By Jerry Mooney
Obama was first elected in 2008 on a platform of hope and change. The country desperately wanted to move on from the politics of the George W. Bush administration and underneath that was a desire to upset the establishment. Once elected, Barack Obama ushered in new, progressive laws, like the Affordable Care Act, but found himself under constant attack which rendered his change less hopeful. Because of his inability to completely overthrow the legacy powers, people on the left grew frustrated and people on the right manufactured straw-men reasons to hate the president. This tension over the last 7 years has created a new level of dissatisfaction that fueled the rise of the disruptive candidate.
Donald Trump is the right’s disrupter. He represents the hope and change of those who felt threatened by Obama’s change but he is also scaring the conventional Republican. Longing for the good ol’ days as well as the perceived competence of a business mogul the Archie Bunker faction of the Republican party is titillated with the idea of the bold Donald Trump re-energizing this faction. Feeling alienated from the modern world, these Trump supporters yearn for a nostalgic past and feel The Donald can return this.They are not concerned with sensitivity or reasonability. In fact, those qualities are perceived as weakness that Trump exploits. Dr. Lara Brown, Director of the George Washington School of Political Management indicates in a recent article, “It's about what his supporters believe only he can do (despite his many failures): Bring about change in our nation's politics.”
Bernie Sanders is just as disruptive as Trump to the political landscape, even though he has been largely ignored and dismissed by mainstream media. Whereas Donald Trump’s every move is broadcasted and dissected by every channel, Sanders is usually portrayed as more of a protest candidate than a contender. What Bernie Sanders symbolizes is the extension of the projected change that Obama implied in 2008. He appears as the person who doesn’t care about political blowback and has historically taken politically unpopular positions that represent the poor and downtrodden. Why is this politically unpopular? Because the downtrodden aren’t well organized and are typically ineffective politically, however, there are millions of people in America living in poverty across many demographics.
But Bernie Sanders appears to be mobilizing these normally disaffected voters as his campaign gains momentum. Sanders’ message is resonating with these millions and with those who are slipping into poverty because current economics are squeezing the middle class. Plus, his integrity is clear even in his campaign financing. Instead of funding his presidential run with SuperPac money, he is receiving record numbers of small donations. This emphasizes how serious he is about campaign finance and income inequality.
What’s interesting about this disruptive election is that Hillary Clinton is the establishment candidate. Although she tends to represent conventional politics, hawkish foreign policy, insider politics and legacy politics, it can’t be understated that she would be the first female president. The historic impact of this is enormous, but seems to be downplayed. If nothing else, her candidacy and potentially her presidency would symbolize equality and opportunity in America like we’ve never seen before. Little girls everywhere can look to her as an example of what is possible and that is valuable by itself. It’s worth noting that less than a century ago women weren’t even allowed to vote.
Although many are critical of Clinton’s establishment policies, it can’t be emphasized enough that she is under a different scrutiny compared to the other male contenders. If she weren’t hawkish, she would likely be labeled weak. If she veers too far left, she would be characterized as soft. As a woman, she is battling a different set of standards and that would certainly influence some of her history. So there is no telling where she might land philosophically as an acting president.
Whatever the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, there will be a disruption to the politics as usual. Either an untethered, bombastic, narcissist in Trump, a self proclaimed socialist Jew or the first female president will be elected in November. Whichever one wins, the established elites will be white-knuckling the whole time. And if nothing else, that is worth it.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
Jerry Mooney is co-founder and managing editor of Zenruption and the author of History Yoghurt and the Moon. He studied at the University of Munich and Lewis and Clark College where he received his BA in International Affairs and West European Studies. He has recently taught Language and Communications at a small, private college and owned various businesses, including an investment company that made him a millionaire before the age of 40. Jerry is committed to zenrupting the forces that block social, political and economic justice. He can also be found on Twitter@JerryMooney