America in the age of populism

America in the age of populism

The results from the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are in and there is one underlying message the American people are sending to the presidential candidates: the people are sick and tired of establishment politics.

There is a growing sentiment among the American people, especially young voters, of populism. Writers have compared the rise of populism on both sides of the aisle to that of Europe. “The rise of political outsiders is not just an American phenomenon,” Julian Baggini wrote. “It mirrors the growth of populist parties on the old continent: Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Five Star movement in Italy: the list goes on and on.”

For many in the United States, it was read loud and clear by the current batch of presidential candidates that votes will be given by principle, not corporate contributions.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) won the Republican Iowa caucus with 27.6 percent of the vote (the first Hispanic candidate to ever win a state caucus) to the surprise of many who predicted real estate mogul Donald Trump (R) to be the victor. The liberty-loving opthamologist and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul ended up suspending his campaign following the results in Iowa, despite being the only candidate on the Republican side who wanted to take a non-violent approach to the emergence of Daesh in the Middle East.

The real point of contention came on the democratic side. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) ended the evening in a virtual tie of 49.9 percent for Clinton and 49.6 percent for Sanders, and Martin O’Malley --who has since suspended his campaign-- at 0.5 percent. However, the democratic caucus used a “game of chance” or coin toss, to determine the delegates. In the end, many were outraged by Clinton’s victory by coin toss. However, because there is only anecdotal evidence of who won each coin toss (because the democratic caucus does not keep track of them), it is difficult to tell for sure who truly won Iowa.

The candidates wasted no time following the Iowa caucus to head to New Hampshire for the debate and primary. Following the disastrous performance by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) in the Republican debate, the true feelings of the American people reached their pinnacle in the Granite state. After Rubio’s meltdown, two candidates decided to suspend their campaigns, former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Rubio has since decided to continue on the campaign trail, making his way to South Carolina for the Republican primary, which takes place Feb. 20.

The results of the battleground state of New Hampshire were where things got interesting. Sanders was already projected to win his neighbor next door by a 10 point margin. So, it was a surprise to no one that he ended up winning by more than 20 points (60.4 percent, 38.0 percent). The Republican side was where the results were surprising to say the least. Trump ended up winning, 35.3 percent, but second place was not the expected Rubio or Christie. It was former Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 15.8 percent. Third was Cruz with 11.7 percent. Kasich said himself that no Republican candidate has gotten the nomination without winning Ohio. If this trend continues, Kasich may be in it for the long haul.

What do all these results mean for the future of the presidential campaign? The people have spoken and said that they are tired of career politicians and the status quo and demand a dramatic change. It is no coincidence that the messages of the two most radical candidates on both sides of the aisle, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, are resonating most with voters. Sanders’ appeal among young voters has not been seen since Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Trump’s populism speaks to the American people’s desire to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., a message many fear is eerily similar to the ideas presented by the infamous Adolf Hitler.

Sen. Sanders has been in politics his entire life with views he has no strayed from his entire career. Sanders marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 50s, defended gays in the military in the 90s, and voted in opposition to the Iraq War in 2003, one of only two senators in the entire Senate to do so. He became the first Jewish presidential candidate to win a state primary, raised $6 million in donations 24 hours after his victory, and is the only candidate who is not supported by either a super PAC or contributions made by corporations. Though he has the majority of the youth vote, he still struggles to win over the minority vote. He has been the subject of much criticism as to the feasibility of his economic plans, which some fear will turn the U.S. into another European country. Sanders claimed that the U.S. should emulate the models of the Scandinavian countries, but the truth seems to not match with reality.

In either case, Sanders and Trump leading the pack demonstrates the power of the people. The youth vote in New Hampshire tied with the record-breaking 43 percent turnout of Barack Obama in 2008. The criticism following the Citizens United decision along with the split of superdelegates in New Hampshire have only fueled the fires of frustration in American voters. It will be a surprise to no one that this election cycle will see the highest number of youth voters in any election in U.S. history. With the power of social media and growing resentment of establishment politics, there is a shifting tide in the game of politics out of the hands of the wealthy and into the hands of the average Joe.

Cover credit: Dreamstime.com

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