New Hampshire Primaries: A Triumph of Extremes (Sort Of)
As many did on Tuesday night, I watched the New Hampshire primary results come in with baited breath. I had been swept up in the clever, heavyweight-champion-of-the-world tone of the coverage. Would the pundits prove to be correct? Would Trump and Sanders triumph over their competition? As reported this morning the predicted rout happened: Trump and Sanders both triumphed, each of them roughly 20 basis points ahead of their nearest rival. Stunning. Visions of a Trump v. Sanders General Election began to form in my head.
If you stop and run the numbers for total votes cast versus the total Voting Age Population of New Hampshire the story is a little different than the wall-to-wall cable news coverage would have you believe. 9.4% of potential voters of lightly-populated New Hampshire voted for Donald Trump. 14.0% voted for Bernie Sanders. If you take those who voted for somebody other than the front runner on either side and add in those who didn't feel sufficiently engaged to even show up to vote, fully three-quarters of the voters of New Hampshire are still up for grabs.
"If you take those who voted for somebody other than the front runner on either side and add in those who didn't feel sufficiently engaged to even show up to vote, fully three-quarters of the voters of New Hampshire are still up for grabs."
That's the real headline: if somehow the power of the broad expanse of middle-of-the-road, more moderate voters could be harnessed, there is enough electoral horsepower to punt every declared candidate out of the race. But therein lies the challenge: the center, almost by definition, lacks a central organizing idea to coalesce their collective power into a significant force in the upcoming General Election.
Pew Research has confirmed that political activism is higher at idealogical extremes. What is needed in today’s fractious political landscape is someone — or something — that can bring activism and engagement to that middle group of voters either pushed out or who have opted out of the process.
It also lends credence to the idea that there is room for a third, independent, centrist candidate who can bring order to the disorderly, unconstructed middle ground. What makes us believe otherwise is the hysterical coverage necessitated by a 24 hour news cycle and the battle for ratings in the news-as-entertainment self-reflecting bubble. A reasonably effective candidate enabled with modern information tools could easily redefine the US political landscape in one fell swoop.