As presidential candidates began to throw their hats into the ring almost a year ago, many Americans prepared to be bored. After all, it looked like a long road ahead. Why get involved too early? Well, because, as many of us quickly found out, this presidential campaign is wildly different than any we’ve ever seen before.
And whether you like the candidates or hate them, most people would agree that this year’s campaign has been nothing if not entertaining. What about the old status quo and unwritten rules of campaigning? Out the window. Political correctness? Met with disdain. Allegations, accusations and half-truths? The new norm.
Sadly, even bullying and belittling have found a place in this year’s presidential race. But why? That’s the million-dollar question.
Many expected the campaign to pit two establishment candidates – with very familiar names – against each other. Las Vegas betting would have heavily favored the odds of a (Hillary) Clinton versus (Jeb) Bush race. But then the anti-establishment candidates emerged from nowhere. And that changed everything.
Sick of the same old thing, Americans gravitated to the straight-talking, tell-it-like-it-is style of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. This was something fresh and new. . Magnetic. Energetic. Political outsider-turned-GOP candidate Dr. Ben Carson also appealed early on, but his laid-back style just couldn’t compete with Trump’s bold and brash demeanor.
Maybe last December’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll will explain part of the attraction. It found that only 16 percent of those surveyed had confidence in our government. And while experience was once seen as a strength to be desired in a presidential candidate, it has suddenly become a detriment. Experience equates with establishment -- which, to many voters, means the same old polices, the same old double talk, the same old deals.
And seeing that there was actually a different option available this time around, the American people came forward, demanding more. The Trump and Sanders camps obliged them.
With his Socialist ideals, Sanders found his niche among liberal Democrats – most notably millenials. In fact, an American Action Network poll shows that younger voters (under 45) favor socialism over capitalism by 48 percent to 22 percent. And although mathematically, Hillary Clinton appears to be the Democratic nominee, Bernie Sanders says he’s in it for the long haul – to gain support for his ideals.
On the Republican side, Trump’s candidacy started out as a reprieve from the usual. A way to draw attention and shake up the system. People loved listening to Trump for the entertainment value. Veteran star of the popular TV show, The Apprentice, he was a natural showman. Usually ho-hum debate ratings went through the roof, drawing in as many as 13.5 million viewers.
And the fact that the billionaire famously financed his own campaign allowed him to be his own man. Not beholden to any company, private donor or even the GOP itself, Trump was free to say whatever popped into his mind – and out of his mouth. And he did – early and often. The most amazing thing? As a self-declared anti-politician, the things that might have signified the end for any other candidate in past elections, just garnered him more followers. Much to the chagrin of the GOP establishment, he never back-peddled. He never backed down. And his supporters lapped up his straight talk – whether it was politically correct or not. Mostly not.
Few people thought that Mr. Trump would rise so fast or go so far, but with the Indiana primary now behind him, he has effectively knocked off 16 other GOP candidates to become the presumptive Republican nominee.
Breaking from tradition, both Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush have declined to endorse Trump. And popular House Speaker Paul Ryan has also announced that he’s not ready to support the candidate. But true to form, Trump isn’t concerned. He says he’s most proud of the support he’s gotten from former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, calling it “the greatest endorsement in the history of Indiana.”