When political pundit and Vox.com pundit Ezra Klein came to speak at Johns Hopkins University as part of the Foreign Affairs Symposium, he knew what people wanted to hear about most. “I was going to talk about how politics works, but no one gives a damn about that.” Instead, Klein focused on the “crazy goat rodeo” that is the 2016 presidential election – what he expected, what he didn’t foresee, and what literally no one saw coming.
The biggest thing Klein failed to predict was that Donald Trump would be the Republican frontrunner in a presidential election. Trump, who won a huge round in the primaries and the next day went on television to talk about his line of steaks, and who “literally rewets white supremacists,” could be the next President of the United States. According to Klein, anyone who saw that coming is either “a lunatic… or very smart.”
When asked what it would look like if Donald Trump were to in fact win the presidency, Klein chuckled, “What does a nuclear winter look like?” Then, in all seriousness, he said, “Nobody knows. Chief among nobody knows is Donald Trump.”
This election has been altogether unpredictable and has really turned politics on its head. The result of this election could determine the future of politics in America, and the process already has.
No longer do party endorsements decide who wins an election, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have been living proof of that. The cliché people pleasing candidate, who spends considerable time shaking hands and kissing babies, no longer has a distinct advantage – as shown by Sanders and Trump in New Hampshire. Super PACs and fundraising have come to mean virtually nothing. And socialist is no longer a dirty word.
What this election has revealed the most is how much the political parties have changed. According to Klein, the axiom on which we view political ideologies no longer ranges from conservative to liberal, but instead ranges from pro-establishment to anti-establishment.
There are now more independent voters than ever before, and two of the major presidential candidates, Sanders and Trump, do not heavily identify with the party for which they’re running. According to Klein, “Donald Trump has always been a member of the Donald Trump Party,” and even if Bernie Sanders doesn’t win, he will have changed American politics and the Democratic Party.
Overall, Klein remarked that, while there are plenty of lessons to be learned from his election, it is certainly is unprecedented and, at times, entertaining. But the question remains whether this election is the future of politics in America. As Klein said, “I don’t know if this election is an aberration… or the new normal.”