The 2016 presidential race has definitely been one for the history books. One of the most astonishing aspects is that two of the front runners, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, are political polar opposites. Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, is a Democratic socialist, even more to the left than current president Barrack Obama. Donald Trump, a businessman turned politician, holds many views that are seen very conservative to many. With two candidates so different in ideology, it is hard to see their supporters having anything in common. Yet, they do. It boils down to one simple thing; those who support Bernie and Donald are angry at the status quo.
It is that simple. The fanatical response of both Bernie and Donald supporters stems from the anger so many in our nation feel. Look at who exactly are supporting these two candidates. According to a New York Times article, the majority of Trump supporters are from blue collar, non-suburban backgrounds. An example is the Boston suburb of Revere. Boston is known for its liberal views, and yet the conservative Trump won 73 percent of the republican vote. This is because Revere is a working class town, and Trump’s policies appeal to those in that class who are angry at the current state of affairs. Bernie holds a similar appeal. Bernie has been getting the majority of voters of color and of young “millennial” voters. Like the working class who support Trump, these groups are being crushed by economic turmoil. People of color typically make less than whites in the work force and millennial voters are crushed by outrageous student loan debt. Both candidates have the support of people who are just plain angry at the way of country has been going economically.
And they have the right to be angry. The wealth gap, the difference between the poor and the rich, has been growing exponentially in the last few decades. Between 2000 and 2011, the average wealth, which is assets minus any debts, for the average American family fell. Yet, the wealth of those in the top one percent grew. Couple this with falling wages and price increases in everything from groceries to college, and the average American is struggling. People are angry and they should be. The government has failed to help the average American family.
Both Sanders and Trump are playing on the justified anger that so many Americans feel. Yet, the way they are doing so is what sets these two men apart. Trump is using scapegoating to rally the angry. He is using fear of illegal immigrants and ISIS to gain support. His policies of building a wall and deporting immigrants plays right to the rage. He is blaming immigrants, mainly Mexican immigrants, for the poor economy. Sanders, on the other hand, is looking upwards at the one percent. His rhetoric targeting prominent one percenters, such as the Walton family who own Walmart, calls them out for not paying their fair share of taxes and forcing many Americans on welfare due to their low wages and lack of benefits. He is calling for more economic equality in our nation, in order to relive some of the class tension. Yes, Sanders and Trump play on growing resentment, but how they have their supports target their rage is strikingly different.
So, if you are one of the millions of Americans who are fed up with the status quo, you are probably looking at both Sanders and Trump and seeing them as better candidates than Hillary Clinton, who represents business as usual in Washington. This means that the direction our country takes is in your hands. You could take the Trump route and scapegoat a community that has been so marginalized in our popular culture. But, that would be taking the easy path, wouldn’t it? Choosing hate is so easy to do. It is so easy to blame immigrants for our problems, since they have no voice to fight back. Instead, I suggest taking a closer look at Sanders. He is just as angry at we are and he is fighting those who are actually culpable for our struggles. He is fighting the system that has been ripping off hard working Americans for decades, then feeding us the lies that everything is okay. Either way, those who “feel the Bern” and those who want to "make America great again” are not so different after all, and these are the voters who will truly shape the path of America’s future.