The popularity of anti-establishment candidates


BY SARAH HOLLOWAY – STAFF WRITER

The recent New Hampshire primary produced some interesting results. While it was expected that presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would do well, the fact that two anti-establishment candidates took home wins for the Republican and Democratic parties is quite an anomaly. These candidates have accumulated astounding amounts of support throughout the campaigning process, and while each candidate has different circumstantial factors that catalyzed this popularity, the commonality in their success stories is the overwhelming disillusionment of many Americans with establishment politics.

Anti-establishment candidates cannot function in a vacuum; their success is very much contingent on the size of the following of the movement they represent. If enough people don’t buy what the candidate has to say, their campaign efforts will likely lose steam before any real ground can be covered. Without the backing of an establishment, it is completely up to the candidate to win enough support to continue in the race. In Trump’s case, he came in with the right stance at the right time.

“Much of Trump’s success stems from the support of blue collar ‘we speak English’ white males who feel the Republican party does not sufficiently represent them,” Associate Professor of Politics and International Studies and Chair of the Politics Program Dr. Chris Paskewich said. “Trump came in and gave these people a voice they had lacked in the previous elections; he knew what it took to mobilize them.”

Trump uses his lack of establishment backing to his advantage – he very openly promotes his self-funding abilities, boasting the fact that he answers to no one except the American people. Many prefer this rather than an establishment conservative candidate like Jeb Bush. But while Jeb was a safe enough option, many Americans did not want to settle for him just because he satisfies the credentials. The fact that he was the third Bush to run for office was not beneficial to him; rather it made Trump even more attractive.

In the case of Bernie Sanders, support for his campaign largely came from his involvement in the 2009 Occupy Wall Street movement. The participants in this movement needed a place to direct their anger at economic inequality, and Sanders focused these feelings on the banks. He has concentrated on many of the same feelings in Americans throughout his campaign, condemning identity politics and focusing instead on more tangible issues such as finding jobs.

The fact that there are enough Americans who feel the normal political structures fail to represent them explains the popularity and success of the anti-establishment candidates. The combination of furious groups of Americans and candidates who are skilled mobilizers lead to outcomes like the ones seen in New Hampshire, a primary that could become a foreshadowing of what’s to come for this election season.


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