"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

Trump, Sanders and Our Rorschach Elections

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 17
Publish Date: 
Thu, 01/28/2016



“All the great inspiring leaders and organizations…think, act and communicate the exact same way… opposite to everyone else,” Simon Sinek revealed in his famous TED talk. They “start with why they do what they do.”


Consider how these transformational Whys moved masses to Think Again: “All men are created equal,” declared America’s founders; “I have a dream” – not a five-point plan – proclaimed Martin Luther King; “Think different” and “Just do it” urged Apple and Nike en route to brand domination.


In 2008, Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” mantra quenched a thirst to challenge the status quo, helping him become the political equivalent of an iPad whose novelty rendered Hillary Clinton a vintage desktop. 


As Obama predicted in his autobiography “Audacity of Hope,” he became a human Rorschach test, serving ”as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."


Chanting “yes we can” while staring at Obama’s inkblot, supporters agreed with him that his nomination was “the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless… when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal… when we ended a war, secured our nation and restored our image.”


Obama’s inkblot sent a “thrill up my leg” for MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and convinced conservative David Brooks he’d be “a great president.”  Newsweek compared the new president to Abraham Lincoln, and 65 percent of voters believed they’d be better off in four years.


Reflecting on the media’s role in creating the Obama phenomenon, CBS’s Bob Schieffer recently acknowledged, “Maybe we were not skeptical enough.”

The same is true of the soaring candidacies of anti-Washington insurgents Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In their inkblots, supporters see trustworthy leaders whose Whys resonate. To voters hurt by our cronyist political system, and revolted by self-dealing politicians and their special interests, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Sanders’ “A Political Revolution Is Coming” are the “Hope and Change” of 2016.


Hard-working Americans play by the rules and resent politicians who don’t. They’ve watched Wall Street and Washington boom while enduring stagnant wages, job insecurity, rising health-care costs and reduced living standards.


Now, with the economy growing at half its 100-year historic average, small businesses failures exceeding starts, U.S. debt approaching Greek proportions, and national security threats looming, many fear we’re bequeathing our children a less secure and prosperous America.

But on what rational basis do Trump and Sanders merit such unbridled loyalty? Even Trump is amazed, joking recently, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn't lose any voters.”


History shows that when politicians are elevated before winning in the marketplace of ideas, they stop answering questions and being held accountable, and then everybody gets trumped.


Case in point: Trump. The reality-TV star now refuses to appear at the last pre-primary debate, drawing plaudits from minions who celebrate his bullying and bombast. Meanwhile, inquiring minds want him to persuade his way to victory.


How would the self-described insider-dealer dismantle the cronyist system that rewards political connections over competitive excellence? If he’s free of special interests, why not end corporate welfare, such as ethanol subsidies favored in Iowa?


How does Trump reconcile his penchant for unilateral action with the constitution’s separation of powers, never mind America’s founding purpose – democratic self-governance of a free people?


How can Trump defend religious liberty while proposing a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US? How does he justify “eminent domain” whereby government can seize an individual’s property, even for private use, such as a casino parking lot?


Sanders is similarly vague. At CNN’s town hall, he described democratic socialism as “an economy that works for all,” a benign vision -- especially for younger voters -- considering its devastating track record. Socialism is a discredited idea because, Time’s Joe Klein wrote, “it dampens incentives, which dampens creativity, which leads to poverty.”


That’s why the Scandinavian social-democracies Sanders touts reformed their economies, reducing taxes and regulations.  Doesn’t Sanders worry that his ideas will disincentive the very entrepreneurialism that transformed America from an agrarian backwater into history’s greatest economic wonder?


Sanders argues “the 1%” will pay for trillions in new government spending, though they rarely do. Instead, they pay lobbyists and lawyers to avoid taxes, and often stop working or move overseas. These are luxuries unavailable to the middle class and debt-saddled future generations who invariably pay when government grows.


America’s founders understood what Sanders doesn’t. Poverty is humanity’s natural state, and free enterprise is the best system for moving people toward productive and prosperous lives. What government-planner can design “an economy that works for all” that's better than the free market, where endless autonomous decisions are made efficiently, creatively and cooperatively?


Think Again – Sanders is right. A few rich people shouldn’t run America.  Hopefully, voters willing to look beyond 2016’s inkblots will insist that a handful of politicians shouldn’t run the country either.




Share this

Trump is a white Obama. He's

Trump is a white Obama. He's an empty vessel to put all of your hopes and dreams into. "Make America Great Again" is just "Hope and Change" from another angle.

When elections resemble game

When elections resemble game shows more than serious discussions about serious issues, why should we wonder why the most successful candidates resemble game show contestants more than statesmen/women?

“Maybe we were not skeptical

“Maybe we were not skeptical enough.” (Bob Schieffer on the media's scrutiny of Barack Obama)

Understatement of the Century (so far) Melanie?

A yuge question in the minds of many has to be answered, and that is, "Just why is The Donald" running? Is there more principle in that challenging mind of his, or is it an ego trip that he's on? Or an instance of some other self interest ? What we do know is that the questions won't be answered tonight.

May we not spill more ink on our constitution that blots out our liberty and freedom!

Melanie is, of course,

Melanie is, of course, exactly right.

Most Americans do not understand that they are screaming for a king... but they are and have been for some time.

They are getting in Trump the exact same thing they got in Obama... a person who will ignore the constitution and do what they please. Only real difference is Trump might do it to the benefit of a more traditional America, rather than for some "fundamental transformation".

Americans want to be led because they see the gridlock. Sad part is that when you're right above Niagra Falls, gridlock is your only safety.

Unable to see this, they demand someone like Trump or Bernie to break the few remaining shackles that tie the republic to its owners manual... the Constitution.

The Prime Minister of

The Prime Minister of Denmark, speaking at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in November 2015, directing his comments to Bernie Sanders: “I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.””


The article is summarized: "If Sanders is going to continue to use these nations to guide his governing philosophy, he should base his policy positions on what they really are, not what he thinks they are or wants them to be. These countries have learned a harsh lesson. They don’t deserve to be Berned again."

I do not think that the

I do not think that the article strictly aimed paranoia at Bernie. Heck, if Hilary were the candidate across from Trump, then the article would have discussed her track record. It sought to have actual answers to questions and thoughts on how to steer the country.

Trump seems to give cryptic non-answers and in a recent Colbert show, he had Trump Debate himself. The hoopla around all candidates seems to be more like the mobs getting behind them without real well though out answers to questions.

As a matter of disclosure, I am undecided and would prefer a different slate of candidates all together. Voted for Nader many times. Canvased for Paul in 2008. Though it seems with Bernie, you have the most honest as to what he would do. Though, I do not agree with much of it, nor do I think it would fly as we have reached the Greek levels of debt, in this land. Other nations are trying to figure out how to start a different reserve currency for the world as they are losing faith, in our financial solvency.

Everything does not need to be taken as a jab against your ideology. It jabbed at both sides, just finished with Sanders.

Lets figure out how to end the corporate welfare that is ruining our world, starting with grain subsidies. Though as Kissinger is quoted, "if you control oil you control countries, if you control food you control the people." The only way to control the food system as I see it, is through the industrial system, which we have, not a localized food system that would return without those subsidies and regulations that make it hard for the little guys to compete.

The socialist paranoia around

The socialist paranoia around Sanders is pretty hilarious. All he wants to do is turn us away from the oligarchy we've become and back to a country where all people have equal representation when it comes to making the rules.

He wants to clip the wings of the elite class of CEOs and billionaires to whom the rules the rest of us live by don't seem to apply. He wants to make it easier for ordinary Americans to get ahead.

This is going to happen sooner or later. With Sanders at the helm, it'll happen sooner; if we keep going the way we're going with the vast majority of the gains going to the very top, with the elite having unfettered access to government to collude on laws that benefit them to the detriment of the rest of us, the eventual backlash is not gonna be pretty.

I enjoyed your latest piece

I enjoyed your latest piece for the Times, especially how you wrapped it up. For years I have kept a journal of "quotable quotes," things people say that cannot be better said. Today you take your place in my journal with the following quote from the second-to-last paragraph of your piece:

"Poverty is humanity’s natural state, and free enterprise is the best system for moving people toward productive and prosperous lives. "

I am doing my best to keep up with all the political goings on from half a world away in China. I have marveled at how the Donald has thus far taken this process by storm. I am also stunned at Hillary's teflon nature with regard to her private email scandal (at least to date) although I suspect that even if she were to get the nomination she will be so damaged as to make it difficult to win the general election.

On the other hand, it would not surprise me at all if neither she nor Bernie gets the nomination and someone else sweeps in and takes it. The Dems are in more trouble than the Repubilcans. But don't count Trump out. As I read the tea leaves from this side of the pond many people on both sides are simply fed up with business as usual.

In any case, it's going to be an interesting year!

Interesting take, though I

Interesting take, though I disagree with Sturm about Trump. (Re Muslim visas/religious freedom and re unilateral actions/debate withdrawal)

I think all presidential elections wind up being Rorschach elections.

Part of the reason is that the media stars make themselves big parts of the political stories. And low information voters depend on selected media stars for their opinions.

Excellent dose of reality in

Excellent dose of reality in this election cycle.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • No HTML tags allowed
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

Article List

Thu, 09/10/2015

Thu, 09/12/2013

Thu, 06/06/2013

Tue, 01/15/2013

Thu, 05/24/2012

Thu, 03/15/2012

Thu, 07/07/2011

Thu, 03/31/2011