Over the past several months, the enthusiasm for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been unmatched by their rivals. Whether I was on the east coast or the west coast, it seems that both sides of the country have been Feeling the Bern with the amount of Sanders merchandise I encountered. Donald Trump, whether you love him or hate him, has been the fire taking up all of the oxygen in the media to the scorn of his rivals. In addition, both men have saturated my social media, with people posting their praise and disdain for how they stand on the issues.
What is most striking about the two is how their appeal is beyond conventional party lines. Sanders was an independent until recently who has been at the forefront of issues such as income inequality. In fact, income inequality has been shown to have a tremendous effect on society, including having correlations with negative physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, incarceration, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being. Although his proposals such as free health care for all, free public college, and others have met criticism such as “how are we going to pay for it,” Sanders is bringing issues to the table so we can have a national discussion on how we are going to solve them.
Donald Trump understands the anger that is brewing in America. I remember watching in the first debate how he bolstered how he is not beholden to deep-pocketed donors and was honest about how he donated to both parties while he was a private citizen. His reason for doing is that as a business person, he needed to do what was best for his company. Once part of the establishment, Donald Trump has become a massive disruption to it and the Republican Party.
Even though Trump and Sanders are considered to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, they do share similar views in the area of trade and foreign policy. The basis of their beliefs is founded upon not what the military-industrial and trade-industrial complex wants but what is best for the American people. They both vehemently oppose the TPP, which has many concerned about its effects on internet freedom, healthcare, and the environment. Their foreign policy is about finding pragmatic solutions in the Middle East and keep American involvement (which has been shown in the past to cause even more chaos) at a minimum.
While Hilary Clinton has been scrutinized over her emails and Clinton Foundation donations and Jeb Bush is afraid to use his last name on his campaign logo because of being associated with his dynastic family, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have the least layers of appearances to hide under. Sanders is a product of participating in the social movements of the 1960s. He later moved to Vermont and his first consistently paying job was being elected the mayor of Burlington. Throughout his political career, he has remained true to his principles and has refused to give in to big money donations.
The rise of Donald Trump is due to the overuse of political correctness in America. The problem with political correctness is that it has silenced productive discourse and has created an environment where people are reluctant to share new ideas because they do not want to offend others. People look at Trump as the hero coming to save America from PC culture. Many wonder why Donald Trump has not fallen out of contention due to his previous statements that invoke racism and sexism, and it is because it’s part of his appeal; a person who honestly expresses what is on his mind. He proudly bolsters how he is very wealthy and how he can use his knowledge and experience to Make America Great Again, and has no problem calling out anyone who attacks him. His supporters eat it up.
And yet there is a stark difference between the two; Donald Trump is running by his name, and Bernie Sanders represents a movement. People are voting for Trump for being Trump and people are voting for Bernie because of the positions that he has been fighting for over the course of his lifetime. Furthermore, the emotion that is driving both candidates could not be more opposite. People support Trump out of fear; fear of terrorist attacks, insecure borders, and that America will lose the spark that made it the light of the world. People support Sanders out of love. They want to help others achieve the American dream through progressive policies and desire to be a part of a more tolerant, accepting America in the future.
Whatever you think of these two men, there is little doubt that their brands of American Populism are a warning to sign to the Establishment that the American people are mad as hell and will not take it anymore.