台灣的民主仍處發展階段，美國的民主則成熟許多，選舉過程的算計也更加細緻。許多專家原本預測，這會是場（希拉蕊）柯林頓對決（傑布）布希的無趣選戰，然而，川普（Donald Trump）、桑德斯（Bernie Sanders）等非傳統候選人崛起，搶走傳統當權集團候選人的鎂光燈，為選戰增添變數，也讓 2016 年選舉季顯得詭譎、瘋狂又難以預測。艾荷華初選的最重要意涵即為：揮舞反當權派大旗的候選人來勢洶洶，重要政黨無不嚴陣以待。
希拉蕊（Hillary Clinton）在民主黨艾荷華初選中，僅能險勝自承是社會主義者的桑德斯。共和黨方面，參議員克魯茲（Ted Cruz）勝出，華而不實的川普居次，魯比歐（Marco Rubio）排名第三；其中，在 2013 年靠著讓政府停擺而聲名大噪的克魯茲，有如共和黨當權派的死敵；曾獲茶黨支持的魯比歐，現在則成為當權派所支持的候選人。
美國初選是在 1 月至 6 月間舉行，候選人參與各州初選以贏得代表人票，並於全國代表大會舉行之時，由代表人票數決定政黨提名人。由於各州的人口結構不同，部分候選人可能會跳過某州，將焦點放在其他地方。因此，這也是個研究候選人策略能力、能否贏得廣泛支持的好機會。
美國選舉目前最常見的主軸之一，就是對抗「政治當權派」。「華府小圈圈政治」（Beltway Politics）象徵政治分贓，說客和利益團體擁有強大影響力，向來為人詬病。然而，自 2008 年的經濟衰退開始，這種不滿的情緒更逐漸成為主流──即使如今美國經濟似乎正在復甦，中產階級的薪資成長大多仍陷於停滯，被視為衰退禍首的金融家卻沒有被逮捕，依然過著奢華的生活。
共和黨的知名派系、屬於保守自由派的茶黨在 2009 年崛起，將目前的總統初選候選人克魯茲和魯比歐送進參議院。這些新科議員不僅挑戰共和黨當權領導層，甚至直接衝撞歐巴馬政權、導致政府停擺，也在去年讓眾議院議長貝納（John Boehner）辭職。另一方面，民主黨內的進步派也在崛起，讓華倫（Elizabeth Warren）成為麻州參議員。簡言之，價值派政治人物不但讓協商政治難以前行，更反對協商，彷彿協商即等同於放棄政治意識形態。
他以衷心、真誠又熱情的進步派訴求挑戰希拉蕊，證明即使是長期處於政治邊緣地帶的候選人，仍舊有機會爭取一席之地，因為自由派一向存在。泰德‧甘迺迪（Ted Kennedy）、卡特（Jimmy Carter）等過去的政治人物，也曾在選舉中使用類似的訊息；甘迺迪最終無法獲得提名，但卡特在美國從水門案中復元之際，以進步派改革者、華府圈外人之姿擊敗了政壇老手福特（Gerald Ford）。
克魯茲的做法與桑德斯亦有類似之處：訴諸渴求鬥士現身的意識形態陣營。不過，克魯茲的競選手段就傳統許多：他建立效率十足的基層組織、行遍各郡，成功鞏固許多社會保守派選票。克魯茲相信，幻滅而憤怒的共和黨右派陣營正是他的支持基礎：他在 2013 年發動長達 21 小時的議事杯葛，阻擋維持政府運轉的撥款法案，更公開反對許多歐巴馬的政策，早已在共和黨右派心中擁有穩固的地位。
正因為如此，克魯茲才能在愈來愈多保守派候選人氣勢下滑之際，接收他們的支持基礎。川普雖然吸引了大量注意力，卻沒有克魯茲那樣強大的地方網絡；保守派選民在艾荷華佔多數，克魯茲能在艾荷華初選中獲勝並不令人意外。而在布希（Jeb Bush）、凱西克（John Kasich）掙扎，共和黨當權派開始尋找有機會勝出的候選人之際，同樣在茶黨的支持下躍入政壇的魯比歐，也脫離克魯茲稱霸的極右陣營，轉而擁抱共和黨當權派。
Presidential and Parliamentary election came to an end in Taiwan two weeks ago, but primaries for the Presidential election in the US have just commenced with the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses for both parties.
Compared to Taiwanese democracy which is still in its developing stages, US democracy is much more mature, making the electoral process more refined and choreographed. Yet, the 2016 election cycle is full of eccentricity, unpredictability and insanity with the rise of unconventional candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Stealing the limelight from traditional establishment candidates, they have instilled variables into what most pundits thought would be a dull Clinton vs Bush election. The most important implications from the Iowa Caucus are that both major political parties are bracing for a hostile takeover by candidates channeling anti-establishment ire.
Hillary Clinton of the Democractic Party (DNC) barely won against Bernie Sanders, a self-professed socialist. On the Republican (GOP) side, Sen. Ted Cruz, a nemesis of the GOP establishment whose claim to fame was shutting down the government in 2013 prevailed in Iowa while the bombastic Donald Trump came in second with the former Tea Party supported Marco Rubio who has now become the establishment backed candidate came in third.
Primary elections in the US take place between January to June, with the winner of the respective state earning the vote of the delegates who will vote for them in the national convention to nominate them for the candidacy. As each states are different demographically , certain candidates might simply skip one state and focus their efforts on others. Therefore, it is also a good chance to study whether these candidates have the ability to strategize to win broad base support.
One of the pervasive themes of the current US election is the rage against “establishment politics”. There has always been resentment towards “beltway politics” which symbolizes pork barrel politics heavily influenced by lobbyists and interest groups. However, since the recession of 2008, such resentment has gradually gained prominence as while US economy seem to be recovering, middle class wage growth has remained largely stagnant yet the financiers who are perceived culprits of the recession are not apprehended and still live lavishly.
The famous conservative libertarian Tea Party wing of the Republican Party rose in 2009 electing current candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to the Senate. These newly elected members challenged the establishment GOP leadership and even the Obama presidency, leading to government shutdown and the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner last year. In the meantime, there has also been a rise in progressive wing of the DNC with the election of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. In short, the rise of value based politicians made the conciliatory politics difficult and frowned upon, as if deal making being equated to a renunciation of political ideologies.
The clear schism in ideologies inside both parties have created opportunities for lesser known fringe politicians to catapult onto the main stream by capturing the heart of these groups and serve as their champion.
Sanders is an ardent supporter of regulating the "the big-money establishment" who he implies are financial supporters of Hillary Clinton, a household name and Washington insider whose Clinton Foundation has drawn criticism for accepting questionable donations. Sanders' populist message was able to take advantage of the ever restless ideological bloc within the Democratic primary electorate: "progressives" which more and more young democrats identify themselves as.
Sanders has stayed away from openly challenging Clinton who has been mired in the scandal of using her personal email account while serving as the Secretary of State. Coincidentally, while he follows President Obama's footstep in wooing progressive, liberal minded young voters, he does not declare war on the establishment wings of the DNC to maintain an amicability to all sides.
He demonstrates that by challenging Clinton with a heartfelt, authentic and enthusiastic progressive appeal, a candidate who has always been on the fringes of political landscape has a chance to become relevant as this liberal wing has always been there. Previous politicians such as Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter also campaigned on similar messages, while Ted Kennedy did not ultimately win the nomination, Carter served a single term, defeating Gerald Ford on the platform of being a progressive reformer who is not a Washington insider when the US was recovering from the Watergate Scandal.
It is also worth noting that having been an Independent for most of his career, Sanders only joined the Democratic Party last year to present himself as a true progressive model to present to voters a fresh and cool alternative to the ideologically suspect and baggage-heavy Clinton.
Ted Cruz did something similar to Sanders: he appealed to an ideological bloc that pines for a champion. However, Cruz took a much more conventional approach to his campaign. He fielded an effective on-the-ground organization, travelled to numerous counties to and was able to consolidate much of the social conservative vote. Cruz has identified the foundation of his support with the disenchanted, angry right wing block of the GOP and already cemented his place in their mind with his famous 21 hour speech filibuster to block a funding bill to keep the government open in 2013 and his open opposition to Obama's many policies.
Thus, as more and more conservative candidates lose momentum, Cruz was able to inherit their support base. Although Trump dominated much of the attention, he did not have as strong of a local operation compared to Cruz so it was not a huge surprise that he was able to win the Iowa caucus where conservative voters make up a large contingent of the electorates. Marco Rubio, who also came onto the political landscape as a Tea Party backed candidate, has shifted away from the far right that has been dominated by Cruz, and instead embraced the GOP establishment that is seeking for a viable candidate after centrist figures such as Jeb Bush and John Kasich have struggled.
Donald Trump's strategy was not to become the leader of the party's conservative wing as before this election cycle he has been closer to the Democrats than the Republicans. As he positions himself as a atypical politician, he smartly traverses hot button issues by bringing up taboos that normal politicians do not dare to venture to. He wages a cultural revolution, not an ideological rebellion within the GOP as he also saw an untapped voter base that he can leverage on.
His main argument is not that the government is too big, but that everyone in government is "stupid". With his campaign, the political is the personal, clear and simple yet do not adhere to a clear ideological line, bifurcating complicated policy issues into plain "great" and "awful". He's not playing to the ideological voters of the GOP, but to the angry ones. These are mostly Caucasian, non college educated voters who have for reasons that might not be sound resented Obama's presidency. They are not seeking an ideological crusader who quotes the Constitution and presents intellectually sound arguments for smaller government and lower taxes. Instead they are looking for a venter-in-chief who is as furious as they are and who promises that he and the nation will win, win, win.
Yet the biggest challenge of pandering to these voters is to translate their support into actual votes as they have not been active participants of the political process. As the result of the primary showed, Trump getting 25 percent of the vote should be a wake-up call in that his message isn’t currently resonating with a majority of core GOP voters and need adjustment for the subsequent primaries.
The primaries is a long and tenuous process that in past election cycles concluded without much twists and turns. This election cycle has turned out to be much different than previously anticipated with candidates from both sides capitalizes on the anti establishment ire by either being a champion of the anger or as a personification of the rage. It is too early to say who the eventual candidates will be, but this battle of establishment versus grass root anger will make these primaries much more intriguing to observe.
On a side note, looking at the US election, we see a similarity with our own political process in which a dominating theme of our past elections were also a rejection to the old, establishment politics. If we take a closer look at the figures mentioned above, we can also see similar figures in Taiwan, unknowns who leapt onto political limelight by channeling anger into political capital.
Over our past election, we have seen politicians like Cruz or Sanders, who stood firm on their political platform, or like Rubio who embraced party establishment to climb to prominence. We have also seen figures like Trump, a self proclaimed political neophyte and an outsider who is brash and unapologetic, playing the role of hater in chief to perfection yet unable to provide substantive policies once elected.
It will be fascinating to monitor the eventual outcome of the US primaries to see who will eventually survive and learn from this process to better monitor our own politicians.
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