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    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders

    New Kids on the Block: 'Trump-and-Sanders' Phenomenon Puzzles Experts

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    Contrary to all expectations, billionaire Donald Trump and socialist Bernie Sanders have become the new stars on America's political firmament; but is it surprising that these two have won the hearts and minds of Americans, US author and investigative reporter Robert Parry asks.

    While many Americans envisaged a 2016 presidential competition between the Bush and Clinton dynasties, two "unorthodox" players have emerged on America's political firmament instead, namely, socialist Bernie Sanders and billionaire Donald Trump.

    "As outlandish as Donald Trump is as a presidential candidate, it's pretty obvious why he's topping the polls of Republican voters: he's tipping over the carts of 'politics as usual' that Americans understandably hate. In a much more responsible way, Bernie Sanders is doing the same with Democratic voters though he's still trailing Hillary Clinton in most polls," US author and investigative reporter Robert Parry emphasizes.

    According to the author, Trump and Sanders have won hearts and minds of their supporters through their refusal "to prostitute themselves in the scramble for million-dollar donations, a core of the US political process."

    Both rejected big-money donors: while Trump, a real estate mogul, is financing his campaign himself, Sanders is relying on small donations.

    Indeed, the "serious" candidates, who often rely on the ‘soft money' of institutional donors such as Political Action Committees, corporate lobbyists and unions to push their campaigns ahead later find themselves dependent on "special interests."

    "Ironically, for a nation that denounces Iran, Cuba and other countries for having special panels of religious elders or party leaders who approve rosters of acceptable candidates, the United States now has a political system that requires most candidates to parade themselves before billionaires who then select the finalists much like the judges do at one of Trump's beauty pageants," Parry noted.

    "The presidency and pretty much every elected office in the United States are up for sale," the investigative reporter underscored.

    The author highlighted that Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, are truly disgusted by the corrupt system, and it weighs in the favor of the two mavericks.

    Experts point out that both Sanders and Trump are using blatantly populist themes to attract more supporters. Trump is largely addressing white right-wing conservatives.

    "Trump is as American as apple pie. In addition to anti-radicalism he has tapped into two prime indicators of the American temperament and mind-set: ethnocentrism and xenophobia, the first, in-group dominance as against all others (frequently taking on a racial meaning), the second, fear and hatred of the stranger/the foreigner," Professor Norman Pollack of Michigan State University noted in his article for CounterPunch.

    On the other hand, Sanders is playing the 'socialist' card. The atmosphere of his gathering is usually Spartan, US-based journalist Nick O'Malley notes. Sanders lambasts the super-rich, who have obtained extraordinary power over the US economy and political life and nails the US political system for corruption, pointing the finger at racism and violence in police force. 

    However, "[d]espite the size and joyous enthusiasm of Sanders's rallies, he is not the threat to Clinton that Trump has become to Bush. In New Hampshire Sanders ties with Clinton, but nationally she leads him by an average 21.5 percentage points," O'Malley believes. Among the radical changes Sanders advocates are a federal minimum wage hike that would make America's the highest minimum wage in the world, and a whopping 90% income tax on America's wealthiest tax bracket.

    Still, the Trump-and-Sanders' phenomenon has evidently indicated that Americans are tied of "the bland cast of grubbing politicians" whom the mainstream media regard as "serious candidates," and are leaning toward political "outsiders," Parry pointed out.

    The question remains open whether Trump will eventually outpace Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush and whether Sanders will finally eclipse Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton.

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    Tags:
    race, populism, corruption, 2016 US Presidential Run, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Iran, Cuba, United States
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