathers. Robert Reich (see the Northern Virginia Daily on April 15) and other left-wing Democrats have also picked up the “big money” theme. And the April 19 Washington Post headlines “Big money in politics emerges as a rising issue in 2016 campaign.” Even those jumping into the race for the GOP nomination seem to have broached it, but to lesser degrees.

It is striking that Schmookler’s column included no mention of the Democratic Party [earlier, he announced he will have a book on its shortcomings] and Reich mentioned Democrats disparagingly — in effect, suggesting that they have failed to surge to the left with a vigorous “big money” themed campaign.

Where, then, is the Democratic Party’s left-wing heading with this tack? Could it be engineering an attempt to dump the presumptive Democratic flag-bearer, Hillary Clinton, for an Elizabeth Warren, Martin O’Malley or a Bill de Blasio? In stark contrast to these three potential challengers from the far left, the Clintons are perceived to be up to their necks in “big money;” the thought of Hillary Clinton convincingly speaking out against it beggars the imagination!

And if Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, would the party’s far left stay at home for the campaign season or, exercising real assertion, might it start a third party? As for the latter option, why else would Schmookler make a play for conservative support? He may well believe, as I was taught by my preceptors, that at some point the extreme wings of left and right are perfectly capable of coming together. In the leftist vision, “big money” could be the “ticket to ride” for many Democrats as well as Libertarians and tea party goers. While third party formations usually spell political suicide for those involved, history shows that when passions reach today’s intensity, they can drive politicians into doing exactly that!

It’s far from certain, however, that the left’s “big money” paradigm can take hold, can unite a large portion of the electorate. After all, “big money” hysteria goes against the grain of American tradition. Right now, and this is where the left historically misses the boat, most Americans are far less bogged down in class envy and resentment than they are concerned with freedom, religion and security. These are values which have translated into such kingpin issues as big government, abortion, guns, immigration and contempt for political correctness. For millions of Americans, it is upon these issues that the struggle to preserve the achievements of our Founding Fathers is focused — not upon some threat from “big money,” as Schmookler has it.

As for Schmookler’s fretting that “big money” spells the domination of the many by the few, I believe most Americans view such “inequality” as an inevitable, if not acceptable fact of life. I mean, a relative handful of us serve in county, state and federal governments, preach from pulpits or help run Wall Street, the media and advertising. Millions of us live, satisfied, outside such circles of control and influence. Still, we are free to disparage them all or, if we chose, aspire to join them. Right now, I don’t feel the class tension which Schmookler seems to believe is a-building.

Nevertheless, there is yet enough time and enough high passion for these traditional American perceptions to be challenged and, possibly, radically changed in time for the 2016 conventions and elections. Determinant will be the degree to which Democrats succeed in their just-initiated and very active campaign to make Americans believe in a class enemy.

Richard Hoover is a retired Foreign Service officer who resides in southern Warren County.