Thunder On the Right AND Left: The Rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

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By Steve Hunley

Like it or not, the 2016 presidential contest is underway.  The Republicans almost have more candidates than the Duggers have children and have already clashed in the first debate of the political season.  Hillary Clinton has been the presumptive nominee for the Democrats for ages, yet her campaign already seems to be faltering and some believe Vice President Joe Biden may take the plunge and challenge her in the primaries.

Politics in America seems more polarized than at anytime since the Civil War and political discourse in our country has become anything but civil.  Republicans seemed to have taken a hard turn to the right while mainstream Democrats seem to be rushing towards a brand of European socialism.  The middle of the spectrum has all but vanished.

Some of the candidates have already been receiving intense scrutiny from the news media and former Florida governor Jeb Bush is disdained by some as being part of an American dynasty.  Quite frequently, many of those who point to Jeb Bush as being a dynastic candidate fail to note the same thing about Hillary Clinton.  Would Hillary Clinton have been elected to the U. S. Senate from New York had she not been married to Bill?  Almost certainly not.  Would Hillary Clinton have been a viable candidate for president had she not been married to Bill?  Almost certainly not.  Would Hillary Clinton have been appointed Secretary of State had she not been married to Bill?  Almost certainly not.  Political dynasties are hardly confined to one political party.  For that matter, both George W. Bush and Al Gore were both beneficiaries of political dynasties.

Jeb Bush has yet to pull out of the pack of Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton has become the first candidate to make a major media buy to run television commercials to prop up her candidacy in Iowa and New Hampshire.  Clinton’s favorability ratings have continued to drop and her campaign obviously feels the need to try and humanize her with some warm and fuzzy ads.

The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders has puzzled more than a few observers and shocked some.  Both were thought to be unlikely for a presidential nomination, yet according to a new poll conducted by Monmouth University, the Donald has not only widened his lead in the Republican contest, but beats his nearest rival by two-to-one.  Trump is obviously  resonating with someone, just as Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is resonating with much of the far left of the Democratic party.

Sanders is seventy-three and an avowed socialist, yet a campaign appearance in Arizona drew around 11,000 people.  As Hillary Clinton’s favorability ratings have plummeted, Bernie Sanders has risen in the polls to the point where Joe Biden has reassessed his own political plans.  In the last poll I saw, Sanders was only behind Clinton by six percentage points.

The director of the Monmouth University poll, Patrick Murray, issued a statement with the new poll numbers.  Murray said, “Republican support for Donald Trump just continues to grow with no clear sense of who his constituency really is.”

Even more astonishing is that Trump is managing to reverse the way Republican voters see him.  Currently, 52% of Republicans polled had a favorable view of Donald Trump compared with 35% who viewed him unfavorably.  Just before his announcement in June, Donald Trump’s favorability rating was a mere 20% compared to 55% who saw him unfavorably.

Trump is a businessman and a showman and I suspect the Donald knows what he is doing.  Both Trump and Sanders are channeling frustration and anger and people are responding.  Millions of people in America don’t even bother to vote; millions of others are disgusted with the direction of the country.  There are those who are frustrated with Barack Obama who they feel has not moved fast or far enough to the left; Trump’s frequently audacious and shocking comments have had the effect of moving his candidacy toward the front of the pack.  There are a lot of people who like the fact Trump says what others would not dare say.

Both Trump and Bernie Sanders have likely hit upon something.  With the polarization of America, there are many people who see little difference in inflexibility of Republican reactionaries and the patronizing mentality of the far left.

Clearly, there are those who are hungering for change in America.  Evidently, millions of Americans didn’t like the change Barack Obama delivered and there are millions more who believe he did not change enough.

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