Editorial: Tapping into a wave of anger in America

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New Hampshire primary voters last Tuesday turned the political world upside down.

The massive margins of victory awarded to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Republican businessman Donald Trump were a complete rejection of the political status quo.

University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala summed it up in a tweet, calling the primary results the "most devastating for the Granite State political establishment, both Dem and GOP, in the history of the New Hampshire primary."

While there are far more differences than similarities between Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and super capitalist Trump, both candidates and their supporters emphasized many of the same points during the campaign.

First and foremost, both candidates railed against our nation's corrupt campaign finance system, which has led to groveling state and federal legislators and executives doing the bidding of the rich and powerful at the expense of both the common man and common sense.

"Together, we have sent a message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington and from Maine to California that the government of our great country belongs to all of the people and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors and their super PACs," Sanders said in his victory speech.

Trump hit a similar note at his election night rally.

"I think one of the things that really caught on and is very important, is self-funding my campaign," Trump said.

"I see all of this money being poured into commercials and it's not their (other candidates') money," Trump said. "It's special interests' money. And this is on both sides. This is on the Republican side, the Democrat side, money just pouring into commercials. These are special interests, folks. These are lobbyists. These are people that don't necessarily love our country. They don't have the best interests of our country at heart. We're not going to let it happen. We can't — we have to do something about it. When you see — when you see the kind of deals made in our country, a lot of those deals are made because the politicians aren't so stupid. They're making them for their benefit. We have to stop it. We have to stop it. We are now going to make it for your benefit. We're going to make the deals for the American people."

Voters we spoke with at the polls all cited Trump's and Sanders' financial independence; Trump because of his massive personal wealth and Sanders, for refusing to create a super PAC and whose candidacy, as he repeatedly reminds us, has been fueled by more than a million individual donors who have made more than 3 million donations for an average of $27 apiece.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, the early Democratic and Republican frontrunners, have tried to have it both ways, calling for campaign finance reform while collecting tens of millions in campaign contributions from traditional wealthy and powerful sources.

Both Trump and Sanders are truly anti-establishment candidates.

Sanders' and Trump's supporters also applauded their candidates' "authenticity." It's clear to anyone watching Trump that he says whatever is on his mind and he's not worrying about how it will play with one constituency or another. Of Sanders, Hampton Rep. Robert "Renny" Cushing noted: "Bernie didn't have a focus group message. He just had a very clear message about income inequality and the corrupting influence of money on the political system."

It's still very early in the game and there's no doubt the establishment will fight back hard and it will be more challenging, especially for Sanders, to connect with voters in larger states where retail politics take a back seat to costly media campaigns. Trump can be sure the establishment, now fully threatened, will come after him with a vengeance.

But both men successfully tapped into a wave of anger and resentment about the state of politics in America today, where the rich get richer and the middle class is ignored. New Hampshire voters, in supporting Sanders and Trump, have put the concerns of the common American at the center of our national presidential debate.

– Portsmouth Herald (N.H.), Feb. 11, 2016


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