Whatever they are called – Washington outsiders, businesspeople, dark horses – Americans love the idea of politicians who clearly haven’t devoted their lives to being one.
The first Democratic Party primary debate was held Tuesday night in Las Vegas, meaning that the excessively lengthy presidential election cycle is now in full swing. We’re still at the stage in the process where all the anti-politicians are out and about.
During the 1992 election cycle, UCLA Extension staff member Marcus Hennessy thought the establishment – which, for the Democrats at the time, was comprised of now-California Gov. Jerry Brown and former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton – was a bore, and thought more unconventional and popular candidates of the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby would really spice things up.
Hennessy was writing satirically, but in 2015, his wish has partially been granted, with both parties featuring the unlikeliest of candidates – some of them to the dismay of rational Americans. There’s Donald Trump, the loud-mouthed business mogul and reality television star, who has captivated the country for all the wrong reasons, and Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who has managed to defy popular impressions that doctors are intelligent. He stands little chance because he is attempting to capture a rapidly shrinking demographic.
Finally, there’s the gruff populist and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. Yes, he’s been involved in politics local and national for decades, but clearly remains a Washington outsider for political views that might be considered radical to some in this country, but are par for the course in much of Western Europe and Scandinavia. Sanders, at least, is interested in discussing income inequality rather than bloviating about himself.
While it seems dubious that any of these candidates could become president – though it’s really too early to say for sure – let’s not forget that California actually experienced the strangest sort of leadership, when actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger somehow edged out two realistic competitors in a wild 2003 recall election that also involved blogging guru Arianna Huffington, Gary Coleman and a porn star.
Considering that the ‘Governator’ could have done much worse as California’s leader, maybe Hennessy wasn’t totally wrong about electing outsiders to political office.