When comparing presidential candidates, most people would probably never put the names Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the same sentence. However I think we must reconsider the two candidates, and in their platforms and campaigns I believe we can identify significant commonalities.
Let’s start with their status: outsiders. The 2016 election has obviously been the year of the outsiders. While everyone running tries to look like an outsider, only a few really are. There are candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, whose families have been around in politics for so long that they’re own names are synonymous with “insiders” and “establishment.” The two candidates have tried to drop their last names, campaigning as “Hillary” and “Jeb,” rather than Clinton and Bush. However, neither candidate is able to come off as a fresh face with new ideas. Sanders and Trump, however, are truly independents. Bernie Sanders has run on a third-party independent platform during his long tenure in Congress. Similarly, Trump is quite an independent, with a history of affiliation with and contributions to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. The two candidates have never really been committed to their respective current parties, but rather are using said parties as platforms to reach the most voters.
Furthermore, Sanders and Trump are the only two candidates not to have accepted large contributions from corporations. Rather, the two rely on smaller donations, mostly from voters. While Trump has accepted corporate donations, his largest contribution of $10,800 pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of dollars given by single contributors to many other candidates. Certainly by avoiding major corporate contributions, and relying on small donations from many voters (as well as personal wealth in the case of Mr. Trump), the two candidates can campaign on their independent, outsider status, detached from PACs and the “establishment.” This independent image makes the candidates look more genuine than their opponents.
On another level, the two candidates shape their platform around big promises for reform to drastically improve our conditions. Trump tells us he is going to destroy ISIS, build a wall along the US-Mexico border, and of course “make America great again.” Bernie, on the other hand promises to cut taxes for the lower class, while raising taxes on the rich. Notably, he also is promising free education at public universities. These two policy platforms are so appealing to the public, despite the little backing there is to the candidates’ promising statements. “We’re going to make America great again,” does not specify a means by which America will be glorified, other than building a wall. Similarly, Bernie claims he can place limits on big pharmaceutical companies and the financial industry, while at the same time making public universities free. He says he’ll raise taxes on the “rich,” but what exactly specifies “rich” versus not rich, or poor?
The two platforms appeal to the emotions of discouraged and angry voters. With so many Americans upset with the current economy, job market, rising costs of education and healthcare, and the threats of terrorism and violence, people want new leaders who will make them feel safe and secure. Both Trump and Sanders successfully gain the support from these dissatisfied voters, by blaming the problems of the United States on certain groups of people. For Trump, it’s immigrants, mostly those from Mexico, as well as Muslims, both in our country and internationally. For Sanders, it’s the big businesses, banks, and pharmaceutical companies. Both candidates tell their voters that they will create policies that place restrictions on those specified groups who are blamed for our problems. Bernie will regulated Wall Street and corporations, while placing taxes on the wealthy. Trump, on the other hand, will set strict limits on immigration, especially for incoming Mexican or Muslim immigrants. By blaming a specific group within our society, and promising restrictions and regulations, the two platforms appeal to so many voters who want to vote for candidates with solutions to specific problems.
In an election cycle that has defied previous strategies, platforms, and policies, Trump and Sanders have developed campaigns that can successfully win the support of disgruntled voters. While many campaigns either stick to conventional platforms and strategies, or simply fail in attempting to follow the newest trends, Sanders and Trump define the new trends that have proven successful and dominant in this primary season.