US presidential elections, despite seeing the highest voter turnout and having the greatest media coverage, are traditionally a binary enterprise that offers little to voters beyond reminding them of the big issues and demanding they choose which lines in the sand they respect and which they do not.
This is the first presidential election I’ve paid close attention to as it’s the first I can vote in, but it seems the game is playing out much differently than usual. This time, as everyone roams the sun blasted desert of American politics, the sand has shifted and what were once lines have become fissures. The two populist candidates, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, entered the field with about as much subtly as the massive sandworms from “Dune”.
Their alignment with either party was only ever done out of necessity. Either of them running independently would have been as hopeless as openly running as a Marxist or fascist. Even “democratic socialist” communicates negativity to the average American, despite the success of such nations.
Republicans have been running against Democrats in the general election for so long that most people consider it impossible for it to be any other way. The fact is that third party candidates will continue to have no chance unless there is a serious upheaval to the political process, both in its documented form in the law – which for example often awards no delegates without a majority win – as well as how the race is portrayed in the media.
As long as the competition is viewed as a two sided event, wherein the results are believed to directly translate into decisions on pet issues such as abortion or LGBT rights, there is no chance of the race making an actual impact on anyone’s day to day life that wouldn’t have come about through other governmental channels. I primarily believe this because both the major parties are very polarizing when it comes to social problems, but if one were to look closely at Ted Cruz or John Kasich, and Hilary Clinton, they would see that under the veneer of religiosity and social justice represented by the Republicans and Clinton respectively, are the common threads of alignment with big banking, unwavering support for a police state along with the continued privatization of prisons, and endless support of foreign wars.
The presidential election is a serious matter where the commander-in-chief of the greatest military on the planet is selected in what approximates a popular vote. But as it has been, Democrat vs Republican, the choice is essentially null. This election season however, Sanders and Trump have highlighted and contributed to the growth of fault lines in the two massive parties, both by attracting undesirables from the establishment’s perspective. Young impressionable voters as well as an ever more infuriated middle class – and by drawing attention to problems falling outside the scope of the usual dividing issues.
The fact alone that Sanders and Trump have done so well within their respective parties despite active suppression by partisans on both sides speaks volumes of hope to those who wish to see actual development within American politics, rather than the same puppet show again. But stepping back I realize this is my first puppet show and perhaps Sanders and Trumps are just fancy marionettes rather than the same old sock puppets.