My early take in 2015 was that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton would win the money primary, and therefore the nominations of their respective parties. Hurray for dynasty, inherited donor networks and America’s ostensible creation of a House of Lords.
I thought all the focus on last name and inherited political power would be eclipsed if Jeb and Hillary proposed actual substantive agendas for the future that are more thoughtful than what their opponents offer. They did, but substance did not matter so much in American politics in 2016. The least substantive, the least thoughtful candidate won.
I advised Jeb and Hillary to give us viable plans and maybe a consensus could rally around one of their visions for the future. [Postscript: This turned out to be wrong. They did propose substance, and still lost.]
Jeb was more moderate on immigration and adoption of Common Core educational standards than the Republican base. Hillary was more hawkish on foreign policy and less liberal on economic policy than the Democratic base. They did substantively address economic development, income inequality, racial disparities in police behavior and in the criminal justice system, health care, tax reform, the deficit, global warming, fracking, Keystone Pipeline, continued development of alternative and renewable energy sources, but it did not matter.
One reason for Bill Clinton’s success in the 1992 campaign was that he was brimming with ideas and proposals and seemed to have a vision for the country that Bush 41 didn’t have. Bush 41 dismissed “the vision thing.” Remember the “Putting People First” platform? It wasn’t released too soon, but developed from conversations with voters and policy wonks after listening to people for a year and a half and released around the Democratic convention.
George W. Bush compensated for his father’s lack of vision by holding to a very strong vision — “compassionate conservatism,” “no child left behind” education reform, tax cuts, prescription drug benefits in Medicare (a sap to the pharmaceutical industry), regime change in Iraq — even when it conflicted with economic or political reality.
We were looking toward a dull 2016 cycle in terms of personalities. [This was wrong. Thank Trump for keeping the campaign riveting, if appalling.]