By Sammie Lane, Contributor
The commercialization of American politics has become an interesting trend to observe in contemporary American culture. Watching presidential candidates sling verbal jabs at each other has become commonplace in televised debates. During this election season, two candidates, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, have progressed from relative political obscurity, to the political media limelight. Both candidates come into direct opposition with the status quo involving politics in the United States.
The United States has long been considered a melting pot for cultures. This country was founded on the ideas of freedom and equality. However, growing inequality has led to tensions among separate communities. Josh Zubran, of The Wall Street Journal, noted in his article “Tracking Inequality in America” how the median income for whites and non-Hispanics was $123,000 greater than the median income for non-whites and Hispanics in 2013. The emergence of the “Black Lives Matter” movement over the last couple years, has led to protests across the United States. Uncertainty has settled in the air as the economy, military conflicts, education, and other issues weigh down the American conscience. In these times of turmoil, people who were once burdened by conformity have disregarded the consent of their peers. Adopting radical ideas to combat increasingly complex problems. As a result an influx of radical ideas have entered the political spectrum.
The ideological contrast between Democrats and Republicans reflect a nation that is becoming more divided. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both believe they are capable of improving the United States, but their versions of the ideal America are vastly different. These candidates are unorthodox in their approach to politics, yet they still represent sectors of society that want to bring about drastic change in America. The fact that their campaigns have garnered considerable support shows that there are people in America who believe in their bold ideas.
According to a poll conducted by Tim Malloy of Quinnipiac University, Donald Trump possesses 24% of Republican votes for presidential nomination. Trump has a lead of 1% over second place vote getter Dr. Ben Carson, for Republican presidential nomination, as of November 4th 2015. Malloy’s poll displayed that 63% of Republicans had a favorable opinion of Trump. His supporters are primarily male, as 44% of males had a favorable opinion of Trump, while only 31% of female voters had a favorable opinion of Trump. Also, Trump supporters tended to be middle aged or older. Only 22% of voters between the ages of 18-34 had a favorable opinion of Trump. That percentage rose to 38% – 43% among voters who were 50+. Trump supporters are distinct between race as well as age. Only 11% of black voters had a favorable opinion of Trump compared to 41% of white voters.
In terms of his political outlook, Bernie Sanders can be described as a Democratic Socialist. He has pushed for sweeping financial reform in the United States. Senator Sanders advocates breaking up large financial institutions that consolidate wealth. Sanders campaign has also amassed a youth following. According to the “McClatchy-Marist Poll” Sanders possesses 58% of votes from democrats and democrat leaning independents between the ages of 18-29. That figure dips to 45% for the 30-44 age range. Support for Sanders drops rapidly as the demographic age increases, since Sanders garnered approximately 21% – 26% of votes from democrats 45+.
Donald Trump has alienated millions of voters because of his controversial statements, something that would have ruined a presidential campaign in times past. Ironically his controversial statements seem to be fueling his campaign as conservative voters admire his firm demeanor, emphasis on the white middle class, and refusal to censor himself in a politically correct society. Bernie Sanders has captivated the minds of disgruntled youth who want to revolutionize their parents’ America. He has risen in democratic polls despite the fact that he has revealed his acceptance to forms of socialism. Which has been taboo in American politics for decades.
On the surface both of these candidates appear to be complete opposites. Senator Sanders is a utopian socialist, and Trump is a financial kingpin. But they are actually quite similar. Both are agents of change, who wield their social relevance as a tool to represent American citizens, who want their voice to be heard. Possessing the courage or audacity to proclaim radical ideas. Ideas that isolated groups of citizens believe, but individuals dare to speak.