N.H. Says Take Your Pick: Angry Populist or Angry Socialist?

From left: Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
From left: Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

So complete has the Washington political culture of both parties bred a climate that favors insider power structure and cronyism (both corporate and political), that it’s no longer able to hide it behind smooth talk and show votes. It’s official: the Emperor has no clothes. The American electorate is angry, and their anger erupted into a full-on tantrum in New Hampshire last night.

While the good people of New Hampshire have flipped a middle finger to Washington, D.C., they’ve also presented a stark choice to their fellow Americans. Their message? “We’re so mad right now, we only see a choice between an angry populist and an angry socialist. So there. Chew on that.”

So complete were their victories (no, Trump didn’t underperform as I’d anticipated), first time voters flocked to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Note this CBS News summary:

First-time voters made up only a small percentage of the electorate Tuesday night – 15 percent on the Republican side (in comparison with 12 percent in 2012) and 17 percent on the Democratic side (down from 19 percent in 2008).

In both cases, however, the first timers went with the winners. Among the Republicans, Trump won 36 percent of these voters, Kasich came in second with 19 percent, and Cruz came in third with 12 percent. On the Democratic side, almost eight in 10 first-time voters supported Sanders.

As the primary season shifts southward, will anger subside and reason prevail? Perhaps. But it portends to be more of an issue for the Democrat party than for a soon-to-be winnowed Republican field. Sanders was expected to win in New Hampshire. But 60 percent? Most projections were for a tighter race with Hillary Clinton being able to pass it off as mere anomaly because of the Vermont effect. But the surprising margin for Sanders among young women voting is an ominous warning to Clinton to broaden her message beyond her aging feminist activist base. She’s in trouble, and she knows it.

For Republicans, less will be more. Now that Chris Christie has folded his tents as anticipated — and if Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina follow — it will mean more opportunity for substantive policy debate among the remaining five. As I remarked previously, anger excites, but believable policy convinces. Anger cannot sustain Mr. Trump as a platform, especially in light of the Cruz machine already humming in the upcoming primary states. And while at some point Trump’s anger must be articulated into believable policy initiatives, the Cruz and Rubio camps must develop a better strategy for convincing independents they can be ‘the guy.’ I think the best part of the Republican race has yet to be run.

So, kudos to New Hampshire. We know how you feel. We feel your pain. But now, who will do something about it?

Clint Cline is the president of Design4, a national media and messaging firm based in Florida.