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On the off chance that you have been stuck under a rock for the last few months, please first accept my condolences and second confront the fact that America has reached the dawn of a fully-fledged, heavy-eyeliner wearing angst phase. According to our current lifespan trajectory, the human race will start collectively smoking pot in 2025 and then die in a freak motorcycle accident in 2040.
Just last week two polar opposites of the political spectrum won one of the most important primary races in the country — New Hampshire. And not only did two radical outsiders sweep the polls, but they did so with a record turn-out (550,000 voters in a state with a population of 1.3 million). Do you know how many people voted in the last election? The same amount that saw Unfriended in theaters.
Let’s hope they weren’t the same people.
Grass-roots are blazing like a dry field all the way to Washington while the storied elites of the last 240 years are burning powdered wigs in marble fireplaces and turning the Oval Office into a concept space.
From the outside, the country is looking a bit like an inside joke that everyone, except all the people you know, seems to get. Everyone is laughing, but they’re also mumbling “what’s going on” under their breath and hoping someone soft-spoken or open-minded hears. Bernie looks like the ghost of Boston Tea Party’s Past and DJtrump looks like the single guy who didn’t bother to wear a mask to the Purge last year.
In one particularly inspired speech, Trump mentioned that he could shoot somebody in broad daylight and not lose a voter. (The kind of loyalty you see at high school hockey games in Minnesota or picnic parties where they serve cyanide kool aid.) In this scenario, while everyone else runs away from the shots, Bernie would enter from stage left with 4 citizen EMTS, manic fly-away hairs, and that shuffle-run he has that always looks like he’s moving sideways.
From the outside, a place where two men like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders can both be democratically elected in the same state with cars, paved roads, and no feudal lords seems pretty confusing. In fact, also from the inside. The last time I checked Google Maps there weren’t any trenches surrounded by sharp wooden spears or any other indications of a fully realized, colonial-equipped class war happening in New Hampshire right now. So, what gives?
America, you HOT, MISUNDERSTOOD MESS.
They may seem like polar opposites….(which is because they are, you clever minxes).
We have one candidate burning woman’s unrestricted right to abortion, legal requirements to hire women and minorities, same-sex marriage, prioritized green-energy, and access to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the feverish flames of hell-fire…
….and the other chiseling the aforementioned things into a model of the Washington monument he spent all three summers of sleep-away camp crafting from plastic he salvaged from the stomachs of seagulls.
How on earth do these two men end up simultaneously pulling scores of supporters from the same world, same country, same state, same little town?
Well I have an answer… and it’s the one thing both radicals have going for them — a force so much stronger than the literal abysmal divide between them, that they have simultaneously captured the attention of a nation divided into states, baseball teams, and creamy or crunchy peanut butter — and that, my friends, is the uncompromising anger of the American people.
Take a minute. Remind yourself that this is the same hallowed ground that has raised crops from soil reddened by people stabbed for TVs on Black Friday.
And we are angry.
According to a CNN/ORC Poll in December 2015, an astonishingly high 85 percent of pollers disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, and 75 percent said they are not satisfied with the way the U.S. is being governed.
And now, for the first real time, the American people feel that they have been heard. And like the inconvenient, angst-filled teenager that we have become, we have grown manic with excitement at the possibility that we are finally being listened to. Our ‘feelings’ are more important in a national election than the round-table therapy discussion your parents took you to when they decided to get divorced. And this time, it IS your fault.
Our distrust with the establishment has inspired even Hillary Clinton to distance herself from the White House. You know, the place she had her mail sent to for eight years. If Hill, former Senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State is trying to be less Washington, you know this shit is serious.
“I am angry. The american people are angry. What’s surprised me going round the country is how far removed the establishment in Washington, and the establishment media, is from real people’s lives and what really matters to them.” – Bernie Sanders
“The country is going to hell, we have people who don’t know what they’re doing in Washington.” – Donald Trump
(Solution? Send someone who definitely doesn’t know)
So what about Trump and Bernie has made us feel the kind of deep, emotional connection we’ve been lead to believe only comes from losing our virginity to them?
Coincidentally, it’s the only thing that could work as the genesis of success in such a harsh environment. A place where “success” can only be something microbial and antibiotic-resistant, grown in a petri dish left in the dark room of outdated national media and nurtured by the primordial heat of the American mood set to boiling.
What is this elemental advantage, you ask?
They are both outsiders.
To the American people, both remain untainted by the corruption and inadequacy of current government.
I have to give Trump sincere credit — both he and Bernie have seen what the elites were too big to detect. He saw how sick of politics we were, how disenchanted we had become. And then he named it, attacked it, and lavished his supporters with exactly what they wanted — fresh, biting, irreverent IDGAF attitude. He is a business mogul — an expert in money and a skeptic of Washington.
Bernie is much the same. To put it crassly, Bernie Sanders is the stripper with the heart of gold that actually exists. He is actually only doing this to pay for college, become a dentist, and live in the same house as three others on cul de sac drive. Bernie is portrayed as the one politician (keep in mind Trump has no history in politics, at all) that we believe has managed to survive a long career in Washington without ever slicing off small portions of his soul and integrity to satisfy his larger goals. Real or not, Americans see Bernie as someone who seeks the presidency to make lasting, positive change in the lives of real, living human beings.
Despite their cavernous differences, these two men have located and given credence to the anger of a nation. Their revolutionary outsider attitude to the deadened, lackluster appeal of Washington has made politics taste of entertainment. They have given us the ‘bread and circus’ aspect of a tradition that has lead 20 somethings to lift their eyes to people all over the age of 40, dressed modestly, and talking for an hour during the debates without special effects blasting at the same time. People that would never show up in Hollywood productions, but might have a 45 minute segment on NPR.
The potential for this cannot be overstated: you are on the cusp of a turning point in political history, whether you like it or not, are angry or not. The Talking Stick is in your hand. You’re getting two christmases, and either way you cut it, things are about to change — and you’re going to decide how.