If I were still writing editorials for the morning paper, I’d probably be staying late at the office tonight to follow the returns in the New Hampshire primary.
Of course I’m interested. Of course I care. But I followed and wrote about elections for many years. So I know probably better than most people that the outcome in this nearly all white state won’t determine who gets to be our next president.
Here’s the likely story. Bernie Sanders will win the Democratic race in New Hampshire. Donald Trump will win the Republican. There’s only a slim chance either one will go on to become president.
Here’s why I’m pretty confident of my prediction. In this country,
national elections are fought and won in the political middle. When a party nominates a candidate who is seen as extreme, the result is a huge loss for that party.
Two modern examples come to mind. In 1964, the Republican Party was taken over by its very conservative wing. It nominated Barry Goldwater, at that time seen as reflecting that wing of the party’s views.
The election that followed was a debacle for the GOP. Democrat Lyndon Johnson was elected to his own four-year term. A similar fate befell the Democrats in 1972 when the party nominated a leftist, Sen. George McGovern. Republican Richard Nixon won his second term that year.
I don’t think that these two cases prove that a Bernie Sanders or a Donald Trump would lose in a general election. It’s just that it’s hard to see how either could prevail when their appeal has mainly been to a fraction of the electorate.
And not to the mainstream.
Still, I applaud New Hampshire voters. No group of people in any other state takes their responsibility more seriously. And if these voters don’t determine the outcome of the election in November, they probably will settle the fate of several Republican candidates who haven’t yet polled well.
Moreover, by its huge turnout, the New Hampshire primary sets an example for the rest of the country. These voters offer a role model of what it means to be an American.
I’ll be watching the returns today on TV well into the evening.