The U.S. presidential election campaign has turned everything we ever understood about western post-Second World War politics upside down. Everything that we might have thought we don’t have to think anymore. It’s that crazy.
On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders is promising free universal health care and free university education. He has gotten this far in the race being a Jewish socialist. Six months ago, no one would have believed it possible. What a sea change. Not that long ago in the U.S., Sanders would have been put under surveillance for being a communist.
Leaving socialism aside, what are the prospects of the African-American U.S. president being followed by that nation’s first Jewish president? Logic tells us there’s no chance. And, yet, no one can deny that Sanders has gone very far in presidential politics for a Jewish boy from Brooklyn. He may not wear his Jewishness on his sleeve, but he doesn’t run from it, and that makes his rise that much more compelling in today’s world of rapid change.
There is a difference between rapid and radical change. Rapid change sets the parameters for someone like Sanders to gain the prominence he has. Radical change would see him elected president – but it is difficult, if not impossible, to think that will happen.
While the U.S. may not be ready to elect a Jewish socialist, you have to wonder if Americans are ready for the right wing bombastic offerings of Donald Trump. In recent American political history, a candidate married three times would not have made it to the starting line. Yet Trump continues to be knocking on the door, hanging in with all the pundits still waiting for his balloon to burst.
All logic and clear thinking point to Trump ultimately not succeeding because the whole thing is just too bizarre. In any other time, while Sanders would have been chased away as a Jewish communist, Trump would have been quickly shown the door as a big-mouthed, egocentric bully with lots of money but no class.
Trump and Sanders came out of nowhere for a reason. Trump has the passion for hitting the right chord with so many unhappy and angry Americans who feel they’re losing their place in America. On the left, Sanders connects with those yearning for an overhaul of political targets in a utopian zone of looking at what could be.
You can feel it. You can sense it. You can see it on the faces of their supporters. They don’t share the same political leanings, but they share the need to cry out for something different. They reject traditional politicians and their traditional political solutions. They especially want to shake things up by sticking it to the establishment.
So far, the U.S. presidential election has featured the establishment in a showdown with dissenting voices and options. Unthinkable policies on the right, as well as the left, have the establishment clinging onto what it thought was its sacred vault of political thought, discourse and American values.
The establishment has been shaken. There has been a hurricane that sees the American political elite hoping the tide of change stops short of an incredible upset on either the Democratic or Republican side. Their futures, and everything they believe in, are largely dependent on nothing radically changing.
While no radical change remains a safe bet, it is, perhaps, equally true that the status quo won’t cut it either. Something dramatic is happening. There are no politically correct assumptions to make anymore. Not when a Donald Trump can call Mexicans “rapists” and “drug dealers,” and not when a Bernie Sanders can say politicians, even in his own party, are bought and paid for by Wall Street.
The candidates’ debates draw record TV audiences because, with political correctness gone, no one knows for sure what new level of outrage can be reached. There may be no ceiling on how shockingly ugly and relatively radical political discourse can get.
This is not, in of itself, a bad thing. U.S. American politics are victim to a super charged time of exploding sources of information. There is no stopping the avalanche.
With everything so real and raw, and in voters’ faces all the time, why shouldn’t American politics lose its pretentious protective cover of political correctness and traditional thinking?
Trump and Sanders are trailblazers.