Transitions in Washington can be challenging. Someone who tried hard and spent lots of money won and someone else who tried hard and spent lots of money lost.
They are not the only ones whose emotions are raw. Those who ran the campaigns and served as advisors let their minds wander to the roles they might have in the new administration.
The surprise result changed election night from an anticipated coronation to one of the most exciting sports events of the year. Somehow recovering from a last-minute defeat is more challenging than a defeat that was widely anticipated.
Washington insiders were also effectively rebuked and they were even less happy about it than some of the others.
Let’s look at two insider reactions.
Doug Schoen is pretty close to the bull’s eye on the insider-ness target: Harvard twice, pollster for Bill Clinton, founder of political consulting firm Penn, Schoen & Berland, worked for Hillary in 2008 and now a Fox News commentator.
Here is an interesting poll he has been talking about for months. Tempting, as it might be, to skim the questions, try to let them seep in because they are powerful.
- The power of ordinary people to control our country is getting weaker every day, as political leaders on both sides, fight to protect their own power and privilege, at the expense of the nation’s well-being. We need to restore what we really believe in – real democracy by the people and real free enterprise. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%
- The country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists and other powerful money interests for their own gain at the expense of the American people. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%
- Most politicians really care about people like me. AGREE = 25%; DISAGREE = 69%
- Powerful interests from Wall Street banks to corporations, unions and political interest groups have used campaign and lobbying money to rig the system for them. They are looting the national treasury of billions of dollars at the expense of every man, woman and child. AGREE = 81%; DISAGREE = 13%
- The U.S. has a two-track economy where most Americans struggle every day, where good jobs are hard to find, where huge corporations get all the rewards. We need fundamental changes to fix the inequity in our economic system. AGREE = 81%; DISAGREE = 15%
- Political leaders are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than doing what is right for the American people. AGREE = 86%; DISAGREE = 11%
- The two main political parties are too beholden to special and corporate interest to create any meaningful change. AGREE = 76%; DISAGREE = 19%
- The real struggle for America is not between Democrats and Republicans but between mainstream American and the ruling political elites. AGREE = 67%; DISAGREE = 24%
Could a reasonable person come to the conclusion that America is not enamored with Washington and political insiders?
Well, I do come to that conclusion so I find it particularly interesting when others don’t especially when the others are thought to possess sufficient expertise to draw an audience of listeners.
I recently attended such a gathering under the customary cloud of Washington secrecy. No telling who or where and, since the speaker is especially noteworthy as a critic of the evolution of politics and government in recent years, I am going to have to sanitize what he said to make the guessing game harder.
Like Schoen, he is an insider, but unlike Schoen, he portrays himself as a thinker rather than a partisan. He is old enough to know the old ways and to prefer them. Ds and Rs followed the unwritten rules that delineated theatre from reality, drank together, joined the same clubs, stood on the sidelines at the same kids games and cooperated to keep peace in the animal kingdom.
Not so any longer. Theatre has overcome reality and nobody lives in Washington so convivial drinking, club joining and sideline standing don’t happen. In light of Schoen’s poll and possibly a dose of common sense, are we surprised to learn that the formerly peaceable animals that live outside the moat (we call that a beltway now) have reared up against their keepers?
Apparently my anonymous insider is.
After a few late night TV standup jokes about Donald Trump, we heard an interesting recap of populism in this country: Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader. All were responses to prevailing conditions and all fizzled when the pendulum swung back.
Here are some snippets to give you the gist: rejected establishment; de-legitimized Obama; exploited DC foolishness; nobody has a clue where we are going; no knowledge of Constitution; no impulse control; short attention span; unhinged; narcissist; inexperienced; uncharted territory; conflicts of interest.
By then I had pretty much gotten the idea that the speaker was no fan of the President Elect. Fair enough. Many aren’t. There are entirely legitimate reasons to have preferred Secretary Clinton. Policy differences and experience are high on the list.
Whether or not the speaker was specifically aware of the Doug Schoen polling data, I suspect he was aware of the anti-Washington feelings elsewhere.
With that in mind, I asked, “given your apparent strong feelings, what would you have wished had been done two, five or 10 years ago to avoid the buildup of such anti-Washington feeling?”
I was not encouraged by the answers: end Republican opposition to all things Obama (albeit with the caveat that it worked well for the Republicans in 2010 and 2012); a better health care law; mandatory voting; and hanging more Wall Street villains from lamp posts.
Mandatory voting? Really? When Washington’s lost those poll questions by an average of 79% to 16%?
Do the anonymous insider’s answers sound like the culprits or are you more persuaded by Doug Schoen’s data pointing to Washington insiders as the problem?
Some will always get it faster than others but it seems time for the Washington political industry to move a bit more briskly.