To many in Washington, there’s little question that the 2016 presidential election should feature a dynasty rematch between the Clinton and Bush families. To most outside of Washington, that’s the last match-up they want to see.
The difference could perhaps be described as a tale of two Americas. The past 15 years have been a great time for political insiders, as the city of Washington, D.C., has become a boomtown. In fact, our nation’s capital is now the nation’s wealthiest metro market.
Fueling the economic growth in our nation’s capital has been an explosion of federal spending during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush presidencies. In 2001, the federal government spent $1.9 trillion.
This year, it will spend twice as much: $3.8 trillion. For the politically well-connected in Washington, life is good, and the goal for 2016 is to avoid rocking the boat.
Outside of Washington, however, there is a perception that something has gone wrong and Washington is to blame. From that perspective, the most important thing is to rock the boat and shake things up.
When considering the many candidates not named Clinton or Bush, most voters figure none of them could make things any worse than the current crop of political pros.
From this perspective, the Donald Trump phenomenon can be seen as the natural reaction to the Republican establishment’s desire to put another Bush in the White House. It’s more than just Trump. Support for Dr. Ben Carson, tech executive Carly Fiorina and Sen. Ted Cruz reflects a strong desire for something different.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed inevitable for a while. Now, she’s still the frontrunner, but not quite so inevitable. That’s partly due to her email practices. But there’s also a desire of many Democrats to find a candidate less comfortable with the status quo. As a result, many are showing enthusiasm for the only self-declared socialist in the race, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
This gap between America and official Washington has been visible for a long time. A few years ago, it was seen in the political wrangling over the so-called sequester. That was a political gimmick to limit the growth of discretionary spending. The Washington elites claimed that massive spending cuts were coming and convinced themselves that voters would erupt in anger once the “cuts” were implemented.
In reality, nobody outside the D.C. area even noticed. In truth, there were no spending cuts, just a reduction in the growth of spending.
But the difference between official Washington and America is about more than just money. It’s about an attitude captured in “The Hunger Games” movies: an outrageous display of a capital city living off the work of the outlying territories. The financial gap in the United States isn’t as big as in the movies, but the attitudinal gap certainly is. In fact, sometimes you get the sense that the Washington D.C. establishment crowd views themselves as the real nation. They think the rest of us are just here to serve them.