When the term ‘socialism’ is thrown around in the context of the presidential race, you can practically see people running for the hills, tinned goods under their arm, anticipating the demise of the USA as we currently know it. Never has there been a more terrifying threat to the American dream than affordable further education and accessible social services. As Iowa is now upon us, the danger has deepened; a worried Clinton campaign witnessing Bernie Sanders pull ahead in the polls has begun smearing his agenda with allegations of being a communist sympathiser.
There are extremes at both ends of the political spectrum. As Bernie Sanders staunchly brandishes his hammer and sickle from the left, Donald Trump bravely oversees the building of a wall to rival that patrolled by Jon Snow and his Night’s Watch brothers to keep the White Walkers out of Westeros. And thus, through the ironic likely using of the immigrants that Trump so desperately wants to exile as cheap labour for said wall, we shall Make America Great Again.
This trend of extreme political polarization appears to be manifesting across other Western countries too. The 2015 election in the UK resulted in an unrivalled victory for the right and the Conservative party, leaving a broken Labour party in their wake. Labour leader Ed Miliband subsequently stepped down from his leadership position following their brutal defeat, prompting a vote for another to take his place. The result: a landslide victory for Jeremy Corbyn, alleged devil of the far left. Since then the UK parliament has increasingly resembled an elementary school playground as Corbyn and Prime Minister David Cameron continue to exchange infantile insults, partaking in the verbal equivalent of aggressive hair pulling, kicking and stealing of each other’s Pokémon cards. Whilst the left leaning have been labelled terrorist sympathisers for generally opposing airstrikes in Syria, the right continues to slash the welfare state Texas Chainsaw Massacre style.
Whatever people’s political standing, everyone appears to have one thing in common: they are vehemently pissed off. This trend towards the extreme of the two ends of the spectrum would appear to indicate just how many people are desperate for radical reform of a system they perceive to be flawed and unjust.
The UK 2015 election saw the highest voter turnout in years with 66.1% of registered voters pitching up at polling booths up and down the isles ready to make their voice heard. A promising figure suggesting that the public is beginning to turn their frustration into direct action. Additionally, there has been a sharp rise in support for smaller parties like the Green Party (socialist tree-hugging types) and the UK Independence Party (the xenophobic homophobes); people are really starting to explore their options outside of the mainstream, disenchanted by the empty promises of the larger parties that have dominated the system for so long.
In comparison, voter turnout in the US in 2012 was a mere 53.6%, numbers that trail behind most other developed democracies. For a country whose main selling point is their eagle-endorsed freedom, it appears strange that many people are neglecting to exercise their right to play part in said celebrated democracy. However, as a Brit, I feel positively spoilt for choice in contrast to the narrow two party system that exists here in the US. Although we don’t have a system of proportional representation, meaning that many feel a vote for these smaller parties is wasted, if the trend towards their popularity continues over coming years perhaps they may become more significant power holders in British parliament.
In an increasingly precarious global climate fraught with war and extreme inequality there exists an ever-growing plethora of problems for global leaders to address. Whoever is elected as the next President of the United States has a tough job on their hands; it serves as logical that the people of the US feel they want a responsible candidate that will be able to firmly and progressively deal with such volatile international dynamics. Whoever they think may be the best fit for the job will become evident in the coming months.
It will be intriguing to see what happens in the primaries, and whether or not the American public really will side with the more radical candidates that are currently dominating headlines, pushing for a more comprehensive re-haul of existing politics, or play it safe with what they feel to be a more moderate and ‘sensible’ choice. Regardless of the outcome, I can’t help but feel that we will continue to see a lot of Donald Trump and his toupee-that-may-or-may-not-be-real in the near future.