Feb 22nd 2016

The "Meta-Issues" Behind the Sanders-Clinton Contest

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

The Democratic presidential primary race is shaping up to be a fascinating contest between the voters' views of two distinct political personalities. Some find this state of affairs confounding, believing that the election should have been a "slam-dunk" for Hillary Clinton—the former First Lady, twice elected Senator from New York, and former Secretary of State. That a 74-year-old socialist Senator from Vermont is giving her, quite literally, a "run for the money", is stunning.

Polls show the once cavernous gap that separated the two is closing. They tied in Iowa and Sanders defeated Clinton soundly in New Hampshire. He also raised more money than Clinton in January, all from small individual donors, putting an exclamation point on his fundraising ability with a stunning two day intake of eight million dollars following the New Hampshire victory—all from online contributors.

In an effort to understand the Sanders' phenomenon I have identified several factors that appear to be defining this contest. Some are issue related, while others are driven more by, for lack of a better term, "meta-issues".

On one level, Clinton is running on a rather traditional liberal/moderate platform. She emphasizes her experience and her record of "getting things done". Her speeches include a litany of programs she proposes to implement and causes she will champion. She will fight for women and children, working families, immigrants, health care, civil rights, etc.—offering to make incremental but real change. At the same time, she insists that she will be fiscally responsible. And she will support a muscular foreign policy that will defend American interests and allies.

Sanders' stump speech, on the other hand, drives home a single theme—the fact that the American economy and politics are dominated by a handful of billionaires who have "rigged" the system to support their interests at the expense of the majority. With this foundation laid, Sanders calls for a political "revolution" that will mobilize voters to demand a leveling of the playing field, offering such expansive programs as universal health care and free college education. He proposes paying for these by imposing taxes on the very wealthy and on excessive Wall Street behavior. And he emphasizes a more restrained foreign policy that avoids irresponsible, costly, unwinnable wars.

Sanders' edge is that he offers "bumper sticker" clarity.  Because his programs and proposals all flow from a coherent economic and political philosophy, his message more easily resonates with many voters. This clarity is something that Republicans have long owned and Democrats have missed. While Republicans could speak of "small government and individual freedom", Democrats could only respond with a bewildering array of causes and programs that lacked a central over-arching theme. With Sanders, Democrats can respond with theme like "a government that cares" and "we all matter".

Clinton criticizes Sanders' program as unachievable "pie in the sky", countering that her approach is incrementalist and real. But Democrats and independents who may not agree with Sanders' philosophy or even believe that his far-reaching proposals will be implemented, share his anger at the corrosive effects of inequality and have been captivated by his campaign.  

More significant still is the important fact that voters, whether or not they agree with Sanders program, appear to trust him more, believe that he means what he says, and feel that he really does care about their concerns. This comes through quite clearly from my discussions with a wide range of voters I've met in several states and from letters I've received from others who have expressed their views on the two candidates. Their reactions and the attitudes that come through in national polls need to be understood.

In this regard, the entrance/exit polls from Iowa and New Hampshire are instructive in that they help delineate the attitudes of the constituencies supporting each of the candidates. Clinton wins easily in two areas—"the right experience to be president" and "can win in November". On the other hand, Sanders overwhelmingly dominates in two other areas—"is honest and trustworthy" and "cares about the needs of people like me". These are the "meta-issues" that have worked to Sanders advantage.

The Sanders support base overlaps, to some degree, with what was called the "Obama coalition" in that it includes young voters. In his insightful book, "The Way We'll Be: The Transformation of the American Dream" , my brother John Zogby, defines the value orientation and world-view of the distinct age groupings that make up the American electorate. The youngest of these, he calls the "First Globals". They are the first generation of Americans who are global in their worldview and accepting of all forms of diversity. They are willing to learn from others and see themselves as citizens of the world. They are open to other religions and define "spirituality" not in terms of an organized church, but values that connect them to others and to the planet. And, most importantly, they are attracted to qualities like openness, authenticity, and integrity. These are the "meta-issues" that have attracted young voters to Sanders and may not be transferable to Clinton should she emerge victorious in the primaries. The exit polls, for example, show Sanders beating Clinton by a margin of six to one among young voters.  

There is an intriguing subtext to John's study that is also worth considering. While, in the past, younger generations looked to older generations for guidance, today, that process has been reversed. Increasingly, older generations are learning values from their children. As was the case in the Obama campaign in 2008, many older folks I've met this year tell me that they have been inspired to support Sanders because of the enthusiasm he has created among their children or younger voters, in general.

And so, as this drama plays out, it will be important to see how this generational and values driven struggle plays out. Will voters opt for experience and the perceived "ability to win" or will they gravitate toward a candidate they trust who they perceive cares for them? From what we have seen so far, it is these "meta-issues", more than anything else, that may decide the outcome. 


Dr. James J. Zogby ©, President of the Arab American Institute


TO FOLLOW WHAT'S NEW ON FACTS & ARTS, PLEASE CLICK HERE!

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Apr 13th 2021
EXTRACT: "Overall, our review has found that there isn’t evidence to back up the claims that veganism is good for your heart. But that is partly because there are few studies ....... But veganism may have other health benefits. Vegans have been found to have a healthier weight and lower blood glucose levels than those who consume meat and dairy. They are also less likely to develop cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. "
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Pollock’s universe, the universe of Mural, cannot be said to be a rational universe. Nor is it simply devoid of all sense. It is not a purely imaginary world, although in it everything is in a constant state of flux. Mural invokes one of the oldest questions of philosophy, a question going back to the Pre-Socratic philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus – namely, whether the nature of Reality constitutes unchanging permanence or constant movement and flux. For Pollock, the only thing that is truly unchanging is change itself. The only certainty is that all is uncertain."
Apr 8th 2021
EXTRACT: "Many present day politicians appear to have psychopathic and narcissistic traits too. It’s easy to spot such leaders, because they are always authoritarian, following hardline policies. They try to subvert democracy, to reduce the freedom of the press and clamp down on dissent. They are obsessed with national prestige, and often persecute minority groups. And they are always corrupt and lacking in moral principles."
Apr 6th 2021
EXTRACT: "This has led some to claim that not just half, but perhaps nearly all advertising money is wasted, at least online. There are similar results outside of commerce. One review of field experiments in political campaigning argued “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero”. Zero!"
Mar 30th 2021
EXTRACT: "The Father is an extraordinary film, from Florian Zeller’s 2012 play entitled Le Père and directed by Zeller. I’m here to tell you why it is a ‘must see’." EDITOR'S NOTE: The official trailer is attached to the review.
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "Picasso was 26 in 1907, when he completed the Demoiselles; de Kooning was 48 in 1952, when he finished Woman I.  The difference in their ages was not an accident, for studies of hundreds of painters have revealed a striking regularity - the conceptual painters who preconceive their paintings, from Raphael to Warhol, consistently make their greatest contributions earlier in their careers than experimental painters, from Rembrandt to Pollock, who paint directly, without preparatory studies."
Mar 26th 2021
EXTRACT: "Mental toughness levels are influenced by many different factors. While genetics are partly responsible, a person’s environment is also relevant. For example, both positive experiences while you’re young and mental toughness training programmes have been found to make people mentally tougher."
Mar 20th 2021

The city of Homs has been ravaged by war, leaving millions of people homeless an

Mar 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "There are two main rival models of ethics: one is based on rights, the other on duties. The rights-based model, which traces its philosophical origins to the work of John Locke in the 17th century, starts from the assumption that individuals have rights ....... According to this approach, duties are related to rights, but only in a subordinate role. My right to health implies a duty on my country to provide some healthcare services, to the best of its abilities. This is arguably the dominant interpretation when philosophers talk about rights, including human rights." ........ "Your right to get sick, or to risk getting sick, could imply a duty on others to look after you during your illness." ..... "The pre-eminence of rights in our moral compass has vindicated unacceptable levels of selfishness. It is imperative to undertake a fundamental duty not to get sick, and to do everything in our means to avoid causing others to get sick. Morally speaking, duties should come first and should not be subordinated to rights." ..... "Putting duties before rights is not a new, revolutionary idea. In fact it is one of the oldest rules in the book of ethics. Primum non nocere, or first do no harm, is the core principle in the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by doctors, widely attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates. It is also a fundamental principle in the moral philosophy of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero, who in De Officiis (On Duties) argues that the first task of justice is to prevent men and women from causing harm to others."
Mar 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "Several studies have recently compared the difference between antibodies produced straight after a coronavirus infection and those that can be detected six months later. The findings have been both impressive and reassuring. Although there are fewer coronavirus-specific antibodies detectable in the blood six months after infection, the antibodies that remain have undergone significant changes. …….. the “mature” antibodies were better at recognising the variants."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Like Shakespeare, Goya sees evil as something existing in itself – indeed, the horror of evil arises precisely from its excess. It overflows and refuses to be contained by or integrated into our categories of reason or comprehension. By its very nature, evil refuses to remain within prescribed bounds – to remain fixed, say, within an economy where evil is counterbalanced by good. Evil is always excess of evil." ....... "Nowhere is this more evident than in war. Goya offers us a profound and sustained meditation on the nature of war ........ The image of a Napoleonic soldier gazing indifferently on a man who has been summarily hanged, probably by his own belt, expresses the tragedy of war – its dehumanization of both war’s victims and victors."
Mar 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "A blockchain company has bought a piece of Banksy artwork and burnt it. But instead of destroying the value of the art, they claim to have made it more valuable, because it was sold as a piece of blockchain art. The company behind the stunt, called Injective Protocol, bought the screen print from a New York gallery. They then live-streamed its burning on the Twitter account BurntBanksy. But why would anyone buy a piece of art just to burn it? Understanding the answer requires us to delve into the tricky world of blockchain or “NFT” art."
Mar 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "Exercise is good for your health at every age – and you can reap the benefits no matter how late in life you start. But our latest research has shown another benefit of being physically active throughout life. We found that in the US, people who were more physically active as teenagers and throughout adulthood had lower healthcare costs."
Mar 10th 2021
EXTRACT: "Although around one in 14 people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, there’s still no cure, and no way to prevent the disease from progressing. But a recent study may bring us one step closer to preventing Alzheimer’s. The trial, which was conducted on animals, has found a specific molecule can prevent the buildup of a toxic protein known to cause Alzheimer’s in the brain."
Feb 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "The art historian George Kubler observed that scholars in the humanities “pretend to despise measurement because of its ‘scientific’ nature.” As if to illustrate his point Robert Storr, former dean of Yale’s School of Art, declared that artistic success is “completely unquantifiable.” In fact, however, artistic success can be quantified, in several ways. One of these is based on the analysis of texts produced by art scholars, and this measure can give us a systematic understanding of how changes in recent art have produced changes in the canon of art history."
Feb 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "The most politically sensitive option we looked at was the virus escaping from a laboratory. We concluded this was extremely unlikely."
Feb 16th 2021
EXTRACT: ".... these men were completely unaware that they had put their lives in the hands of doctors who not only had no intention of healing them but were committed to observing them until the final autopsy – since it was believed that an autopsy alone could scientifically confirm the study’s findings. As one researcher wrote in a 1933 letter to a colleague, “As I see, we have no further interest in these patients until they die.” ...... The unquestionable ethical failure of Tuskegee is one with which we must grapple, and of which we must never lose sight, lest we allow such moral disasters to repeat themselves. "
Feb 14th 2021
EXTRACT: "In 2010 Carlos Rodriguez, the president of Buenos Aires' Universidad del CEMA, created the world's first - and only - Center for Creativity Economics.  During the next ten years, the CCE presented a number of short courses and seminars.  But the most important of its events was an annual lecture by an Argentine artist, who was given a Creative Career Award."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "It’s not hard to see why. Although AI systems outperform humans in tasks that are often associated with a “high level of intelligence” (playing chess, Go, or Jeopardy), they are nowhere close to excelling at tasks that humans can master with little to no training (such as understanding jokes). What we call “common sense” is actually a massive base of tacit knowledge – the cumulative effect of experiencing the world and learning about it since childhood. Coding common-sense knowledge and feeding it into AI systems is an unresolved challenge. Although AI will continue to solve some difficult problems, it is a long way from performing many tasks that children undertake as a matter of course."
Feb 7th 2021
EXTRACT: "When it comes to being fit and healthy, we’re often reminded to aim to walk 10,000 steps per day. This can be a frustrating target to achieve, especially when we’re busy with work and other commitments. Most of us know by now that 10,000 steps is recommended everywhere as a target to achieve – and yet where did this number actually come from?"