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Professor Inderjeet Parmar gives his reaction to Obama’s final State of the Union address
Politics & Law Series: Expert Comment

US political establishment rocked by New Hampshire primary results

By Professor Inderjeet Parmar

by City Press Office (General enquiries)

Anti-establishment candidates triumph

The contest has only just begun, of course, but it is already clear that the anti-establishment wave that has been criss-crossing Europe – from Spain to Greece to the election of left-winger Jeremy Corbyn to Labour Party leader, not to mention the rise of UKIP – seems to have crossed the Atlantic.

There is a palpable sense of disillusionment with established political elites and new hope that emerging movements of resistance will be able to take on the financial and political power of big banks whether in London, New York or Berlin, and turn back the tide of 'austerity' policies that have seen draconian cuts in public spending on the middle classes as well as the most vulnerable in our societies.

Sanders secures huge win in Democrat vote

Bernie Sanders’ big lead in polls was replicated in the election – with 60 per cent of the vote, over 20 per cent ahead of Clinton. Sanders’ call for a “political revolution” resonated with Democrats far more than Clinton’s ‘realism’. Sanders seems to be winning in the Democrats’ tug-of-war over who’s the real ‘progressive’ candidate. Hillary is losing ground to Sanders especially among young and women voters. Her claims that she can “rein in Wall Street” while suggesting Sanders is impractical did not cut any ice with NH electors.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have received election campaign donations of $3 billion over the past 40 years, according to a Washington Post investigation. And the Clinton Foundation has been rocked by revelations of its links with major banks and corrupt businessmen providing donations in exchange for major government contracts. Sanders’ huge win will drive home his message that he can take on Clinton, even though he lags behind in racially diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina. But back in June 2015, Clinton led in NH by 15 per cent; she lost by 22 per cent.

Sanders is still not making any real appeal to minorities, despite popularity with young voters. In Iowa, over 80 per cent of voters under 29 years of age supported Sanders. However, former president and CEO of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Ben Jealous, has endorsed Sanders for the nomination, a significant step ahead of the South Carolina primaries where Clinton’s lead is around 40 per cent, and African-Americans make up 60 per cent of Democratic voters.

Republican race remains wide open

With the progressive label being fought over in the Democratic Party and the Republican shift to the right brought about by Trump’s popularity, the partisan divisions in the US remain very wide.

The leading anti-establishment Trump won a resounding victory too – cashing in on widespread disgust with professional career politicians. Although Rubio picked up more endorsements after Iowa and moved closer to Trump in terms of Google search volume in New Hampshire (and the US more generally), his campaign suffered a severe setback after winning just 10 per cent of the vote and coming in fifth behind John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, who did relatively well despite gaining just one new endorsement to Rubio’s nine since Iowa.

The Republican race remains wide open although the scale of Trump’s gives the GOP leadership a real headache.

The point to bear in mind, however, is that the GOP race is front-loaded with states likely to favour outsiders like Trump and Cruz – high proportions of non-college educated and evangelical voters, where delegates are allotted on the basis of proportional representation. But later down the road, state primaries are first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all delegates, and have far more delegates to distribute.

In America, money screams

Yet, it must also be remembered that a large proportion of Trump’s white non-college-educated base is economically liberal – they want bigger government programmes for the poor and working families, with heavier taxes for the rich, and redistribution of wealth and income. Indeed, a majority of Republican voters favour redistributive measures. Party images – focused around ethno-racial and cultural factors – are the principal perceptions keeping apart economically-liberal GOP and Democratic voters.

But those opinions – on left and right – do not accord with the views of large donors to the Clinton and Rubio/Cruz/Bush campaigns – and they have flatly refused to address the matter. In Europe, money talks; in America, money screams.

Professor Inderjeet Parmar is Head of the Department of International Politics at City University London.

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