Written by Benjamin Landes. Edited by Christopher Nash.
Two populist candidates are rising in opposite corners of America’s political spectrum. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both promise a major change from politics as usual, but can either of them deliver if elected? What’s more, do we want them to deliver?
What Were We Promised?
Bernie Sanders is promising to restore America’s middle class by expanding the role of government. Donald Trump is promising to restore America to “greatness” by ignoring what’s politically correct and carpet bombing our enemies. Obama‘s liberal use of executive power has set the precedent for our next president to bypass congress anytime bipartisanship is lacking.
When Trump first announced his bid for the presidency in June 2015, Americans largely wrote it off as a joke, like the last time he made this announcement, in 2000. By the end of the summer, we were wishing it was a joke. His wild populist ideas have energized a long emerging faction of Republicans. His followers are a jumbled bunch, from Evangelicals and Ethno-Centrists, to War Hawks and Wall Street types. I’m sure you all have seen at least some of the debates, did anybody notice they were more reminiscent of a reality TV show than a debate? Nominees arguing like school children; Trump actually had a reality show if you recall, I won’t name it as I am so disgusted with the content of a few of the debates.
Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his bid just weeks before. However, he did not get the same media spotlight that Donald has been hogging this election cycle. Despite his radical calls for political overhaul, and socialist policies, Sanders has seen neither criticism nor endorsement from any mainstream media outlet. Meanwhile, the liberal alternative press has fully endorsed him.
Sanders has been representing Vermont as an Independent Congressman since 1990. In 2006, he was elected to the U.S. Senate after 16 years as Vermont’s sole congressman in the House of Representatives. Bernie is now serving his second term in the U.S. Senate.
On May 26, 2015, he announced that he would run for president as a Democrat. At this time, most wrote off Sanders as another Ralph Nader or Ron Paul type, unelectable; Now, he is leading polls in New Hampshire and may even overtake Hilary Clinton in Iowa.
On the extreme other side of the American political spectrum, lies Donald J. Trump. His vague banter and glib one-liners are great at catching the attention of those who are not informed on the complexities of political issues. “We’re going to make America great again” can have its own meaning to whomever hears it. Ideas, such as getting Mexico to pay for a border wall are massive over simplifications to complex problems. Suggesting that we round up every illegal immigrant, and deport them, is logistically impossible, especially if he intends to keep our basic civil rights in tact. When asked how he would pay for this deportation plan on on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Donald Trump simply replied “Very inexpensively.” It’s hard to say what Trump’s values truly are.
Trump has no voting record to examine, other than, ironically enough, his past support of the Clinton family. The Official Trump Campaign website does not mention any foreign policy stances beyond economic relations with China. The details on his plan for relations with China are no exception to his characteristic equivocal positions. His website boasts, “The most important component of our China policy is strength and leadership at the negotiating table.”
He has however, been clear that he will support American interests above all abroad. He has also suggested making Saudi Arabia fight more of their own battles and tearing up the Iran Nuclear Deal. Bully tactics may work in the real estate world, but what results will they yield in the real world?
Domestically, Trump is shaking things up even more. His Xenophobic followers eat up suggestions like closing the borders to Muslims. Even when he suggested American Muslims be forced to register on a special database, he continued to lead GOP primary polls. Ideas such as an expensive border wall, special ID cards for Muslims, and deporting over 11 million illegal immigrants, undermine core American values drastically enough to tear America apart. The left would never stand for such extremism.
By the same token, the right will never stand for the extreme democratic socialist policies advocated for by Bernie Sanders. His long list of government expansion includes everything from healthcare to welfare, not to mention that whole $15/hour minimum wage proposal. Bernie makes no secret of his intentions to reduce the wealth of the well to do. His free college tuition plan would be funded by a wall street speculation tax. He plans on putting “$1 trillion” into infrastructure. His single payer healthcare proposal would completely eliminate a multi-billion-dollar industry. The minimum wage increase will likely cost many people their jobs.
Nevertheless, Senator Sanders is very clear about what his goals are. He is pushing to expand our social safety net, increase wages, and guarantee tuition free college and single payer healthcare for all Americans. Lofty goals to say the least. By The Wall Street Journal’s estimates, these plans will nearly double our federal debt to $18 Trillion. Sanders is also a strong supporter of civil rights for all, he was even arrested for protesting segregation of Chicago’s public schools in 1962. From his first days as a Congressman, to his most recent days as a senator, Sanders has a solid and consistent voting record that backs up his ideals. He voted against the Iraq war and he opposed the passing of the Patriot Act. His website quotes him as saying “America must defend freedom at home and abroad, but we must seek diplomatic solutions before resorting to military action.” This sounds wonderful in theory, but will it pan out?
Trump is betting it wouldn’t, and suggests we “go and knock the hell out of the oil, take back the oil.” Where has the middle gone? The American people are sliding further and further towards the edges of our two party political system. Many Americans consider their political opposition to be uneducated and out of touch with reality. Bernie’s critics argue that his supporters don’t understand the basic concepts of economics, while The Donald’s critics point to his capitalization of hatred.
The Other Candidates
The once presumed GOP front-runner, Jeb Bush, has consistently lagged in the polls. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have surged but still lag significantly behind Trump. Cruz and Rubio have begun to cherry pick Trump’s more popular talking points, similar to how Hillary adjusted for Sanders’ more popular ideas. Republican candidates are using the Trump candidacy as an opportunity make their radical ideas seem less so, by contrast.
Meanwhile, the DEC is frantically trying to force Hillary Clinton upon the rest of the party, but Sanders is rallying a movement of new voters that surpasses many of President Obama’s ground-breaking accomplishments from early in his campaign. O’Malley hasn’t dropped out yet, but his endorsement may prove invaluable when the time comes.
Neither party has presented a viable bipartisan candidate. The nation is divided on several key issues highlighted in election’s news frenzy: Gun control, the funding of Planned Parenthood, minimum wage, immigration and the role of our military.
These issues will be resolved by one party getting its way, but without compromise they will simply fuel unrest and resurface. The best case scenario: both candidates drop out and make way for established candidates, who won’t make drastic changes to the system.
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