Failed Attempts at Unity—How the 2016 Election is More Divisive Than Unifying
This election cycle saw early Republican favorites for the nomination Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz both fail to make strides toward the nomination. Donald Trump quickly rose as the favorite Republican candidate through his self-funded campaign and off-script, loose cannon rallies. The conservative public was admiring his ability to “tell it like it is” seemingly without fear of consequences. He is the epitome of an anti-establishment candidate, but he is not the only anti-establishment candidate in the 2016 election.
On the Democratic side, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders was polling at less than 5% when he announced his candidacy for president. His progressive message paired with his refusal of Super-PACs and big-money donors resonated with the youth and many democrats. Now Senator Sanders is rivaling Secretary Clinton in the democratic primaries.
The rise of anti-establishment politicians has created a rift in the political process and in the country as a whole. There was already an increasing rift between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, but now to add to that rift, there is an establishment versus anti-establishment battle being waged on both sides.
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have both been key factors in the exposing of the corruption in American politics. Both candidates are considered controversial by the establishment, but their supporters think that they are standing up for the rights of all rather than the rights of the few.
Before Trump and Sanders, most campaigns were fueled and financed by big money and more recently Super-PACs. This would cause politicians to hold the views and opinions of the wealthy in higher account than the views of the middle and lower classes. The wealthy could put politicians in power if, in return, the politicians would help the wealthy.
Now, at the base of both the Sanders and Trump campaigns is the giving back of power to the people. Both candidates want jobs to return to the United States to prevent big corporations from profiting at the expense of American citizens losing jobs. Both candidates have criticized Super-PACs and a majority of both candidates’ campaign financing comes from small individual donations, and in the case of Trump, self-funding. Both candidates are quick to point out the hypocrisies of the establishment. All of these factors combined create a rift between these candidates and the party they represent.
Donald Trump has been the sole Republican candidate for a number of weeks, but there are still movements within the Republican establishment for a third-party candidate like Mitt Romney or Gary Johnson, to prevent Trump from winning the nomination.
Bernie Sanders is narrowly behind Hillary Clinton in pledged delegate count, but he is fighting a similar yet different battle than Trump.
They are both fighting the party establishment, but Sanders is fighting for superdelegates in the Democratic primary. Superdelegates were set in place for the Democratic primary process as a buffer to prevent grass-roots movements from taking Democratic office. Sanders is currently resonating with many voters, including dominating Clinton in the youth vote, leading her in the female vote, and polling higher against Trump than she is. The Democratic establishment had Hillary picked as the nominee ever since Obama was elected over her in 2008. The Democrats’ best chance of retaining the presidency is for Bernie Sanders to be the nominee, but because of the Superdelegates’ influence and involvement in the Democratic primary process, that is becoming less and less likely.
It would be interesting to see a Sanders-Trump general election, where both candidates openly disparage the establishment. That would truly give the power back to the people.
Because of Sanders and Trump, voter turnout is one of the highest in recorded history of elections. The youth voters, often characterized as voters from 18 to 27 years old, have the inherent ability to identify hypocrisy because of their age. Teenagers through young adults have always had the uncanny ability to identify hypocrisy. Because of this, the youth are flocking to Trump and Sanders for pointing out and addressing the flaws in the establishment system.
The millennial generation is more educated than the previous generations give them credit for. Millennials had to grow up in one of the great economic periods of the country, and then adjust to one of the worst economic periods of the country’s history. Millennials have battled adversity and have more college graduates than any other generation.
Because of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the flaws in the establishment political system are more evident than ever. Voter turnout will be the highest, and it will pit the youth versus past generations. It will pit the establishment politicians versus everyday people. It will continue to pit Republicans versus Democrats and conservatives versus liberals. This election could see the highest voter turnout in history, but also see the biggest divide in political history. There are at least four large groups in this election, when normally it would just be two; a Republican versus a Democrat. The landscape has changed and more than likely will never be the same again.