The political earthquake propelling Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

The political earthquake propelling Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders
© Greg Nash

A subterranean, subliminal rumble is building across America, although large populations in the West and Northeast seem deaf to it. At first blush, American politics might seem polarized, breaking neatly along left and right political fault lines. But even a cursory look at the 2020 presidential race presents a very different picture. Eighty percent of the American public is fed up and prefers candidates who are well outside the traditional political ruling class, be it left or right. 

I thought it odd in 2016 when not a few Americans voiced the view that their first choice for president was Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE (I-Vt.) — but their second choice might be Donald Trump. After three years of President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE, it’s becoming clear: Americans are solidly rejecting the ruling class, be it the Northeast liberal “establishment,” the mainstream media, or the Hollywood elite. And Trump, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Biden faces pesky enthusiasm challenge despite big primary numbers MORE (D-Mass.), leaders of the not-traditional-ruling-class show, represent 80 percent of the voters. 

Ricky Gervais, this year’s Golden Globes host, caused gasps after calling out Hollywood hypocrisy, including flying in on their private jets in order to bemoan climate change. He said in response to the visibly annoyed audience, “I don't care, l really don’t care.” Most of America got the joke, but Hollywood missed it.

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Trump, Warren, Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Energy: Court upholds Trump repeal of Obama fracking rule | Oil price drop threatens fracking boom | EPA eases rules on gasoline sales amid coronavirus Ocasio-Cortez blasts coronavirus stimulus package as 'shameful' on House floor Oil price drop threatens US fracking boom MORE (D-N.Y.) could have not said it better. They are all cut from the same political cloth. They are all outsiders. They all ignore the admonitions of the cultural and political elite, and they command 80 percent of the public vote. Trump and Sanders are the most interesting of the lot. 

Sanders has put forward a $50 trillion plan for “social justice.” It simply doesn’t matter to his fans that his ideas would push most Americans above a 50 percent tax rate (his programs would consume over 50 percent of all U.S. gross national product and many companies would be failing under his massive corporate taxes — that means huge new taxes for everyone else). It simply doesn’t matter to his fans that his tax plan would lead to capital flight at a level that would crater the U.S. economy within a couple of years, leading to massive unemployment, social unrest, skyrocketing food and consumer goods prices, and extreme hardship for the poor. 

Nor does it matter to his fans that “Medicare for All” would so fully over-extend the American health care system that it would be “Medicare for none.” It doesn't matter to his fans that no Congress would pass his policies. And, if one did, it doesn’t matter to his fans that Sanders would not live long enough to put the police state in place needed to contain the social uprising his programs would cause. It doesn’t matter because Sanders is not speaking to the poor that he pretends to represent; he is speaking to the relatively comfortable young and ambitious, who are seeking to enter an increasingly complex world and looking for enough anarchy to create an opening for new opportunities while feeling they’re doing good at the same time. Neither he nor they care that the cultural elite is telling them none of this will work.

Trump doesn’t care, either. In a spasm of marketing genius, he created the MAGA cap, knowing full well that it would be a political lightning rod, just like his tweets, and be widely ridiculed and attacked by the political and cultural elite. That is the point, because nothing puts a stronger spotlight on the intolerance and corruption of the establishment left than the American media encouraging and cheering on public shaming and outright violence against anyone daring to support Trump or wear a cap seeking a return to American greatness. 

Even though the economy has been booming, unemployment is at record lows, wages are rising, there are strong new trade agreements, U.S. and NATO defense forces are much stronger, our enemies appear more off-balance and less ready to seriously challenge us, the media and establishment left still insist upon ridicule and public flogging of those who support those clear signs of progress. 

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A large portion of the country sees that and is appalled. And revulsion toward the establishment left is why the failed “investigation” by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE became a political fiasco, why the Trump “impeachment” is becoming a political fiasco, and why the media and political uproar over killing the most dangerous terrorist in the world, Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, is a fiasco. The votes on Trump’s Iran policy came in on Jan. 8, the day after the media were busy stirring up threats of war with Iran, a national draft and violations of law by the president. The stock market shot up 200 points. Investors didn’t care what the media and establishment politicians were spewing; they really didn’t care.

The bottom line is that this is the year of the political outsider. Someone in diametric opposition to the political and cultural elite will be the next president. The B-hive of former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll The Memo: Political world grapples with long coronavirus shutdown The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE, former New York mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFormer Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE, and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE thinks the sweet spot is closer to the middle, but that is a miscalculation. Each of them will simply come across as “Establishment Hillary-light,” and Trump, governing as an effective moderate, already controls a lot of the middle. 

In November, the nation is probably going to say: “I don’t care what the media and cultural elite think,” and quietly elect one of the deplorable outsiders.

Grady Means is a writer and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @GradyMeans.