Though Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both running for president, they seem as different as any two people could be. Sanders is Vermont socialist whose platform focuses on the well-being of the middle class and disenfranchised communities by changing how wealth is distributed, whereas Trump is a billionaire and former reality television star who has sparked ire from his own party for his remarks on women and immigrants.
Despite the divide between them, both Trump and Sanders have seen a sharp rise in popularity - Sanders has been drawing larger crowds than any other candidate and Trump’s in-your-face style has drawn in more supporters than most would have thought possible. Their candidacies represent a pervasive discontentment with the inefficiency of politics and apparent tone-deafness of Washington, D.C.
“There are a lot of voters who are exceptionally frustrated with traditional politics and politicians and who quite simply feel failed by the system,” pollster Geoff Garin, an adviser at a super PAC that supports Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, told the Washington Post. “A lot of this anger crosses party lines in the sense that it is directed at what people see as a concentration of wealth and power that leaves them holding the short end of the stick.”
Even some politicians have acknowledged the rise of unconventional candidates like Trump and Sanders indicates a “cynicism” about the current political stalemate. "People are really aggravated at the government right now,” Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told CNN's "New Day” on Aug. 12. "There are a lot of people that are just going 'Really? You guy's can't get anything done? All you do is fight.’"
McCaskill supports Clinton and questions the electability of both Sanders and Trump - she said she thought Trump would simply be too volatile and Sanders might be too liberal. Despite her opinions and the general presumption that Clinton will finally get the Democratic nomination she first sought in 2008, Sanders has surpassed Clinton in the polls in New Hampshire, which will hold the first primary.
Trump’s popularity has continued to surge since he dominated the other candidates at the first GOP debate. In New Hampshire, a survey conducted by Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald found Trump is in the lead with 18 percent of the vote, followed by former Florida governor Jeb Bush with 13 percent and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in third with 12 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, are fourth and fifth with 10 percent and 9 percent.
Despite Trump and Sanders’ apparently rising stars, the 2016 election is still more than a year away and the raging frustration that has fueled their success may prove to be a minority opinion to be swept aside by the monolithic nature of power in American politics. “I don’t think it is necessarily a majority of either party that is fueled by fury,” Garin said, “but there are a lot of furious voters out there who feel completely alienated from and let down by politics as usual.”