Generally speaking, the ‘establishment’ is the status quo of a given political party. An establishment candidate is one who will ‘toe the line’ and will not deviate from the precedent. In short, voting for an establishment candidate is voting for ‘more of the same’.
This is precisely what the American people are sick of. It is often said voting for Hillary is voting for another four years of Obama. The same can be said of certain GOP establishment candidates who will do little but replicate policies seen under the second Bush. This is not unusual. What makes current affairs interesting is that there are now two major anti-establishment candidates which are gaining momentum and could very well gain ground on the matter. The last two anti-establishment candidates to receive loud support were Ron Paul and thereafter his son Rand Paul. This support was primarily from libertarians. It goes without saying neither achieved or even came close to winning a party nomination, much less presidential. So what makes the current anti-establishment candidates different?
On the left is Bernie Sanders, a self-declared social democrat with socialist sympathies and is much further left than status quo Democrats. In the majority of issues he is left of Hillary Clinton. Despite skepticism he has surprisingly gained support and is now neck-and-neck with Clinton. It goes without saying that Hillary Clinton is a posterchild of the Democratic establishment, which is overall center-left policies at best. Much of what Sanders advocates is further left than the Democratic Party has ever supported, and yet he is gaining momentum quickly. For most of my lifetime I have heard American liberals pine for policies that have been implemented in various European countries, and in Canada. Each election season they support whichever Democratic candidate has the highest chance of winning against the Republican, not out of genuine belief that leftist policies will occur in the US, only out of preventing the right to take hold. Even those who voted for Obama who fell for his charismatic presence and rhetoric about change, I honestly doubt they genuinely believed leftist policies would come to pass by electing him. Sanders has been different in that he explicitly says what American liberals have wanted to hear for years. Sanders does not hide it between sentences or sanitized in market friendly wording. Sanders outright states social democratic policies, and for once, finally, the left is overjoyed to hear it stated out loud without apology.
On the right is Donald Trump, a billionaire whose positions are borderline far right populist and embodies a rejuvinated Nationalist zeal. He is not only anti-establishment, but the establishment including the media have actively tried to stump his campaign. A candidate who was thought to be joking at first, who lit a fire among people with aggravating rhetoric, is now soaring in poll numbers and has little competition among GOP candidates. Donald Trump does not intend to toe the line, nor does he intend to maintain the GOP status quo. Donald Trump intends to do what he believes should be done, no matter whom it may offend or disrupt. Trump’s aggressive rhetoric has been called hateful, fascist, racist, and at times perhaps the rhetoric does purposely play at that boundary. Trump is unapologetic in his aggressive rhetoric, and the general populist right love the candid language. Perhaps it displays ignorance, perhaps not, what it does display to many Americans is a presence of power and leadership. It may be eager of me to call this unprecedented, although I cannot recall a past candidate that is not only a billionaire but has received overwhelming support due to such aggressive rhetoric and aggressive policies. It has been moaned for years now that the GOP is dying, or dead for that matter, and all that remains is gathering fragments of what once was. Perhaps this is proven true by the fact in the current running the GOP as a whole does not have a strong establishment candidate. Romney was the last establishment posterboy, and was formidable even, but lacked the conscious desire and presence to win office. The Romney campaign felt like the last dying breath of the GOP, a feeble attempt at sustaining itself.
It is possible neither win and this passes by without a second thought. It is possible an anti-establishment candidate does win, becomes POTUS, and yet is somehow looped into toeing the line with absolutely nothing novel occurring. It is speculation at this point. Be that as it may, the pulse of the general public has made itself clear; it may not know what it wants, but it knows it is sick of the same. Obama tapped into that vein and duped many into voting for him. The common platitude that ‘people want change’ is insufficient. Change is always occurring to varying degrees, better or worse. The support for Sanders and Trump is evidence that the people want an entirely new ballgame, an entirely new direction. Perhaps it is the much further leftism that is Sanders, or the much further aggressive rightism that is Trump. Both candidates are anti-establishment and tapping into the primal emotions and unsaid desires of the general public. Those who are critical of populism may roll their eyes at this, let them, because it is clear the establishment has become pathetically weak on either side and ceases to produce sufficient results or remedies. This isn’t mere preachers exploiting the crass emotions of the crowd. That is a factor yes, but these are candidates representing the uncensored will of the people. These are candidates that are addressing legitimate concerns the everyday American citizen have. The general public may not know what it wants, may not know what is in its own best interest, but the general public does know it wants an anti-establishment tomorrow rather than a continuation of the yesterday establishment.