Trump and Sanders, American Symbols

You have to admit it, the American presidential campaigns offer up a more entertaining spectacle than the routine, colorless politicians of the old continent. In the U.S., one finds unexpected personalities thriving, who, having failed to conquer the support of a party, escape the machine’s control and can use and abuse their liberty of free speech. Ever since last June, when he declared himself a Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential elections, Donald Trump has seen his campaign soar with more than a third of favorable opinions, crushing the other party candidates, while the press delightfully relates his incoherent statements and his outrageousness. The liberty to bear arms? Over an interval of several weeks, he described himself as hostile rather than favorable on the subject. The same contradictions happened regarding abortion and the health care system. But his favorite themes are immigration — he says it is necessary to throw out some 11 million migrants — and “pillage,” where the United States is a victim of its trading partners, China being the principal culprit…

Of course, the primaries are still far from a sealed deal, but Trump’s popularity, even if it does not endure, is significant. Without a doubt, it holds in its grip the populist position, but it also reveals a need for release; by contrast, a stubborn hostility is expressed toward the political class from which this atypical candidate radically distinguishes himself. At the end of the day, he greatly owes his popularity to the fact that he is a financially successful man who has used his enormous fortune to make an electoral argument and who represents in his own way a facet of the American Dream.

At the polar opposite end of the political spectrum, there’s another revealing breakout in the Democratic camp: socialist and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is encroaching on Hillary Clinton’s lead. His program? A big minimum wage increase, generalized health care coverage, free higher education … Here, explaining his success is perfectly rational: It’s the increasing inequalities, the slowdown of social mobility, the stagnant earnings of a majority of the population. Trump and Sanders are two contrasting and yet complementary sides of America today.

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