Thursday, March 31, 2016 7:19 am
by Matthew Rusling
While U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is still leading the race to her party’s nomination, the difficulty she’s been having with rival Senator Bernie Sanders underscores a disenfranchised and angry electorate.
Sanders racked up surprise wins Saturday in the states of Washington, Hawaii and Alaska, riding the wave of anti-establishment feeling that is prevalent not only in the Republican Party but among Democrats as well.
“There are a significant number of disenfranchised folks on the left, and the popularity of Bernie Sanders in this primary cycle is testament to that,” Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua.
This is fuelled by the perception that while she is a Democratic standard bearer, Clinton is part of the “business-as-usual” politics that the disenfranchised on both the left and right are tired of, Mahaffee said.
“The unfavourable rate for Hillary comes from this perception that she is part of ‘established politics’ and that electing her would not bring about significant change for the country,” he added.
Indeed, while much has been made in the media of Republican Party front-runner Donald Trump’s high negative ratings, Clinton’s negative ratings are nearly as high.
Just last week, a CBS poll showed that the two candidates have the highest unfavourable ratings since 1984, when CBS began asking the question.
Trump has favourable ratings of 24 percent, with 57 percent of voters who view him unfavourably, and Clinton scored a 31 percent favourable rating and a 52 percent unfavourable rating.
While Clinton is still in the lead, and most experts still believe she will clinch the nomination, she has a number of factors that bode ill for her.
“Given the perception that Washington could use new leadership, the idea that the United States could end up with a stretch of presidencies going Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton is not in Clinton’s favor,” Mahaffee said, referring to three past presidencies that have been either held by one of the Clinton family or Bush family.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said there is a sense of disenfranchisement on both sides of the aisle. While brash real estate billionaire Donald Trump leads the Republican Party on his anti-establishment message, Sanders’ popularity also stems from a sense of disillusionment with Washington elites.
“A lot of what is going on on the right is also going on on the left,” O’Connell told Xinhua. “A good number of Democrats are not thrilled with establishment politics either. It’s why a protest candidate like Sanders keeps hanging around.”
Brookings Institution’s senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua that Hillary Clinton has high negatives because of the many controversies surrounding her three decades of public service.
They see her as out of touch with basic grass-roots sentiments in the country,” said West.
“Her candidacy reinforces public frustration with politicians because the average person has not done well economically over the past 30 years. They worry that she will not change the status quo.”
Disenfranchised Democratic voters could make it difficult for Hillary Clinton in her race for the nomination, and make it increasingly challenging to unify the Democratic Party, experts said.
“Her high negatives mean that it will be difficult to close down the nominating contest with Sanders. The more voters feel her nomination is inevitable, the more they will wage a protest vote for Sanders in order to let her know they are not happy with her performance. This will make it more difficult for her to unify the party around her,” West said.