When George Wallace ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, his slogan was “Send Them a Message!” Last night’s winners might as well have used the same catchphrase. The New Hampshire primary was a political Festivus, in which Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders performed feats of strength while the electorate undertook the airing of grievances. Voters wanted to show that they were fed up with the political and economic establishments, and the double-digit margins got the message across quite vividly.
Trump and Sanders have become the voices of discontent by positioning themselves as “outsiders.” In neither case is the mantle a perfect fit. Sanders has held office for 33 of the past 35 years, and has always caucused with congressional Democrats. His avowed socialism scarcely sets him apart in a party that has galloped leftward ever since Bill Clinton let go of the reins in 2001. Trump has direct experience in government. Rather, he bought his seat at the table of power by spreading money liberally among New York politicians. If Trump supporters are right that most political insiders are prostitutes, then Trump has distinguished himself by being a john.