Establishment candidates get ‘trump’ed, ‘bern’ed




For the past year, the American people have been treated to one of the most bizarrely intriguing events ever to take place in this country: the process to elect the next President of the United States.

This current election cycle has proven to be filled with defiant and unpredictable candidates, compared to the campaigns of the past. “Upstart” candidates have overthrown and supplanted “establishment” party favorites from the race, and a multitude of issues have been brought up, ranging from income inequality to border controls to conflict in the Middle East.

Key to understanding this election are the two “outsider” candidates who have stirred up so much controversy and conflict within their parties: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side and real estate mogul Donald Trump on the Republican side.

Sanders, a self-styled “democratic socialist,” favors the implementation of national socialized healthcare, free, paid college tuition and a higher minimum wage. Trump, most notably, favors the construction of a 2,000-mile-long wall along the United States-Mexico border, the deportation of 12 million illegal immigrants and high tariffs to convince companies to hire American workers. Both groups appeal to a very wide majority: disenfranchised, working-class Americans who are seeking a higher standard of living for themselves and their families, and feel thwarted by high costs of living and few available jobs.

Another part of the reason why voters are so willing to accept “radical” candidates such as Trump and Sanders is because they are disillusioned with the current state of government. A general sense of disappointment with Barack Obama’s administration has been pervasive, as those on the right argue that Obama has overstepped his boundaries, and those on the left feel he has not gone far enough with policies. What is important to realize is that the President does not make the laws or important decisions overseeing budgets and debts. The Congress holds sole power over these matters, and it is this divided, partisan group that has obstructed Obama at every turn, repeatedly refusing to follow through with his suggestions and trying to overturn his legislation (the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” chief among them.)

Sanders and Trump both have adopted a form of populism (a political movement that emphasizes hopes and fears on issues that people feel very strongly about, such as border control and free college tuition) that has captivated the nation. The American people are angry, and they are demanding change. This is not the change that propelled Obama to the White House in 2008; those who feel this way are demanding real, effective change and are angry.

Trump and Sanders have been doing well in this election, primarily because of their perceived “outsider” status. Trump has singlehandedly toppled the campaigns of several admired Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Chris Christie and, most notably, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Trump repeatedly insulted and criticized Bush’s family, including former President George W. Bush for his foreign policy actions, including the war in Iraq. The Feb. 13 televised Republican Party debate illustrated this clearly. Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio clashed in a battle of words and rhetoric that made a mockery, and ultimately a casualty, of Jeb Bush, once widely considered and expected to receive the Republican Party’s nomination. He formally dropped out of the race Feb. 20.

Sanders has risen to prominence as an outsider who knows how to govern. As the longest-serving Congressional independent in national history, Sanders was not affiliated with any political party until September of 2015. He has cited his experience in policymaking and working “across the aisle” to pass key pieces of legislation, as evidence that he is a competent and experienced politician. While Sanders lacks the extensive experience and knowledge that more accomplished politicians such as Clinton have, his ideas have garnered him much support and admiration, commanding large followings on social media including Twitter, Reddit and Facebook.

The race continues: Secretary Clinton continues to resist the Sanders insurgency, even with thousands of voters being attracted daily to his messages and ideas. In Nevada and Iowa, Sanders has come within single percentage points of Clinton. Cruz has won Iowa on the Republican side, but Trump has won New Hampshire and South Carolina, and his formidability within the party seems to grow ever stronger.

One thing is certain: no one can possibly predict the outcome of the November election. All the conventional “rules” and wisdom surrounding candidacies have seemingly gone out the window. As we turn into “Super Tuesday” March 1, when 12 states’ primaries and caucuses will take place, it remains to be seen who the voters will ultimately select to be in the White House.

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