Griffin Baltz, UMBC:
In the chaos of the 2016 Presidential primary, two major players have surprised the nation by making names for themselves: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. At the start of their campaigns, both candidates were viewed as long shot nominees. Sanders had not made a name for himself outside of his home state of Vermont, and Trump was not taken seriously until his campaign began to pick up more steam. The two have made surprising strides in their efforts to win the nomination, with Sanders nearly tying Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Caucus and Trump dominating Super Tuesday in many of the states in which Ted Cruz was assumed to secure an easy victory.
While Sanders and Trump take polarizing stances on virtually every issue, both candidates have a crucial similarity: their blunt, uncompromising attitudes toward the election and other candidates appeal to the thousands of voters in the country who are tired and frustrated of so-called “career politicians.” Both men have changed the dynamic of the race in their own ways; Sanders has proved that a self-proclaimed democratic socialist can rival a political titan like Hillary Clinton, and Trump has shown that channeling the anger felt by many in the Republican Party is a force with which to be reckoned.
Given the vastly different parties they represent, their stances contrast on most issues. However, when accounting for their campaigns, their similarities begin to rise to the surface. The candidates generally appeal to completely different audiences, but they have gained the intense support of voters who are frustrated and angry with the politicians and parties they once supported. Their attitudes have detached them from the heads of their respective parties, as GOP leaders work to slow Trump’s momentum and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz faces accusations of bias toward Hillary Clinton.
In many of his speeches and appearances, Sanders has taken aim at large corporate donations and super PACs, arguing for significant campaign finance reform. While he has not explicitly targeted Hillary Clinton with these statements, the sentiment is clear: Clinton has come under fire for many issues this election, but most notably the millions of dollars raised for her campaign by companies such as Goldman Sachs and Citibank. Sanders’ position on this issue has gained him the support of voters that wish to see corporate money removed from politics, but the support goes further than that. Sanders’s bid for the Democratic nomination has driven a wedge in the party, and many Sanders supporters believe Clinton is not a viable alternative.
Trump has created a similar dynamic in the Republican Party, working to distance himself from the other candidates with whom he shares the debate stage. Trump has repeatedly grappled with other candidates including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio over matters like immigration policy and Trump’s employment of foreign workers. Trump’s anger has resonated with thousands of conservative voters, allowing him to dominate the early primaries. Although both Trump and Sanders pride themselves on being open and honest, Trump has taken a much more abrasive approach than his opponent. Trump has stirred up controversy through insults so many times that the New York Times compiled a list of all 199 people, places, and things the candidate has attacked on Twitter.
Following the outcome of the Super Tuesday primaries, it is apparent that the candidates are in different places in their respective parties. Sanders won several states including Colorado and Minnesota and nearly tied Clinton in Massachusetts, but Clinton achieved sweeping victories in every other state. Trump, by contrast, managed to win seven states and defeat his formidable opponents Cruz and Rubio. The Democratic results have sparked accusations of the DNC rigging “superdelegates” in Clinton’s favor, while the GOP moves forward with efforts to stall Trump’s campaign.
Regardless of either candidate’s future success in the primary and general election, Sanders and Trump have already made their mark on American politics. Both have revealed a deep frustration with the political system and the Democratic and Republican machines, utilizing the anger of their constituents to open up discussions about serious efforts to reform various facets of the government. As Atlantic writer Molly Ball says, “their shared anti-elitist and populist attitudes have resonated powerfully with a significant number of voters.” It’s easy to say that neither candidate will likely move past the primary, but far more important to understand just how much their campaigns have impacted the hot topics of this election.