‘Money, it’s a crime,” said Pink Floyd. Or was that Bernie Sanders?
It might as well have been. “When the top one-tenth of 1 percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, that’s not fair,” Sanders told an energized crowd during his New Hampshire primary victory speech Tuesday. “The top three drug companies in this country made $45 billion in profit last year. That is an obscenity. . . . We must tell the billionaire class and the One Percent that they cannot have it all at a time of massive wealth and income inequality.”
And it’s working. Not only did the Vermont senator win Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary by 22 points; according to exit polling, he won men and women, moderates and liberals, those with college degrees and those without, those who own guns and those who don’t, and previous primary participants and first-timers. The only voters who preferred Hillary Clinton were those older than 65 and those from families making more than $200,000 per year.
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And everyone wants more.
Unlike Sanders, Trump has no determinate position on any matter of public policy, but that’s of little importance. He is not pitching a movement; he is pitching himself. His promise is not any particular slate of policies; it’s Donald Trump writ large. An America with Trump at the helm is one in which America “wins,” like Trump wins; makes good deals, like Trump makes good deals. In Donald Trump’s America, everybody gets to live a little like Donald Trump. This is at least partly why Trump’s supporters are so vicious toward his detractors: The latter threaten their chances to live bigger.
I get what should’ve been mine all along. And all for the low, low price of a vote.
It’s envy, en masse, on both sides. Somebody else has it (cheaper tuition, cheaper health care, business-class tickets, a Mercedes, &c.), and I want it. Under Sanders, top-hatted Uncle Pennybags will do the perp walk; under Trump, we’ll put the screws to Beijing and Uncle Pennybags himself will cut me in on the deal; but in either case, I get what should’ve been mine all along. And all for the low, low price of a vote.
Those who believe that politics is little more than personal psychodrama played out on a grand stage might be closer than usual to the truth this election cycle. Neither Trump nor Sanders, despite their claims, is ushering in a revolution. They are ushering in a politics more petty, vulgar, and low — more animated by voters’ base inclinations — than any in recent memory. If New Hampshire is any indication, voters are not about anything so high-minded as constitutional government or national security or racial justice or even “hope and change.” They’re about me getting mine, by hook or by crook.
Free college, free health care, and winning. This election is the Gollum-cry of the masses: WE WANTS IT.
— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.