The predictability of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders numbers
Why the American politics are mirroring the European ones
Let me just start by saying I am not American. I live in Portugal, a small country to the southwest of Europe. That does not mean I don’t follow American politics — I’m actually more invested in them than in Portuguese or European politics. And if for nothing else, for its usual reality-tv-ish qualities, for its larger than life characters. The 2016 election race, in that regard, is proving to be the most entertaining one so far. But two characters that are upsetting a lot of analysts to be more than they were thought to be are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Those analysts should have paid more attention to Europe and its politics.
Portugal, alongside Spain and Greece, is one case study country in European politics. Its parties are fairly balanced in the center, with a right more concerned in cutting expenses and somewhat reluctantly accepting gay marriage and gay adoption; and a left more interested in giving money to the people now and worry about deficits later and promoting gay rights — and in some cases animals rights, marijuana legalization, big bankers accountability, etc. Besides the more central parties, there is a nuanced far left and a rather non-existent far right.
Up until late last year, the government in place was a coalition between two central right parties. Despite winning the October elections with 37% of the votes, the left parties united and “couped” the government. It was a strange thing, but within the boundaries of the law. What was most important to this (and what will link to the American politics) was the rise of the left parties. Between promises of change to the austerity programs and attacks on the (rotten…but working) political system, they managed to score big on the younger voters.
But this happened not only in Portugal but also in Spain where the “Podemos” (it roughly translates to “We can”) party managed to blow up all predictions, or in Greece where the Syriza party is by now very well known. And there more examples of the left parties gaining more power and influence all across Europe. The reason, some might argue — and I partially concur — is its anti-austerity policies. I also think it has something to do with the political system. Democracy is a political system with some very alarming flaws.
Churchill wisely said: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”. And in the age of social media and of easier-than-ever communication, its flaws come to light glaringly. Young voters, like myself, see all these flaws and ask if there is no better way to govern and be governed. If there is a way in which they are not the butt joke of a political and financial system that replaces the dreams it gave their parents for debt and frustration.
The American Dream is dead
For a variety of reasons (I actually wrote a bit about them in another medium post you can see here), but it is no more. In its stead, we have an ever increasingly contrasting society, both financial, cultural and socially. Regular people are not being paid as much as they were promised they would be; race, gender, and sexual preferences still play a major role in society; the environment is a ticking bomb; etc. In short, we feel are being f*cked by society and by the ones in power. And we all feel that is far easier to change who’s in power than society itself. Ideally, we would have a society where everyone battles against discrimination of any kind, where there would be a fair distribution of wealth and where we all would battle against climate change. If only it was that simple. As it’s not, the change in power is seen as the priority.
And if Donald and Bernie are not a change in power, like the left in Portugal, the “Podemos” in Spain or the Syriza in Greece, nothing is
People are not voting out of sympathy for Donald’s ridiculous ideas, they are voting against the fear instilled in them. And they are voting for Bernie, not only because of his pretty common sense ideas (single payer health plans are the norm, everybody) but also because of the frustration people feel against the big banks and the social injustices.
What political analysts failed to understand is the most simple political motivation — not vote for something, but against something else. If only they had looked at what was happening in Europe they wouldn’t be so surprised. Either that or actually speak to people about what they felt about politics, that would’ve helped too.