John L. Micek, 2/23/2016 [Archive]

A Tale of Two Political Dynasties

By John L. Micek

As it turns out, Americans aren't tired of all political dynasties. They're only tired of one of them.

Hillary Clinton continued her dogged march to the Democratic nomination on Saturday, picking up a needed win in Nevada's caucus, while Jeb Bush, enduring a final humiliation in South Carolina's GOP primary, quietly packed up his presidential tents and headed home to Florida.

Their two endings could not have been more different, but their stories, wrapped up in 1980s and 1990s politics, had much in common.

First, Bush.

The former Florida governor was the wrong man at the wrong time for the wrong party. It was a fact seemingly lost on no one, save, perhaps, for the candidate himself, who kept hoping that his form of genial country club conservatism would somehow catapult him to the front of the Republican pack.

But the GOP of 2016 isn't the one that belonged to Poppy or even to Dubya.

Compassionate conservatism and a Thousand-Points-of-Lightism are quaint relics when they're put alongside Trumpism, a savage religion whose apostates are low-energy losers and subject to being devoured by its Angry Fire God.

Bush fought gamely against the Angry Fire God, finding his voice late in the game. But not even strong words, his own ex-Prez brother, or the millions spent by Bush's super-PAC were enough to stop (or even dent) The Donald.

"Donald Trump channeled the worst fears, frustrations and anxiety of voters, but he also magnified those same feelings," Bush's chief strategist, Sally Bradshaw, told The Washington Post. "It would be difficult for any solutions-oriented conservative to tackle Trump in this environment, much less one who was seen as having been so much a part of the establishment. He was never going to be an angry guy — and voters wanted angry."

No, Bush was not angry. Not by a long-shot.

In his glasses and Oxford cloth button-downs, Bush was the substitute math teacher struggling gamely to keep an ornery class in line. Sure, the kids might pretend to listen, but there was no way they were going to cooperate.

Unlike Bush, who literally watched as his share of the Republican vote melted beneath his feet, Clinton knew her base and did everything she could to hang onto it during the Nevada caucus.

And it paid off. She scored big among women, black voters and older voters, according to a Politico analysis of entrance poll data.

All that bodes well for this weekend's Democratic primary in South Carolina, where voters tend to be both older and African-American. It will also serve Clinton well in the so-called 'SEC Primary' of southern states on March 1.

To be sure, the race between Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, while often tetchy, has been downright cordial compared to the GOP battle royale between The Angry Fire God and the minor demons seeking to defeat him.

And while that's allowed Clinton the luxury of focusing on her message, Sanders' candidacy has also forced Clinton to sharpen her message, notably when it comes to explaining her inexplicable coziness with Wall Street.

Clinton still has ground to make up among younger voters, who see her as a creature of the establishment against which the populist Sanders so often rails. There, her continuing trust issues could also prove to be a liability.

And like the Bushes, Clinton fatigue is still a very real problem for some Democratic voters. Unlike the Bushes, however, it does not run as deep. Nor is it as entrenched.

"Bush fatigue was bigger than he anticipated and it was impossible to overcome," Dana Perino, a former Bush 43 White House spokeswoman, said on Fox News over the weekend.

But while Bush's candidacy seemed like nothing so much as the Gap waffle-knit pocket tee you're amazed to find is still in your closet, Clinton's enduring appeal has much in common with another iconic 1990s brand.

That'd be veteran grunge-rockers Pearl Jam.

Sure the radio hits have long since dried up. But they're still touring and still making new music. You're always surprised to find out they're selling out concert sheds.

And you just find yourself humming along anyway.

——

©Copyright 2016 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, Micek is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at jmicek@pennlive.com.

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