The powerful candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have signaled that America’s distrust of political dynasties is alive in the 21st Century. As we’ve seen, both have garnered support by challenging the policies and ethics of the Clinton and Bush political dynasties.
Obviously, Trump and Sanders are much different in policy and style. While Sanders Socialist leanings have raised eyebrows, it’s understandable that Trump’s controversial statements have created much more of a stir. Although it’s easy to see where these candidates differ, it’s hard to deny that these political outsiders have successfully challenged the political status quo. In line with this, their success has caught political experts off guard.
In addition to the fact political dynasties make Americans nervous, other issues explain the phenomenon of these maverick candidates. Obviously, many voters are tired of “politics as usual.” These voters are searching for candidates who express themselves in atypical ways. Although many supporters disagree with Sanders or Trump on some issues, they appreciate how both candidates downplay typical political marketing methods.
Augmenting the support for these candidates are voters disappointed that President Obama couldn’t unite America beyond the Blue and Red divide. As many remember, part of Obama’s appeal when he became famous in 2004 was his eloquently stated desire to unite an America deeply divided under President GW Bush. As a result of this seemingly unfulfilled pledge, some voters are now tired of politicians who talk in lofty generalities.
Although Obama’s eloquence is obvious, some say that over time his policies and statements reveal he’s more comfortable playing a role of referee as opposed to unifier. To many on the conservative side, Obama’s referee pleas often seem aimed at getting conservatives to become more agreeable with liberal policies. Understandably, this Obama trait rankles conservatives. In addition, although liberals have less argument with Obama, there’s a strong contingent of Democrats and progressives who feel that President Obama, as well as Senator Clinton, are strongly connected to powerful corporate interests that are pursuing a form of globalism that favors the wealthy over average Americans.
Therefore, both Sanders and Trump are picking up support from those disappointed with Obama as well as the Bush and Clinton dynasties. This part of the electorate has evolved over the past 20 years a distrust of anyone smacking of professional politician. In fact, one can argue that as opposed to the focus-group orientation of modern politics that urges candidates to smoothly appease multiple special interests at once, the fact that both Trump and Sanders stick doggedly to core issues reinforces the support they have with an electorate that fears America’s in decline due to the slickness of modern politicians.
Currently, America is undergoing an identity crisis regarding politics. Many, including President Obama, have expressed a disdain for political nastiness. In line with that, a desire for a rationality that encourages respect for America’s checks and balances is often pleaded for by many of us.
However, if many of us are attempting to reduce political strife, why is it that many feel Americans are inadvertently being pitted against each other more than before along fault lines such as race, religion, political affiliation, and economic class? In addition, just what’s prompting the advent of a winner take all mindset that works against the idea America operates best when respect is shown to all subgroups?
Although answers to the above questions are complex, it’s within them one discovers the appeal of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Basically, many of their supporters seek a strong change in modern politics. Obviously, the passive-aggressive stereotype of the modern politician rankles these people even more than the “tell it like it is” style Trump and Sanders seem to represent. These people fear that the passive-aggressive politician, by refusing to take clear stands on issues, is inadvertently pitting Americans against each other. Many supporters of maverick candidates are concerned that modern politics now seems to value smooth political style over substance.
Historically, politics has never been for the tame of heart. Over years, many issues have created strong currents of emotional waves through American history. However, while that’s true, another factor to recognize is that political operatives, talking heads, and other members of the media establishment have definitely gotten nastier since the Fairness Doctrine in media was lifted in 1987. An explosion of entertainment-laden political commentary now works to arouse political passions in a 24-7 style as never before. This media driven intensity has undoubtedly helped create the dysfunctional and almost circus-like atmosphere many claim has invaded the Congressional arena the past twenty years. This is why polls show support for Congress at abysmal levels. However, although Congressional politics has worsened, there’s been agreement amongst political operatives that Presidential candidates should leave the dirty work to them so candidates appear calm and presidential.
In the past, independent-minded candidates like Sanders and Trump would’ve maybe run for President as Independents. However, since it’s now so difficult to launch these bids, candidates are more apt to stay within Democratic and Republican confines out of necessity. Ironically, the independent style of these mavericks is changing the party dynamic of Presidential politics.
Regarding political policy, Trump has been criticized much more than Sanders for not having typical policy ideas. Interestingly, when one looks beyond his brash attention-grabbing statements, it’s been shown that Trump has policy ideas that reveal analysis. And surprisingly, there are areas where he and Sanders echo similar themes.
For instance, regarding Mid-East policy, both maverick candidates have assailed the Bush and Clinton dynasties for failing to see the problems inherent with the nation-building concept pursued in the recent Iraqi war. Also, both Sanders and Trump have serious reservations about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that’s been negotiated largely in private. As is known, many mainstream Democrats and Republicans support the TPP pact. Regarding this, Trump and Sanders echo the caution many intellectuals, politicians, and economic experts on right and left have about its potential ramifications beyond free trade. After all, in reality most of us are in favor of many elements of free trade.
A concern with the TPP trade pact is that in addition to jobs being lost, it may eventually influence American laws and regulations. In line with this, some claim an umbrella of bureaucracy may be created over countries in the pact. Critics feel that the TPP may eventually evolve to resemble the European Union. Although the EU has laudable points, its recent economic troubles have given pause to those who feel it’s an ideal to be followed.
Obviously, the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are atypical. In the past, the self-avowed Socialism of Sanders and the bluntness of Trump would’ve probably disqualified them from serious Presidential consideration. However, these are different political times. Surprisingly, many political experts now concede that both candidates have tapped into a deep distrust of the typical professional politician seeking the Presidency.
If American politics and the art of governing are to truly become more rational, the nature of the campaigns of Trump and Sanders need to be understood. On one level, the popularity of these maverick candidates reflects the anxiety many Americans have about the TPP trade pact, job loss, and Mid-East policy. On another level, it’s also clear that many voters yearn for a political process that bypasses the political marketing strategies that have evolved the past 20 years. Regardless of what one thinks of Sanders and Trump, their brash ascendancy serves notice that more and more voters are starting to look upon smoothly polished politicians with suspicion.