What do a billionaire and a socialist have in common? Yes, both are running for President but, more importantly, both have a better understanding for the pulse of America than do those currently in power. Despite constantly being discredited by media pundits, elected officials and party establishments both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are populists, still alive, racking up votes and donations.
How can this be true? Both Bernie and Donald understand the great disgust and anxiety voters feel about the way things are. They want change and they want it now.
It is more than a little ironic that a rich, narcissistic white guy can put voice to a middle class that feels disenfranchised and fears for their futures, are angry with politicians who don't listen and favor special interests, of people who appear to be obstructing rather than governing. Many Americans now believe the deck is stacked against them and their future is not bright. A large number acknowledge that Donald Trump makes outrageous and ridiculous statements, many with which they don't agree, but they flock to vote for him because they see him as one who has not been bought and paid for, one who is unafraid to challenge the establishment, one who would turn Washington upside down and force dramatic change. He is a catalyst.
At the other end of the spectrum of irony is Bernie Sanders, an old guy who is energizing the millennials, the group we're told doesn't get involved in politics. They despise the corruption in big business, as well as the animus, stagnation and control of special interests in government at all levels. Faced with the reality they will never attain the same standard of living as their parents - many don't even desire it - they face huge college debts, the result of ever-escalating costs of higher education, rising healthcare costs and lower wages. Many of them acknowledge that Bernie doesn't stand a chance of even winning the nomination, much less the presidency, but they are also fed up and rally behind the idealism of free college tuition and free healthcare he is advocating. Bernie is also a catalyst.
Hillary Clinton represents the status quo, the establishment, the traditional. Without question she is the most seasoned and experienced candidate left standing. By past measures she should win the election handily, but Hillary either doesn't understand the depth of unrest or isn't willing to change.
Until just recently I wouldn't have given Donald Trump any chance to win the presidency. Now I'm not so sure.
What we are witnessing is no less than a political revolution. The most fascinating aspect of it is that the powers that be aren't listening. They just don't get it. Or perhaps they do understand and don't want to face the prospect of loss of money and power. Whether in the Congress, in business or the political parties those in power are so busy protecting and defending their institutions that they can't or won't acknowledge that the sands on which they stand are shifting. This is not a time to be tone deaf.
Publisher's note: Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN
, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues airing Sundays at 11:00 am on WITN-TV
. Contact Tom at NC Spin.