Opinion: The primaries get emotional in New Hampshire | Opinion | DW | 09.02.2016
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Opinion: The primaries get emotional in New Hampshire

What are the US presidential primaries really about? Certainly not about realistic policy platforms. This is when emotions take over - and that makes everything so unpredictable, DW's Ines Pohl writes in New Hampshire.

There is no rational explanation for why Bernie Sanders continues to see his popularity increase. Even his biggest fans know that he has little chance of being anointed the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential candidate. The party chooses its candidate for the nation's highest office in part through superdelegates - a rigged system that makes it almost impossible for an outsider like Sanders to compete against Hillary Clinton, the choice of the establishment. The primary campaign is a matter of power and money. Voters may be attracted by the positions Sanders takes, and the party's established interests may be afraid of them, but policy promises only play a small role in the nomination.

Sanders gives voters the feeling that they are important and that their opinions matter at a time when average people increasingly feel as if their voices are going unheard. "Join the political revolution today!" a Sanders T-shirt reads, and voters appear ready to sign up.

Revolution means participation, fundamental change and ultimately empowerment. A call for revolution touches voters' hearts.


DW's Ines Pohl

Americans are eternally proud of their revolution against England 240 years ago. But today many feel that they have been swindled by the political elite in Washington and the "big money" and corrupt dealings on Wall Street.

What's Clinton's stance?

Former Secretary of State Clinton is trapped. She may have sound arguments when, for example, she takes on a proposal by Senator Sanders to restructure the health care system, but she has not managed to connect with the people. She has not been able to provide the electorate with an emotional shelter for their fears, concerns, anger and hopes. Clinton does not offer a new story; she is living history.

The onetime senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been around too long for people to believe that she will save them - and that is where the 74-year-old Sanders can step in.

Clinton is the only predictable factor in this remarkable election year. Everyone knows her weaknesses - stances she has had to walk back, for example, or a brewing scandal over her use of private email for State Department business - just like they know her strengths and her resolve. But such predictability seems undesirable in the current election campaign.

In this early phase of the elections, Americans would much more prefer someone they can use as a screen to project their dreams on. They want to be involved, to be able to make a difference in a world that is becoming increasingly confusing and threatening.

The Republicans are confronted with a similar situation. The most popular Republican candidates are the ones who have entered the election campaign on the basis of unsubstantiated promises - and they mainly rely on the power of emotions, a force that is as strong as it is fleeting. That is why so many people have remained undecided until the last minute. And that's what makes Tuesday's primaries in New Hampshire so exciting for some and frightening for others.

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