A Tale Of Two Elections
June 13, 2020
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”
While Charles Dickens famous line from his ubiquitous novel (A Tale of Two Cities) is meant to describe 18th century France and England. This line can almost undoubtedly be applied to our modern political climate, chiefly on how both of our presidential primary elections have developed separate tones.
To give some a refresher on what the novel of a Tale of Two Cities was about. It revolves around the heights of the French Revolution and its impact on the Aristocratic (nobility), the Bourgeoisie (merchant class) and the peasants (working class). The book showcases how the Aristocratic elite mistreated the poor working class, and how the Bourgeoisie took advantage of the peasants by consistently lowering wages and margining their overall ability to survive. Constantly you are reminded of how cruel and unforgiving the world is, the despair of the working class, and how feelings of hopelessness (short of a revolution) permeate throughout the book. The characters who highlight the story are Sidney Carlton, a lawyer who feels low self-worth . Madame Defarge a vengeful woman who not only welcomes the bloody revolution but commits potential victims to memory. Doctor Mannette, someone so traumatized from his prison experience that he resorts to making shoes just like he did when he was incarcerated. And lastly, Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette, the novels central characters, whose love and devotion to one another is what drives the story. This novel was born out of the life experiences of Charles Dickens, whom himself was born into poverty during the height of the industrial revolution.
So how does all of this tie into our present time?
For both the democrat and republican side, there are two completely different candidates who are using the energy of the electorate to fuel their campaign. Both speak of turning over Washington D.C. and getting rid of the status quo of ‘doing business’. Those candidates are of course Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Both the Senator and the bombastic business man are playing to people’s frustrations and fears, and these same people are tired of being left out. On the Republican side specifically, there is a searing discontent on how ‘certain’ Americans no longer feel part of this country’s changing dynamic. Whether they feel this way because our country is “too P.C.”, or the fact that working middle class Americans feel ostracized from the American dream, and then there are others use our current immigration policy as a scapegoat, blaming immigrants or “illegals” as the source of their own personal problems.
On the democratic side you have people who are frustrated with the economic outlook of their own lives, and feel that as the system currently stands, they are not in the position to succeed. Senator Sanders has encapsulated the feeling of the economic disenfranchised, by highlighting the notion that money is causing the political system to fail its citizens. Both candidates are proposing a revolution, one a policy revolution, and the other an economic one. To a few, it is the worst of times.
Ironically, while both campaigns are suggesting a revolutionary type upheaval, none of which this country has ever seen, the tone of both campaigns are entirely different. On the Republican side, the anger and the frustration is palatable to the point that the candidates themselves are attacking each other with such ferocity that it is both entertaining yet concerning. It is safe to assume that the candidates have taken on the fervor of not only Trump, but of their electorate in general. As it has been shown, it is much easier to direct anger, rather than to manage it. For example, Republican candidates are either directing the anger of their supporters towards each of their primary opponents, or the Democrats (specifically Hillary Clinton), the President, and even Washington D.C. as a whole. As for the Democrats, regardless to whether Sanders wins the primaries, he has unquestionably changed the format of Clinton’s campaign. He has forced her to go further left then what she previously intended (the “Clintonian” strategy is after all famously “center-left”). Despite their differences, the tone of the Democrats’ primary is not as biting as the Republicans. The reason being, Democrats despite their frustrations remember keenly the Bush years and feel like while things may not be perfect, they are much better now than they were 8 years ago. Unemployment is below 5%, gas is below $2 nationally, the stock market is steady and the housing market is flourishing. To some, especially on the Clinton side, they (we) are living in the best of times, and putting another Democrat in office will continue the trend.
However this election season may turn out, it is important to remember that while the French revolution did in fact provide a format for a democratic society, the poor working class never made any gains in status of financial security. So while plenty of blood was shed, and innumerable lives were lost, few economic changes truly unfolded, causing many historians to wonder whether the sacrifice of the revolution was truly even worth it. Ponder on that.