There is no question that presidential elections have changed a great deal in the 21st century. In the past, election cycles were much shorter. Now, media outlets begin reporting on presidential elections nearly two years ahead of voting day. Technology, polls, and television coverage have changed dramatically as well. But there’s only one name needed to explain how 2016 has changed the way we look at elections: Donald Trump.
The rise of Donald Trump and his nomination by the Republican Party as their presidential candidate has taken the country and the world by storm. Though he is a household name, he has run for president before with little success. What happened in 2016 to allow this underdog and political outsider to become so popular? Will presidential elections ever be the same? These are timely questions that political management students across the country are aiming to answer as the election nears.
A Growing Distrust
The climate that has allowed Mr. Trump to get this far began years ago. Since President Obama’s election, the rift between the two major American political parties has grown exponentially.
According to Pew Research, Americans view elected officials as selfish and less honest than others. The public views Congress, the national news media, and the entertainment industry as negative influences on the country. This distrust of our system has fueled the Trump campaign, with supporters feeling that it is his candor and transparency that make him the answer to the political system’s problems.
Inside vs. Outside
With the rise of the Tea Party, many Republicans have come to the conclusion that non-politicians are better at legislating than Washington insiders. In this election cycle, Bernie Sanders is motivating many on the Democrats’ side to feel the same way; though Sanders has been in Washington for decades, he seems to be less beholden to special interest groups and lobbyists.
Trump is the culmination of the right’s move toward political outsiders. As he has defied polls and risen to become his party’s nominee for president, 2016 has changed how pundits and average voters alike see presidential elections.
Trump’s rise to the top of a party that, until recently, hadn’t taken him seriously shows the widening gap between the Republican elite and their voting base. The ramifications of this cannot be overstated. The idea that politicians are the only people that become president is losing credibility.
2016 Has Been a Novel Year in Politics
This year we’ve seen a change in how people, media, and politicians react to presidential candidates. America’s distrust in politicians has changed who can rise to the top, as many people believe that “outsiders” make the best politicians. Only time will tell how this will impact the actual elections and the country’s leadership in the future.