Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Sanders the outsider is far ahead of Clinton in the national race

Bernie Sanders (22546886990 f800475f7b n)
By Michael Vadon
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
via Wikimedia Commons
Following the New York Primaries last night The Guardian reports as follows:
"The increasing prospect of Trump and Clinton facing each other in the general election in November will trouble many Republicans. Current polling averages suggest that in a race between Clinton and Cruz, Clinton would win by two percentage points, but in a race against Trump, Clinton could win by nine percentage points."
The figures quoted are from realclearpolitics.com polling averages, which make interesting reading for other reasons. Because what the writer doesn't say is that, in a race between Sanders and Cruz, Sanders would win by eleven percentage points, and in a race against Trump, Sanders would win by fifteen percentage points. And while the figures give third-placed Republican Kasich an eight point lead over Clinton, Sanders is ahead of him by four points.  In the national race, Sanders is polling much more strongly than Clinton against all comers.

These figures should get the Democrat super-delegates thinking. These party insiders own a big chunk of the electoral college and will probably wield the decisive votes at the convention. At the moment they're largely behind the establishment candidate, but this could change.

The numbers flesh out another story, too, a story about outsider status that could be important for UK politics. In this US election, outsider-ness is far more important than a candidate's place in the political spectrum. In an establishment Clinton/Kasich face-off, the Republicans have an handsome lead, suggesting an electorate leaning moderately right, which is what one might expect. But the favorite candidate is on the far left, the furthest removed from that "moderate right" position.

Where are the outsider candidates in British politics? Jeremy Corbyn has something of the Sanders aura but is too closely associated with the small "c" conservative (and deeply establishment) labour movement; Nigel Farage increasingly looks like a spent force; Boris Johnson is not an outsider, despite what he might wish us to think. Even the Green Party feels like it's become assimilated into mainstream politics.

Is there's something specific to British politics that encourages conformism? Many people blame the press, but the mainstream media in the US has shown little interest in Sanders, while non-establishment political movements have thrived in Greece, Italy and Spain, where much of the press is in private, right wing hands.

Maybe it's the electoral system, which gives new parties scarcely a look-in no matter how many votes they get.

Or maybe the British political class is just too orthodox and inward-looking to challenge a system that has endured for hundreds of years.

Or maybe things simply haven't got bad enough yet, which they undoubtedly will. In that case the system may still have the capacity to surprise us.

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