The American people are not being heard, and they know it. Taxation without representation is how many people on both sides of the political spectrum might describe the current political climate. The devastating effect of big money in politics remains a monumental challenge in getting the public’s voices heard. Both Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders tap into this phenomenon.
Citizens of all stripes often feel powerless. With Trump and Sanders, at least, people feel they are being listened to. Communication leads to trust. It is what can make or break a marriage or any relationship. It is the baseline that makes a partnership work.
For example, take the financial elite and the professional political class. The two factions have struck a partnership to run this country, and Citizens United has solidified this partnership. Instead of listening to the people’s growing concerns on both sides of the aisle, the establishment of the U.S. has turned its back and plugged its ears.
The people have had enough, and now, they are angry.
They are angry enough to support Trump, who exhibits dangerously fascist and authoritarian sentiments. Angry folks on the left are so fed up that many support Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist who is proposing radical changes.
Donald Trump is an especially unique case in the history of American politics. He is Huey Long mixed with George Wallace, adding a huge spoonful of reality-star power a lá Ronald Reagan. He is a master of persuasion and has been practicing public-relations jujitsu since the minute he entered the race. With Trump, it’s not about being correct as much as right, which is why he can inflate his claims of personal wealth and political-rally attendees, demands that Mexico should build a wall for us, and that John McCain is a loser. It all feels right to his target audience.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’ agenda strongly echoes FDR’s massive social works programs and invokes LBJ and the great society. He treats the idea of government as more of a tool to be wielded rather than an enemy to be crushed. There are also big streaks of Howard Dean’s grassroots style as well as President Barack Obama’s emphasis on large numbers of small donors.
These two seemingly different candidates do agree on at least one issue: the rotten influence of big money in American politics. Deep down, the American people instinctively know they are being ignored in favor of the donor class, which is the main reason why many don’t trust established politicians. Sanders and Trump understand this and use it to their advantage.
From urban Los Angeles to the bayous of Louisiana, working people are grappling with how to survive in the 21st Century’s globalized economy. There are only a few leaders who have been able to convey that they authentically understand the frustration and fears that accompany that experience. Globalized trade tore a hole through this country’s economy, uprooting families and altering years of middle-class social progress. These developments are challenging communities and individuals to their core while pushing the American people’s patience to the limit.
America’s citizens have seen irresponsible bankers ruin the economy and still get bailed out while middle-class incomes have stagnated or shrunk and blue-collar jobs have been shipped overseas. Add to this environment the growing student loan debt crisis, the racially charged killing of citizens by police departments, the ravaging effects of prescription-drug abuse among poor whites, and we’ve got one hell of a boiling pot of problems. These issues and the problems they create appear to have largely been allowed to go unchecked by elected officials, even if efforts have been undertaken. The political establishment has seemed too eager to cater to the donor class and ignore the voice and needs of the American people.
This is the potent brew that is poisoning the well of American politics. It has created absolute gridlock in Washington, D.C., and created the opening for the likes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
This is an unprecedented time in the history of American politics. An entirely new economy has been created thanks to the Citizen’s United ruling. Politics has always been important to big business, but now it is big business. The price tag is the wrath of the American people and their willingness to give power to someone who is radically different from the status quo.
We are about to see whether this anger will result in the public choosing something and someone completely different.