- Let’s say you’ve long been disaffected with political parties. You don’t trust them. You care about politics, but you don’t see much promise in the standard candidates.
Let’s even say you have suspicions the two parties are more interested in their own power than in helping the country.
Occasionally you see promising people come forward, challenging the conventions. Maybe your interest is piqued by an Andrew Yang or Tulsi Gabbard, a Marianne Williamson or Bernie Sanders. Or perhaps by a Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ron Paul, or Herman Cain.
Whoever they are, interesting people with interesting ideas show up, and somehow they speak to you. They seem to share some of your interests. But they never get a foothold in the game of national politics.
Maybe you don’t understand politics, and these candidates always lose fairly on the merits. But you suspect the deck is stacked against them. They criticize Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, corruption in politics. You’ve heard them called “populists,” but they always end up getting labeled something like “fascist” or “socialist,” and cast aside.
Or maybe you do understand politics. You long for an outsider, populist candidate, not because you are naïve, but because you are well-read. You’ve studied history and political theory. You don’t care much for pundits or journalists; you read thoughtful, literate writers who provide historical and philosophical perspective—thinkers most pundits and journalists have never heard of and wouldn’t understand.
Or maybe you are a sincerely religious person and you know your beliefs are not, will never be, embodied in a political party. You know all politics is compromise. But you also feel an obligation to help improve the world through politics, and this only makes you all the more frustrated at the narrow range of options presented by the two parties.
For whatever reason—naïve disaffection, intellectual aloofness, religious detachment—you don’t feel at home in mainstream partisan politics, and you suspect that the system, the two parties themselves, are stacked against you.
There are economic and political explanations of why they might be stacked against you. Whether you are aware of these explanations or not, the evidence is clear: candidates who challenge them, candidates who are too “populist,” are always marginalized, ridiculed, suppressed.
Then along comes Trump.