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Presidential Issues: American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism

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Trump and Sanders’ Victim Complex

April 8, 2016

By Abby McCloskey

To hear [Donald] Trump and [Bernie] Sanders talk, America is getting beat up. A lot. According to Trump, we are losing to China. To Mexico. To ISIS. To NATO. To political correctness. According to Sanders, we are losing to the 1 percent. To big corporations. To climate change. To free markets. According to both, we are losing to the politicians who have rigged the system against everyone else, the “establishment.”

This is quite the list of violations. Indeed, anyone listening to Trump and Sanders would hardly believe that the U.S. is almost single-handedly driving the world’s economy forward (albeit slowly), leading the bombing campaign against ISIS (albeit not enough), boasts one of the richest and biggest middle classes around (albeit weakening), or remains one of the freest and most powerful countries in history (albeit changing).

Reality, for them, is beside the point.

Trump and Sanders have built their campaigns around a victim mentality, which – as Rubio, Bush, and likely [John] Kasich, found and will find out too late — is the most powerful campaign tool for 2016.  Apparently, it’s not sunny days and optimism that get people fired up. Instead, as rhetorician Kenneth Burke theorized in the 20th century, the strongest way to unite people is to give them a common enemy. For President Obama, it was George W. Bush. For Trump and Sanders, it’s the entire system.