By JOE LARKIN
For Rantoul Press
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a revolution going on leading up to the presidential primary elections. Two candidates are shaking up their parties by presenting themselves as outsiders.
On the Republican side, the frontrunner, Donald Trump, is not a politician at all, but a businessman who built his fortune on a "small" loan from his father of $1 million. Some speculate that it was closer to $10 million.
Trump is shaking up the Republican Party, building a campaign based on brash talk about his rivals. He boldly dishes out whatever insult enters his mind, and his followers eat it up. He uses fear to energize his followers — fear of illegal aliens, fear of other cultures (mostly Muslims and Mexicans), fear of skin color (black, brown, red and yellow), and fear of ISIS in the Middle East.
He uses the fears he creates to make us yearn for a big outspoken strong man like Donald Trump to protect us. It seems to be working with a lot of fearful people.
In the Democratic contest, Sen. Bernie Sanders is shaking things up enough to worry the establishment Democrats. He calls for a good old-fashioned revolution, the kind that brought FDR to the presidency during the Great Depression. Roosevelt brought us Social Security and Fair Labor Standards while putting people back to work and pulling the economy out of depression. Sanders wants to protect those programs and expand on them.
Bernie, as his ever-growing legion of followers call him, is calling for a revolution that he says will level the playing field which is now tilted toward the 1 percent of the population that is hogging all the wealth and driving the once proud middle class into the mud. Low wages and the Republicans’ persistent attacks on Social Security and programs like Planned Parenthood are fueling discontent among his supporters.
An avowed Democratic socialist, Sanders wants the U.S. to emulate Scandinavian-style socialism, where citizens are taxed at a higher rate but are provided with free college education, free health care, a shorter work week with longer vacations and many other family-centered social programs that have made those countries among the wealthiest and happiest in the world.
To follow the Scandinavian model may seem like pie in the sky to those who haven’t thought much about politics. Sanders claims we’ve been lulled by the 1 percent into complacency about politics. We’ve been distracted and divided and set against each other by racism, religious bigotry and ethnicity so that we squabble among ourselves while they make off with all the money.
Sanders’ message is resonating all over the country. He draws huge crowds to rallies wherever he goes.
Hillary Clinton, his rival in the Democratic campaign, just a few months ago seemed unbeatable. But she barely squeaked out a victory over Sanders by a hand full of votes in Iowa and was trounced by him in New Hampshire.
The Clinton campaign is funded by PACs and big money interests. Sanders won’t touch their money. He wants to get money out of politics by reversing Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations, banks and well-healed 1 percenters like the Koch brothers, to buy elections.
In return they expect and are getting payback in lax regulation of Wall Street and multinational corporations that pay little or no taxes. The average CEO is given an outlandishly huge salary, stock options and other hidden perks while the average employee struggles to make ends meet.
Sanders voted against the war in Iraq while the big money people saw it as a business opportunity. Sanders won’t go there. His campaign is funded by millions of individual citizens who donate an average of $26 each.
His revolution, though, is bucking some mighty forces. While Clinton is given extensive coverage by mainstream media and big money flows freely her way, Sanders has had to build his campaign in cyberspace on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and others. People are paying attention to the things he’s been saying on their behalf for many years.
However, the Democratic Party seems bent on keeping Sanders on the outside looking in while pushing Hillary Clinton toward the nomination. Clinton, however, is carrying some heavy baggage. Her entire political career has been plagued with scandal after scandal, and the current FBI email investigation has the potential to land her in prison. But the party continues to support her.
However, as Sanders’ amazing showings in Iowa and New Hampshire indicate, a lot of people are turning away from Clinton and jumping onto the Sanders bandwagon.
So for now we have the Donald and Clinton and Sanders at the center of the action If you are undecided about who to vote for, you can watch the remaining debates before the Illinois primary on March 15 and make up your mind.
There are two debates between Sanders and Clinton coming up. Those are scheduled for March 6 on CNN from Flint, Mich., and on March 9 on Univision from Miami.
The Republicans have three additional debates scheduled, the first Feb. 25 from Houston on CNN and Telemundo and the others March 3 from Detroit on Fox and March 10 on CNN from Florida.
So if you haven’t been following politics those are your last chances to evaluate the candidates. Personally, I’m feeling the Bern and leaning toward Sanders.
Joe Larkin of Rantoul is retired from a career in non-profit marketing and public relations.