US Primaries: The Cowardice of the Old Guard

The U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders present themselves as rebels against a corrupt political class. Their mainstream rivals make it easy, as those rivals have forgotten how to defend their beliefs.

One can roughly express the situation with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as the following: One wants a haven of justice; the other wants to turn the land into an island nation of thoroughbred patriots. Two winners, two worlds.

But the two have the fact of winning in New Hampshire in common: They present themselves as leaders of the furious. “We will bring the country back” – that is the thrust of both campaigns. In their eyes, the political class, typified by Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, is a gathering of corrupt elites.

Yes. There is much wrong in Washington. The influence of money is too great. Lobbyists take control of Congress. And no, Clinton, Bush and the other current candidates are not storybook politicians. They make mistakes, their party supporters have managed their success within the system, and they have contacts in big business. This does not make them particularly sympathetic. But it is amazing that they have been turned into the epitome of evil in this election. Even more amazing is that they are hardly defending themselves against it.

Establishment candidates capitulate and defend their profession, their work in Washington, and yes, even their beliefs. The Bushes and Clintons are pulled in and discredited. Unchallenged, Trump and Sanders are allowed to curse anything that is even remotely related to the Washington establishment. It would not be wrong in such a situation to at least once try to reclaim the sovereign right to hold diverse opinions. Giving to people that live for policy is not a serious crime; you are not automatically bought and paid for just because you walk around Capitol Hill.

But Clinton and Co. shy from this debate due to fear of revenge from Trump and Sanders’ base. Not to be brought more into the system of conflict, they just give in a little to the mutiny. Clinton tilts to the left, the other to the right. With their fickleness they accelerate the process of disenchantment, which they actually need to oppose.

The surrender is also noteworthy because it is not even clear whether the majority of Americans are really turning away from Washington. On the Republican side, Trump won. But in New Hampshire, more than half of the votes were for the pragmatic candidates. On the Democratic side, the voters in the state declared their suspicions about Clinton. But the party still defines itself as being around 60 percent moderate or conservative. Upheavals? It’s probably not likely.

What irony that Trump and Sanders are reading the Riot Act to the establishment. Trump has not even begun to approach policy issues, as almost all problems can be solved, in his view, with building a wall on the border with Mexico. And Sanders is an interesting man with a lot of enthusiasm. But he presents himself as the epitome of integrity, which is not without certain humor. He has also shunned the public system of campaign finance, because he knows that private donations will fill his coffer.

There is enough material for them to distinguish themselves from the self-proclaimed rebels. And there are reasons to do so as well.

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