Election 2016 has been a shocking and unpredictable political affair. Right?
Election 2016 has not only been the most predictable election in recent memory, but the results have been virtually set in stone for many years.
Hillary Clinton basically secured the 2016 Democratic nomination seven-and-a-half years ago, on January 7, 2008, the day she teared up at a press conference in New Hampshire. Having suffered a surprising loss to Barack Obama in the Iowa primary a week earlier, with the polls in New Hampshire indicating that she would you likely lose that primary as well, and with the polls in the heavily black southern states quickly starting to reflect a recognition that Obama was for real, Clinton choked up as she discussed some of her mistakes. And in so doing, she in effect admitted to the Democrats and largely to the world that she realized that her chances in 2008 were slim and fading quickly. She would of course still make a frantic attempt to regain her footing and catch Obama by the Texas and Pennsylvania primaries, but she then understood that the effort likely would come up short. With her tears, Clinton acknowledged that day that she had learned her lesson. In the future, she would not take the party or the nomination for granted. She would wait for her next turn and would be a better candidate in 2016.
On that frosty New Hampshire day in January 2008, Clinton and every other serious Democrat potential 2016 hopeful knew that 2016 would belong to Clinton. Of course, questions then remained as to what Clinton would do for the next 8 years. And there would be 2016 challengers and some "surprise" show of strength either from the left or the right to come, as the emergence of a strong "surprise"rival on the margin is never really surprising. No one was prepared simply to accept a seeming 2016 coronation and everyone including Clinton recognized that having her "earn" the 2016 nomination would be more helpful for the general election than defaulting into the November race. But with the Democratic base and establishment then behind the 2008 runner-up, the numbers needed to flip that "surprise movement" challenger into a nominee could almost certainly never materialize, and thus no potentially serious Democratic challenger -- Joe Biden. Mark Warner, Andrew Cuomo -- would waste the effort or political capital. Despite the Sanders drama-leading-nowhere to come, Clinton's place in the November 2016 match-up has indeed been basically set for nearly the past eight years.
Tim Kaine and Julian Castro became the two Democratic finalists for the 2016 vice-president slot on August 23, 2008 and September 4, 2012 respectively. During the summer of 2008, Kaine, a Catholic moderate who was then the former mayor of Richmond, Virginia and sitting Governor of Virginia (and is now a former governor and current U.S. senator from Virginia), had made the Obama list of the final three potential vice-presidential candidates, along with Biden and then Senator Evan Bayh. Expecting the nomination, Kaine reserved dozens of hotel rooms for his extended family at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. The rooms were ultimately used by the Biden clan, as Obama went with the more senior statesman. Given the 2008 selection of Biden and with Evan Bayh soon to disappear from politics, Kaine that summer became the overwhelming leader in the clubhouse for the 2016 vice-presidential nod.
Four years later and four years ago, with the Hispanic vote then quickly growing in size and importance, Castro was tapped to give the Keynote Address at the 2012 Democratic Convention. His poor-boy-makes-good speech electrified the convention center and sent Democrat social media into a frenzy. As Castro descended the podium following his speech, he assumed his position as the Hispanic 2016 vice-presidential alternative to Kaine. Though Clinton is just now narrowing in on the official final selection, the ticket that will finally "emerge" in Philadelphia in two weeks has in fact been fairly well-set for many years.
No one of course long ago could have seen Donald Trump securing the 2016 Republican presidential nomination or Mike Pence becoming the VP candidate. But the nomination of a white male with virtually no appeal to either women or minorities -- like Trump -- has its roots and predictability in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 nomination of John McCain, the rise of the Tea Party, and the continuation of a self-destructive Republican primary and caucus nominating system. With the Republicans desperately needing a centrist candidate who could appeal to and cut into the growing demographic advantage supporting the Democrats -- women, minorities, gays, young, old, immigrants -- the Republican nominating system remained rigged over the past eight years in favor of a white male who will toe the line on the social issues most repugnant to the growing pro-Democrat constituencies. Donald Trump may have replaced long-favored Jeb Bush in securing the 2016 Republican nomination, but the Clinton versus white-male-with-no-appeal-to women-and-minorities matchup has long been both predictable and in the making.
Finally, the addition of a second, double-down, and if it were possible, even more offensive white male -- Pence -- to complete the 2016 Republican ticket has been the odds on favorite since the implosion of Sarah Palin in November 2008. Romney never got close to straying from the white male model in picking Paul Ryan in 2012 and Trump too focused almost exclusively on the three white male bears in that same broken mold -- Christie, Gingrich and Pence. And he chose the one. Pence, who would most alienate women and Hispanics.
With the line-ups long set, an old adage comes to mind. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again... and expecting a different result.