‘Revolution’ brewing as Trump and Sanders win
Mavericks Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have won huge victories in USA, taking them a step closer to the presidency. Can their supporters’ revolutionary zeal be a force for good?
Donald Trump is a billionaire who boasts of being ‘greedy’. Bernie Sanders is a socialist who rails against ‘the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class’. But both of them have a history of opposing their parties’ policies, often say they are ‘angry’, and sport unusual hairstyles.
And last night, they swept their parties’ primary elections in New Hampshire by huge margins. As The Day went to press it looked like Trump would get double the votes of his nearest rival. And Sanders was leading Hillary Clinton by a huge 20%.
Both men have defined themselves by their opposition to the political mainstream. Sanders has attacked the financial system and declared ‘the business model of Wall Street is fraud’. Trump has repeatedly asserted ‘our country doesn’t win any more’ and has been particularly strident on immigration, foreign policy and counter-terrorism measures.
They have, according to Gideon Rachman of The Financial Times, ‘said things that would be regarded as political suicide in a normal year’. But disaffected voters have rallied to their support.
Sanders — who wants to make college tuition free — has performed very strongly among young voters, many of whom have significant debts. His policies are also attractive to a generation which looks more favourably upon socialism than their parents. He proposes to break up major banks and raise taxes on the wealthy as part of a ‘political revolution’.
Trump is particularly popular among white working-class voters. His supporters are most attracted by his stance on economic issues, homeland security and terrorism, and immigration.
The two candidates have also challenged the system of raising money in American politics. Sanders, who says relationships between politicians and rich donors are ‘corrupt’, raised almost $20m for his campaign from online donations in January. The average donation was just $27. Trump, meanwhile, is paying for much of his own campaign himself.
Rachman says the US — and the world — should be worried. When ideologues change whole systems rapidly, it creates uncertainty and chaos. The 1917 Russian Revolution, for example, brought death and tyranny to millions; regicide and the murderous Terror followed the French Revolution of 1789. The world needs pragmatists, not ideologues.
There is no gain without pain, respond others. Sanders or Trump as president might create short-term instability, but it would be worth it in the long term. The democratic world is now inspired by the principles of the French and American Revolutions. At a time when economic and social change are failing so many people, we should embrace the call for change.
- Do you welcome rapid change?
- Should the world be pleased that Trump and Sanders won last night?
- Create a social media profile on behalf of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. What would they want voters to think of them?
- It is 8 November this year — general election day. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are the two candidates for president. Write a newspaper report summarising the choice facing the American people.
Some People Say...
“We must only change enough to keep things the way they are.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Are only Americans angry at the moment?
- It seems not. Populist left-wing parties Syriza (in Greece) and Podemos (in Spain) have been very successful. Right-wing parties including Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France and Golden Dawn in Greece have also seen an upturn in fortunes; and in the UK, left winger Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership last year by a landslide. Rapid economic and social change appears to be creating a great deal of dissatisfaction among voters.
- What happens next in the US?
- The two parties now move on to Nevada, in the west, and South Carolina, in the south-east. But 1 March is the big date the candidates will now be most interested in — it is ‘Super Tuesday’, when 11 states hold their nominating contests for the Democrats and 12 for the Republicans.
- For example, Trump proposes building a wall on the US southern border and making Mexico pay for it.
- Trump has said he would ‘bomb the oil fields’ under Daesh control and then ‘take the oil’.
- Last week he said he would use interrogation techniques for terrorist suspects which are ‘a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding’.
- Young voters
- In last week’s Iowa caucus, Sanders won 84% of the vote among Democrats younger than 30.
- The Institute for College Access and Success says the average American graduate left higher education $29,400 (just under £19,000) in debt in 2012.
- A YouGov survey in May 2015 found more 18-29 year-olds had a favourable view of socialism than an unfavourable one. This contrasted sharply with the views of older generations.
- White working-class
- A recent poll by Working America, a union federation affiliate, showed that 38% of this group who had made up their minds planned to vote for Trump. His nearest challenger was Hillary Clinton, with 22%.
- Trump has spent $11m of his own money on his campaign so far.