You wouldn’t necessarily think that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have much in common, let alone Donald Trump and presumptive UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Their politics are miles apart; kilometres in the case of Corbyn. But whether it is on this side of the Atlantic or in the Olde Country, voters are going in the opposite direction of their ruling class – at least for now.
I was in the process of linking these three candidacies in what I believed was an original thought when Roger Cohen of the NY Times nailed it. Says Cohen: “This is a season of radical discontent. People believe the system is rigged.” In Corbyn’s case, “He’s against everything Tony Blair stood for”. On Sanders: “his suspicion of all things ‘feel good’ are part of his attraction”. And “Trump’s ‘deal with it’, is the phrase du jour”. In all cases, these three candidacies are thumbing their nose at party apparatchiks, media elites, and the winds of prevailing conventional wisdoms that flutter in the stale air until the next gust of change comes along.
Where I do disagree with Cohen is his belief that Corbyn’s leadership will be a “disaster”. It may very well be, but just because the elites don’t like it, doesn’t mean he’s destined to fail. Leaders have won against the grain of their caucus (Christy Clark), the party establishment (Jimmy Carter) or against a larger, like-minded rival (Preston Manning) and left their mark as they stabilized their support and moved forward.
Here’s a simple rule of arithmetic. There are more outsiders than insiders. There are more people who don’t feel they are part of the ‘elite’ than those who do. When the outsiders move, they can upend the conventional wisdom. Trump, Sanders, and Corbyn are giving voice to outsiders right now. Everytime someone in the ‘ruling class’ decry the implications of their election, as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have done, they embolden the insurgents. Often time, these insurgencies give way to incoherence and a lack of discipline. But they have accomplished one thing already, they have shaken up their parties in a way that no one saw coming.