If the 2016 presidential race can be summed up succinctly, it is the story of The Outsiders – Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders! Your politics may dictate the way you feel about these men, so there is a fifty-fifty chance you either like them or hate them; however, no one can deny that they have shaped the trajectory of this process into something entirely different than anything that has come before.
It is early May and usually the “presumptive” candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties would have been long established. Only on May 3, 2016, did the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus (does that not sound like a Sith lord’s name from Star Wars?) declare Donald Trump “the presumptive candidate” after Trump trounced rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich in the Indiana primary.
On the Democratic side in Indiana something startling happened – Bernie Sanders beat supposedly presumptive candidate Hillary Clinton. While Cruz and Kasich dropped out of the race leaving Trump holding all the cards on the Republican side, Sanders refuses to do so, and why should he? This late in the game Sanders is still in the hunt, refusing to yield.
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz – decidedly on the dark side of the Force along with her Republican counterpart Preibus – is so openly pro-Hillary that when speaking of Bernie Sanders she is rolling her eyes and making facial expressions that are morphing her into looking something like Jar Jar Binks. She will inevitably have to face reality as Preibus had to – but this may not happen until the Democratic National Convention.
Despite all the leaders of both parties and their insidious machinations, this is the season of The Outsiders – bolstered by the cold hard truth that many voters want them over the established candidates. What leaders in both of the major party machines are starting to realize is that therir time has faded. As noted in Robert Frost’s great poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” the major parties have long gone from green to gold. We have now reached a point where two polar opposites – Trump and Sanders – have shaken the political tree limbs bare, and it is a wakeup call and signals the end of business as usual in American politics.
If you recall the memorable film based on the great S.E. Hinton book The Outsiders, the most haunting scene is when a dying Johnny (Ralph Macchio) tells Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” This is a reference to Frost’s poem that they read in English class and means that Ponyboy isn’t one of the crowd, that he has to distinguish himself from the rest in order not to fade away, to “stay gold” by being different.
Our current Outsiders must grudgingly recognize one another as the antidote to the poison that has sickened both parties. The business as usual philosophy that has paralyzed Republicans and Democrats for years is now in danger of being cured by an injection of stark reality. Trump and Sanders are not anomalies – they present the model of what is the future of politics in America.
While we have awaited the next outrageous and unscripted remark from Donald Trump to either denigrate or praise someone or something, Sanders has been making his own kind of history. By speaking directly to the needs of the American people – especially young people who have been waiting forever for someone in politics to recognize their importance in the political equation – Sanders has been the “gold” in this race for the White House, the Ponyboy that rises above the rest.
So it is no coincidence that after Trump welcomed the fact that he is the presumptive nominee of the Republicans, he noted that he will be running against “Crooked Hillary” because the DNC – Wasserman Shultz et al – had stacked the deck against Sanders. Trump recognized that his fellow Outsider has a battle on his hands, but Sanders is not giving in to Hillary or the DNC and has lots of fight left in him.
In essence we are reaching the end of the book but not the end of the story. Bernie Sanders staying in the race is necessary and compelling for the arc of the narrative of this primary process to ever reach a denouement that the voters will find acceptable. Outsider Bernie Sanders – the Ponyboy of American politics – is moving forward and not giving up.
Stay gold, Bernie; stay gold!
Photo credits: Amazon, CNN