Once the Labor Day weekend sun sets, kids hit their schoolbooks and parents return to relentless commutes, politics returns with the vengeance of an awakened dragon. And during a presidential season, as primaries near, predictions are inevitable.
Political predictions, of course, are a tricky and relatively unscientific business, but The Root will attempt to present a somewhat clearer picture of what’s ahead.
Hillary Clinton deletes her email scandal, eventually gets the nomination. While it’s an exercise in closet chauvinism to keep comparing her with her brilliant political-strategist husband President Bill, we can say with some cracked-voice confidence that Clinton will find her way to that elusive nomination in ways that only Clintons know how. The Democratic machine has been pumped and primed for her return, and although Vice President Joe Biden is mulling his own jump into the race, there’s just no real sign of a Barack Obama surprise like the political Moses moment of 2008.
“Symbolically, she means way too much to women,” argues Santita Jackson, co-host and executive producer of Keep Hope Alive With Rev. Jesse Jackson, a nationally syndicated radio show. “Too many people are invested. They’ve done this before; she knows how to organize.”
“I think the impact of Secretary Clinton’s email problem will continue to be a drag on the campaign, but maybe not enough to drive her from the primary race,” says Peter Groff, a former ’08 Obama co-chair and the first black president of the state Senate in Colorado, a major swing state. For Groff, Hillary Clinton’s problem is not the primary as much as it is the constant “drip, drip, drip” in the general election that “erodes her trustworthiness and poses a problem in swing states like Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.”
There are already small indications of a shift in focus from what Clinton herself knew about her email servers to what people she hired to manage the servers knew about them—which is another way of saying that we’re now entering a period of mundane minutiae rather than smoking guns.
Donald Trump goes a lot farther than we thought he would. For a moment, you could easily have argued that Trump would end up as Clinton’s Ross Perot: His relationship with the Republican Party would deteriorate so much that he would end up running a third party bid that would siphon off just enough votes from the Grand Old Party to help her win—just as most believe Perot did in 1992 for her husband when he captured nearly 20 percent of the vote.
But with Trump’s brazen, wildcat rise-in-the-poll style, why would he do that? Why go such an expensive route when his grip around the Republican Party apparatus is slowly tightening? He heads into the first primary states with only another nonpolitician on his heels, as far as the polls can tell: a black retired neurosurgeon by the name of Ben Carson. But Trump outguns Carson with cash, organization, and an attractive level of unpredictability and carnival showmanship that resonates with too many voters on that side. And “it’s not about what the candidate is doing; it’s about the proposition,” says Jackson. “There are a lot of real American issues on the table: a bad economy, foreclosures, student-loan debt. The people will drive this process, not the candidates. All issues are at play.”
The Fed will raise interest rates—and you will feel it. It is, perhaps, the most consequential political story of the fall season that none of us are really paying that much close attention to. But occasionally we’ll flip channels, catch the Wall Street pundits talking about it, and then keep flipping to the season finales of Mr. Robot and Ballers.
The all-powerful Federal Reserve is considering an increase in interest rates—and in case you haven’t noticed, obscenely low interest rates have been one key tool that’s helped the Obama administration steer the national economy through turmoil. With many economists bullish about the economy and Democrats wanting a positive “recovery” narrative during the elections, it’s likely to happen sometime this fall, as early as this month.
The markets are all jittery because any major interest-rate hike will rattle the economy in unknown ways and create a new political scenario in which candidates, particularly Republicans, will talk more about it while American pocketbooks are jolted. A negative impact on people of color will be even more pronounced, since our unemployment rates, while decreasing only slightly, are still double the national average: Higher interest rates could put the squeeze on businesses, which suddenly put a hold on hiring.
Republicans pick up more governor seats and more statehouses. Forget about the 2016 election cycle for a moment—we’ve already got major state-level races happening in 2015. This is an off cycle presenting a tremendous test-run opportunity for some issues of importance to the Black Lives Matter network.
Three states—Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi—are holding gubernatorial races, the latter two state legislative races. There are also battles for the statehouses in New Jersey and Virginia. Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia hold huge concentrations of politically active black populations: 33 percent, 40 percent and nearly 25 percent respectively. Black voters in Kentucky averaged 11 percent of overall voter turnout in recent elections, and Louisiana and Mississippi are home to the largest delegations of African-American state legislators. Yet there are no signs of any black-electorate mobilizers, and even as Kentucky and Louisiana are considered “toss-ups,” no one has raised black political battle flags in these states despite the high black poverty, unemployment and uninsured rates that plague them.
“The irony is that the offices that will be on the 2015 ballot are the very offices that most directly handle Black Lives Matter concerns, issues and justified complaints,” says Groff.
Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and a contributing editor at The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, a frequent contributor to The Hill, the weekly Washington insider for WDAS-FM in Philadelphia and host of The Ellison Report, a weekly public-affairs magazine broadcast and podcast on WEAA 88.9 FM Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.