US and UK politics – the rise of the outsider

If I were to pose the question what has Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders got in common,  the obvious answer is other than both are in the running to become the next US President and both are seen as anti-establishment figures, not a lot. The same question might be posed concerning Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, who likely would both want to be the next British Prime Minister, with similar responses. Other than being toward the right politically, it is difficult to see much in common between Trump and Johnson, politically speaking. When it comes to Sanders and Corbyn, both are on the left and identify as classic socialists. Given politics is an unpredictable business, notably all four men it seems have come from nowhere.

As I noted in my earlier “US president race” blog, the world is taking notice more than usual because Trump, who long ago was expected to fall by the wayside, is doing so well, including with a constituency I particularly identify with – Evangelical Christians. While it has bemused and angered many, there are good reasons for Trump’s popularity as one of the latest in a long line of articles on the Trump phenomenon has articulated well, with little in the way of viable alternatives, at least as far as many of Trump’s supporters are concerned.  In a similar vein, the same goes for supporters of Sanders, less interested in issues like immigration and security and more concerned with social justice issues, in a way his near rival, the veteran establishment  politician, Hillary Clinton, seems not to be.

I was interested in reading an article with the thought provoking title: Trump, Sanders: More alike than you think. It begins: “The past 10 months have brought many long simmering political trends to the surface of our democracy. It’s clear many of the usual truths and typically predictable outcomes don’t apply this year. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and their supporters, have turned politics on its head. But one of the most striking findings this cycle is just how much Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common. And, with this, comes enormous implications for Wall Street and nearly all big businesses.I realize, on its face, comparing these two candidates may sound a bit nuts. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. Donald Trump is many things, but a socialist is not one of them. But, if you listen to their speeches, they have more in common than any of the other candidates, current and former, in their respective primaries. While oversimplified, their message is as follows: The system is rigged; you, the voters are getting hosed; and, I’m going to make someone else pay to solve the inequity and crony capitalism in our system”.

While history tells us establishment figures usually have too many big guns supporting them to be stopped and generally win through in the end (checking the bookies odds, Clinton is 2:1 on, Trump 2:1 against and Sanders a paltry 20:1), it cannot be denied Trump and Sanders have both done exceptionally well to get the support they have and raise matters that concern many, and could yet still do the unexpected. I think part of the reason is that the public tends to be attracted to the outsider and especially today when it appears that power is in the hands of a self-serving, unaccountable elite, doing things the people don’t like and getting away with it as there is no-one with sufficient clout to prevent them. They therefore toy with voting in the likes of Trump and Sanders although my guess is that the status quo will win through in the end and, as much as I don’t relish a Hillary presidency, I can’t see an alternative (just as Obama was in my view the wrong black man, Clinton is the wrong woman, even though the idea of having ethnic minorities and women occupying the most powerful position in the country is appealing).

A similar picture is emerging here in the UK. When Labour was defeated in last June’s general election, when (as I saw it) theirs was an election they could and should have won, it was nigh inevitable that Ed Milliband would stand down. What could not have been predicted was that his successor would be Jeremy Corbyn, one many saw as making his party unelectable (just as Michael Foot did years earlier). But Corbyn struck a chord in much the same way as has Sanders and, while for different reasons, Trump. This brings us to Johnson, who I can’t quite make out but is included in my quartet for his outsider, anti-establishment credentials. Interestingly, the one issue that will boost his ratings is his fervent anti-Europe position, where he is seen as the main player among the Brexit campaigners. In some ways it figures for one of the reasons people like me are euro-skeptic is that the EU stands against some of those things we like about these four, such as them being men of the people, not being in bed with vested interests and willing to stand against powerful interests that have all the appearances of being unaccountable.  As I survey three issues that have exercised me these last 24 hours, and there are many more, these being UK washing its hands of Calais refugee children, the system conspiring  against those helping the homeless and one mans sorrowful story of being detained without trial for 12 years, it appears bad decisions are being made all the time, democracy is not working well enough to challenge this, and we the people feel let down and powerless as a result. These are reasons change is needed – led by an outsider!

After taking a keen interest in politics in my teens, I found after having undergone a religious conversion, my spiritual mentors were telling me that politics was not something I should spend too much time and effort on. After all the system and political leaders were generally markedly flawed and rather we should be trying to bring in the Kingdom that is not of this world that will only occur when the King returns in person, this being the only way things can get sorted properly. When I consider Trump, Sanders and Clinton, in the US, and Johnson, Corbyn and Cameron, in the UK, between which the reigns of power will be held for the foreseeable future, it is quite evident my mentors had a point for none to these inspire me with much confidence. Since those days, I have brought into the idea that it is beholden for every Christian to vote (without specifying who) and later being active in the political process. While I am pessimistic as far as main contenders goes, I am optimistic that even before the King returns to reign, there are things we can do that make a difference by serving others.  The prayer millions pray each day seems apt: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” and amidst my political activism therein lies my hope.

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