Yes, Trump and Sanders Are Actually Changing America. They’ve released a flood of hidden beliefs, and we’ll be living with the effects for years. By Troy Campbell
The most startling thing about the 2016 presidential race has been the rise of two strident populists, Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left. Though they stand for very different things, Trump and Sanders have opened floodgates of public opinion—with powerful and often discomfiting results.
Trump, for one, has declared that this is precisely what he has accomplished: “We've opened up a very big discussion that needed to be opened up,” he noted at the last GOP debate. And Sanders has proudly not backed down from the “socialist” label, and in doing so forced the most leftist political discussion in modern times.
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The question is why—and why now. Political analysts have taken their stabs at the answer, but to understand what’s at work, it also helps to look deeper, into the psychology of voters themselves. In the face of great unhappiness in certain large sectors of the population—those who feel they are falling behind for one reason or another—Trump and Sanders trigger an important reaction. They have become what people in my profession of psychology see as enabling dissenters.
Both candidates succeed because they draw out popular feelings of dissatisfaction. But their effect is more than that: They have legitimized for discussion “fringe beliefs” that millions of Americans beforehand had been unsure of or too shy to fully embrace, but nonetheless felt strongly about. They do not create newbeliefs; instead they appeal to unspoken feelings often held by people who have recently felt increased economic strife and political disenfranchisement.