Editorial: Non-establishment candidates establish feel for American pulse
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For the last several weeks I have found myself almost involuntarily using the word “circus” every time I talk about the 2016 Presidential race. I mean, let’s face it, how can one not classify most of the Republican debates, and of course the side shows that have gone along with them, as entertainment. And certainly there is no paucity of moments when, as two candidates such as Trump and Bush spar back and forth, it just kind of feels like someone is about to teeter off the tight rope. To avoid too many analogies, I won’t even say anything about the candidates filing onto stage like they’ve emerged from a clown car. Oh… sorry. At times it has been sort of like rubbernecking on the highway too. I don’t want to look, but I can’t turn way.
Anyway, I have often found myself coming home from work and instantly turning on CNN. Circus or not, I have become completely transfixed by this year’s debate season. It could just be that I’m using it to fill the void until spring training starts again, but I think it’s more than that. The non-establishment candidates have been entertaining and have made the last several months incredibly interesting, even to those generally disenfranchised from the political process, but more importantly, they have established a presence and a palpable connection with much of America.
The differences between the words coming out of the mouths of those classified as the “establishment” and the sentiments of those who we might call “radical,” “evangelical,” or “socialist” have certainly been clear. While Iowa is not the be-all-end-all of the Presidential race (see past winners such as Mike Huckabee and past losers such as Bill Clinton’s 2% in 1992), it is important to notice that two of the most widely publicized, outspoken, and successful candidates throughout this whole process have been a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist and a Capitalist mogul. Can you possibly have two personality profiles that are any more different than these two? Throw into that mix the calming influence of a pediatric neurosurgeon, a former secretary of state vying to be the nation’s first female President, a no-nonsense governor from Jersey, and another Bush, and you have an incredible study in psychology, sociology, politics, public speaking, and any other course for which a student could ever register. With that, however, there is also a profound glimpse into the American psyche and the mind of the American voter. Whoever ends up being the next President of the United States would be wise to remember the sentiments of all of these candidates and the measure of reaction and emotion those sentiments drew.
Bernie Sanders proudly embraces concepts of a socialist economy and emphatically trumpets as a voice standing up against the 1%. Donald Trump wants to wall us in, or wall them out, and is not afraid to use his success as a capitalist tycoon as evidence for his ability to “make America great again.” There are always those with more unconventional, non-establishment beliefs embattled in political tussles, but when one of them gets 50% of the vote in the Iowa caucus and the other comes in a close second place, behind a staunch evangelical, it’s hard for the political establishment to not listen. Nonetheless, if history repeats itself, as the primaries continue and when the dust settles, the two candidates to earn their party’s respective nominations will ultimately be more established super-pac based politicians. If that is the case, our next President would be wise to find room for some of these other candidates in Washington. Take Trump and Sanders – like them or not, believe in them or not, they have touched many nerves with many Americans. Misguided at times or not, they speak with passion and conviction; they are never tentative with their words; they are not detached or disingenuous; they are not what many Americans have come to perceive in the established politicians in whom they have little trust.
So, if in fact we do need a President who has extensive experience in foreign affairs, has held positions in political office, has more conventional capitalist views of the economy, and is not far to the right or left, then there is no problem in supporting a member of the establishment. However, for that next president to carry on and simply ignore the sentiments that have resonated so strongly from the mouths of Trump, Sanders, and others to the ears of the American populous, would be to perpetuate that perception of detachment and would continue to disenfranchise a significant element of our population.
Perhaps more than ever before in a primary season, many CNN-watching, Iowa-caucusing, Twitter-following neophytes are learning about the candidates. The non-mainstream agendas and unconventional dialogue emanating from several in the field of presidential hopefuls have connected with people who not only agree with some of these messages, but more importantly seem to embrace the authenticity and passion that comes along with them.
So, based on the divide among the Republican party where the terms “conservative,” “Tea Party,” and “Evangelical” seem to be increasingly nebulous, and based on still a large population of America who would be wary of supporting someone labeled a “Democratic-Socialist,” if I was a betting man, I would have to ascertain that the most likely person to become our next President will be someone whom we will address as “Madame President” or perhaps, Mr. Rubio, or maybe by November, even Mr. Kasich.
If that prophecy indeed comes to fruition, Hilary or Marco… or John, please consider the voices you have heard and will continue to hear for several more months. Consider why so many people find “The Donald” so endearing. Consider why the average contribution by those who want to “feel the Bern” is only $27, and yet Sanders took 50% of Iowa and continues to raise millions. Consider why caucus turnout in Iowa set records. Consider why so many Americans are tired of the “establishment” and listen to those voices as well. Perhaps, as the next President, you can find a place for some of them in Washington as well.