And what it could mean for this country.
Regardless of the election outcomes that have yet to be played out on both the Democratic and Republican sides, the political future of this country has been forever changed by the election results in New Hampshire on Tuesday night, February 9, 2016.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won the New Hampshire Democratic and Republican primaries respectively by landslide margins. Neither candidate, frankly, has much in common as far as solutions go and their ideological differences on the issues are well defined.
Trump is an ultra-nationalist with borderline fascist tendencies who places blame for our nation’s problems on undocumented immigrants, specifically of Mexican origin, who he accuses of being rapists and murderers who are committing crimes against our citizens and who are stealing our jobs. Trump led with this non-sense from the outset of his campaign announcement and despite the overwhelming number of people speaking out against him, his campaign has not only survived, it has thrived.
This has only encouraged Trump to push the boundaries further by going after Muslims next. His ban on Muslims entering this country carries with it shades of the religious persecution against Jews in 1930s Germany. The countless number of ugly things he has said about his competitors, about the media, and about people who protest against his positions has exceeded all-time lows in modern American political history.
His lack of basic decorum and respect for the office he seeks has been like nothing we have ever seen. He offers no specifics on any solution he puts forth. All he says is that he will “make America great again,” which was the slogan Ronald Reagan crafted for his 1980 presidential campaign.
So, how has Trump done it? How did he win the New Hampshire primary in a landslide on Tuesday night? Well, we’ll get to that in a moment.
Bernie Sanders is the exact opposite of Donald Trump. Their policy prescriptions and personal backgrounds couldn’t be farther apart. They’re both of New York City, one is from Queens (Trump), the other is from Brooklyn (Sanders), but they come from very different family backgrounds. Trump grew up, starting life on 3rd base, while Bernie Sanders was born into much humbler means.
Bernie Sanders was born of a Jewish father from Poland and a Jewish mother whose parents were from Eastern Europe as well. Many of the Sanders family who remained in Poland were killed during the Holocaust. Growing up, Bernie Sanders family had little money.
He was fortunate enough to be able to go to the University of Chicago where he became politically active with the civil rights movement. In 1962, Sanders led a protest at the University of Chicago against segregated campus housing. Sanders along with other students conducted a sit-in at the university’s administration building and were subsequently arrested by the police for their efforts. Sanders also attended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous March on Washington in 1963.
Much of Sanders’s background and record on civil rights for African Americans in this country has yet to be talked about very much. What people know about the Vermont Senator is that he is a Democratic Socialist. For some Americans, this political label is an unknown entity.
Democratic socialism however within the context of many of our Western peer nations is a known commodity. It’s a significant political party within many countries. A majority of people in the United States are for Democratic Socialist policies and don’t even realize it. In short, putting the label aside, Bernie Sanders is an old school FDR (President Franklin Roosevelt)-style liberal. His proposals on the economy, taxes, healthcare, education, criminal justice, and foreign policy mirror many of the goals and ideals that many people within the progressive movement have been striving to achieve for decades.
His proposals are fundamentally egalitarian and are the root causes behind much of what fueled President Obama’s surprising 2008 campaign. Many of the great things President Obama has achieved despite limitations and obstructionism has produced a real hunger and desire for many in the Democratic Party to shoot higher and dream bigger.
Our country is in a much better place today than it was 8 years ago, yet for many people in this country, the economic levers on inequity have squeezed the proverbial financially belt tighter. Not just on the poor or working poor, but on the middle class and the college educated in this country. This hunger for more from Democrats would be present with or without Bernie Sanders in the race. He just became the guy to step up to the plate and take on the mantle. He can speak to the issues in a way that only he can, because for his entire life, he has talked the talk and walked the walk.
For that reason, a 74-year-old Democratic Socialist Jewish Senator from Vermont won the New Hampshire by a larger margin (22 points) than any non-incumbent Democrat in history. Put aside, any benefit he may have received from being a Senator from a neighboring state; people who are from Vermont and New Hampshire know how different politically these two states can be. New Hampshire for decades has been Clinton country. She shocked everybody when she came back to beat President Obama in 2008 there.
Bill Clinton’s second place finish in 1992 propelled him to the nomination. The political head winds were historically against Sanders and despite recent polling showing that he was going to win by a sizeable margin; few predicted Sanders would have won the way he did.
Few would have predicted that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would have won the New Hampshire primary (and made strong second place showings in Iowa), let alone the way in which they did it. If you had told me this was going to happen, I would have thought you were nuts. This outcome 6 to 7 months ago was a long shot at best.
Something is happening in this country.
Donald Trump for the conservative movement plays on people’s fears and worst ambitions. His often crass dealings with the media are plays taken right out of the Vladimir Putin playbook. What he represents to many people on the conservative side however is a message of making things better in this country. In a very disturbing and distressing way no doubt, but his promise to be different than the rest of the empty suits that he is competing against promises his supporters that he is going to forge a new path forward that is going to be different than what they have seen in the past.
The same can be said for Sanders, but in the opposite direction. His message is uplifting, based on economic fairness and social equality. To do the things he is proposing however, a new path needs to be forged as well. He represents the opposition, the distrust and frustration with many of the empty suits in the Democratic Party who often times have been just as guilty going along with Republicans in maintaining the status quo for the sake of individual greed and political expedience. Bernie Sanders represents hope and belief that people can have something better.
He represents the same message President Obama had in 2008. People want to say “Yes, We Can” rather than “No, We Cant.” They don’t want to be told about what can’t happen. Stories told about the limitations and broken promises of our government no longer hold water, especially for those who are struggling the most. They want to be told what can happen. They want a vision for their country. Sanders has a vision whether you agree with it or not.
Many within the political punditry class were shocked by the election results on Tuesday night.
Yet, you have to ask, why?
Do they think people in this country don’t know what’s happening to them? Do they think that people don’t see that we as a nation are falling behind in many ways? Wages have been in stagnation. Economic inequality has been greater than it ever has been. The nation’s roads and bridges are crumbling. Our infrastructure is out of date and our transportation systems are decades behind many other Western nations. Do they think people haven’t noticed our trains are second rate compared to those in Europe and Japan? Do they think people haven’t noticed that not only in Flint, but all throughout the country, water is becoming unsafe to drink? Do they think people haven’t been to Canada before? Canada continually rates as one of the happiest nations on earth due in part to a larger social safety net while not compromising its capitalistic ambitions. Yet, somehow they can afford single payer healthcare and America can’t? Do they think people in this country aren’t tired of the never ending futile wars? The wars haven’t yielded anything other than caskets, cripples and chaos in the Middle East.
There’s a growing consensus that the game is rigged, that no matter how hard people work, they’re never going to get ahead in life. There’s an increasing frustration that people are told that this is the way it is and to suck it up-that for the economy to do well, those making the most in this country need to make more so that it trickles down our makeshift economic and social caste system.
There’s an anger that next to none of Wall Street executives from any of the major banks who recklessly (and illegally) made billions of dollars in profits while bringing the American economy to its knees went to jail, while the average African American or Latino youth in this country are arrested every single day for minor drug possession and harmless crimes. People are seeing the levers and mechanisms of our political and economic systems going against them. This is not new to our society, but people are starting to stand up. As Bernie supporters would say “enough is enough” and they’re demanding that things change.
Whether it is on the right or the left, people want something new…something, anything that doesn’t resemble the status quo. They most importantly want authenticity.
The one commonality of Trump and Sanders is this; they are men of big ideas, while their opponents are playing small ball. They represent a response and frankly an accurate portrait for where the country lies right now. On one side is the conservative movement, largely built on scapegoating those who are different and pining for an era, the 1950s, when times were good for the white man. On the other side, the liberal movement is built on raised expectations set forth by President Obama that for many minority groups who for decades felt disenfranchised now had a voice. That voice is being heard and is demanding things be done for them. They’re demanding an equal playing field.
The center has largely disintegrated on the right. Name me a moderate on the Republican side of the aisle. Name me anybody. There’s few if any. They’ve all been primaried, tea partied or retired. On the Democratic Party, a candidate like Hillary Clinton does represent the center. She was to the right of President Obama in their campaign run in 2008. Her husband represented the center and triangulated his way with Republicans to getting some things done. The merits of these actions are varied; some were good, and some were not so good. Regardless, times were different. Republicans then are not Republicans now. Clinton represents moderation, small change at a time when people need and are demanding more.
So, the question for Democrats becomes: dream big or dream small? Martin Luther King Jr. is famous for saying that “This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.” Bernie Sanders is trying to fundamentally change that notion. If he can prove over the coming weeks that New Hampshire wasn’t just an anomaly, that he is a viable candidate to win in November, he may very well win the nomination for the Democratic Party. If this happens it won’t be for any other reason than the people’s desire to stand up and dream big.