This is the year of the fringe candidate. Probably a good thing, if, like me, you believe that the status quo is not working for the majority. But there are all kinds of outsiders. There is Bernie Sanders. There is also Donald Trump.
I am often a critic of my birth nation. Yes, the United States does some great things and can be a wonderful place—but it also has faults and can be a negative force. I have a mixed relationship with this nation. It is my home, but I’m not always proud of it.
Donald Trump throws a lot of things against the wall and some of them stick, even for me. I nod my head in agreement when he talks about the corrupting influence of campaign finance. But generally, his campaign is reactionary and based on fear and xenophobia. It depresses me to hear him spew hate about immigrants and Muslims and indirectly praise the violent repression of political opponents, then see his poll numbers rise. America is a complex place with many faces, and he represents some of the worst of what we have. I’m shocked and saddened how many people cheer his message. Donald Trump makes me ashamed to be an American.
Then there is Bernie Sanders. I don’t have any misconceptions that his election would bring broad and sweeping changes—I think Obama’s presidency is a good example of the limits of electoral politics. Still, Sanders’ popularity speaks to another face of America. A part of America that wants dramatic change, that is compassionate and intellectually critical. That Sanders is a candidate is not a surprise, that he just took the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire and may actually win does surprise me.
America feels divisive—much more so than it used to. It increasingly feels like a place that is ‘against’ rather than ‘for.’ But it’s also a complex place—as every nation is. It looks like it may storm; but just behind the clouds the sun is ever lurking.