I’ve thought and written about the regressing, reductive nature of American social and political conversation a lot. I think it’s one of the central problems with the country; not only are there many people who don’t vote at all, but there’s a huge lack of research and a large surplus of misinformation. It’s too easy to get a framed talking point embedded in your brain, to be oblivious to either it’s insignificance in the grand scheme of things or to be straight-up lied to. It’s a sound-bite society, and when it comes to the important shit, that’s real dangerous.
The recent developments of the Republican party (or what’s left of it) have highlighted this problem. There have now been enough people who have actually cast votes for Donald Trump where he is the presumptive nominee for the GOP in this upcoming election. But there’s so much more wrong with this, and it has little to do with Trump himself, in my eyes.
Trump’s not a unique snowflake. There have been candidates like him before; full of bluster, positioning themselves as the “outsider,” keeping their message basic and easily digestable. Most of the time, primary voters (who tend to be slightly more discerning than general election voters) will weed these types out long before they start winning states and delegates. For better or worse, the system is set up that way for that reason; any political party will want guys they like as the main choices, and tenets such as tradition will keep many voters from straying too far off of the reservation.
What has made Trump different is the specific manner in which he is presenting his issues, and the issues he’s presenting in the first place. He has fostered a political climate that is friendly to xenophobia and nativism. He has taken the Overton Window and ripped open the side of it. This has tapped into an anger and resentment that a portion of the GOP has hidden or obfuscated for a long time. That, coupled with frustration with a black president and the ineffectual status quo of the GOP candidate pool, has allowed this orange monster to manifest itself.
It’s fun to say the GOP made this bed and now has to lie in it, but that’s too easy, and a pretty lazy argument.
It doesn’t take a long look at the other side of party lines to see practically the same thing happening. There’s a few key differences which will likely make the outcome different, but it’s similarities are striking.
(Disclaimer: I am not comparing Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump; the only two things they have in common are that they’re not establishment candidates and they both share disdain for international trade agreements. Past that, they’re almost completely opposite.)
Bernard Sanders is a similar anti-establishment candidate, but his campaign has been much more “standard” than Trump’s. Sanders’ path to victory involved reshaping the Democratic party into one that will accept him. Trump’s path to victory just involved smashing bugs until there were none left.
The primary difference in the outcomes of their prospective campaigns is Hillary Clinton. Sanders will not likely win the nomination simply because his opponent is a far more accomplished, experienced, and prepared candidate than anyone Trump had to face. If there were a long-time Republican stalwart running against Trump, his outcome would likely be far different; instead, he got to slice through a relatively cream-puff schedule of first-timers, has-beens, zealots, and John Kasich. None of them come close to the name recognition, experience, or party loyalty than HRC.
There’s thousands of words to go around here regarding the possibilities of these races (at least of what’s left of them), but the important factor to take from it all is this: shit’s changing. Shit’s changing a lot. Both parties have had enough unrest that establishment-unfriendly candidates went very, very far in these primaries. One looks like he’ll win, the other has come far closer than anyone would have ever guessed.
People are fucking angry, is what I’m trying to say. They’re angry enough to leave the cocoons of party politics and find candidates that invigorate them. They’re angry enough to refuse to look inside the box, because inside the box hasn’t worked for them well enough. In some cases (the death of the middle class, trade agreements that are good for business/bad for people, questionable foreign policy decisions) these angry masses have a point. In some cases (xenophobia, nativism) they don’t. But none of it matters if they remain angry.
If they remain angry and impassioned, shit will change. It simply has to. There is nothing more terrifying to a government than a mobilization of angry masses, mainly because that’s what gets them killed/removed from power/otherwise marginalized. This isn’t conjecture, this is history that has repeated itself forever.
And we can’t just point at the GOP and go “WOW THEY FUCKED THIS UP.” This became fucked up. Everyone is involved, everyone is responsible. Anyone can say what they want about Trump’s racists or Sanders’ comrades, they are people who believe in their action and support for their candidate. They didn’t wake up and go “fuck the police.” They feel cheated, they feel abandoned, they feel unrepresented.
Yeah, I gave that word the italics, the bold, and the underline treatment. That word should evoke the last time people in America felt unrepresented. We threw a bunch of tea into the ocean, then there was a big war that created our country.