Published: September 18, 2015
Two of the most polarizing figures in modern politics, businessman Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders, have been heating up the country’s political climate ahead of the 2016 Presidential election.
Their strong opinions on issues like raising the minimum wage nationally and securing the Mexican border are forcing citizens to question their own values and pick sides.
Trump, the 69-year old billionaire real estate developer turned TV personality, announced his candidacy in June. He was the subject of many political jokes in the past few years after his demands to see President Barack Obama’s birth certificate made national headlines. To the surprise of political pundits everywhere, Trump is picking up speed. His approval ratings are sky-rocketing and he is currently holding a 12-point lead over other Republican candidates, according to the latest Real Clear Politics poll.
Among the Democratic candidates, Sanders is the dark horse. His campaign is taking on a similar feeling to Obama’s 2008 surge for the Democratic nomination.
Sanders, a senator from Vermont and a self-identified democratic socialist, has vowed to take on big business and fight against Wall Street. His values have divided the country, with some believing that his four years in office would result in class-warfare and economic collapse.
Sanders is slowly getting more attention from the media as he announces his plan for the presidency. Some of his policies include tuition-free attendance at public universities and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour nationwide.
The opinions of professors and students from The University about Trump and Sanders varied.
The older generation has more of an experienced view of the topics, while the younger generation views these topics more passionatly and emotionally.
William Parente, a political science professor at The University believes that Trump is becoming so much more popular because he is bringing issues to the front line.
“It seems to me that Trump has tapped into the immigration issue. All of a sudden Trump comes along to promise that he will do something about the immigrants,” Parente said. “People get excited about that. He speaks his mind and that’s why he is becoming so popular among voters,” His opinion on Sanders is quite different.
“He’s 74 and very dynamic. He knows how to speak with passion, but I do not think he will not be the Democratic candidate, mostly because socialism just doesn’t work long term,” Parente said.
James Nestor, a sophomore political science major, feels that Trump’s attitude may grate on the nerves of some foreign dignitaries.
“I feel like he has a decent chance at running this country in a business standpoint for a limited amount of time. I feel like eventually our trading partners will get tired of trying to negotiate with him,” Nestor said.
Nestor believes that Sanders may not be able to live up to his promises.
“He is pretty much doing the ‘appease everyone’ type of deal. I can see him making a lot of empty promises that he will not be able to fulfill if elected to office,” Nestor said.
Many people agree with Nestor, since Trump often reminds the public that he is worth “billions of dollars,” which he made while building his empire.
Leonard Champney, a political science professor at The Universisty, who describes himself as a liberal democrat, describes Trump’s appeal to people’s passions.
“I find Trump to be an arrogant and self-absorbed man who appeals to those who are fed up with the government with his generalizations and unclear policies. He knows how to manipulate people. As passionate a response that may be, voters do agree with him,” Champney said.
Champney sees Sanders as honest and supports his proposal of tuition-free community college.
“He is picking up speed in the polls because Hillary Clinton tells the people what she thinks they want to hear. When Sanders says something, you know they believe it,” Champney said.
Natalie Russo, junior, liked Trumps ideas but voiced a similar concern about his candidness.
“I appreciate that he speaks his opinion, but he could tone it down a bit. In the debates, he got into petty arguments with the other candidates,” Russo said.
Russo is more partial to Sander’s ideas.
“I’ve heard of his 12 step plan for America and I agree with his policies to ensure pay equality for women. I’d prefer him over Hillary,” Russo said.
Doctor Michael Allison, the Associate Professor and Department Chairperson for the political science department, has a much different view.
“It’s a difficult time to understand what Donald Trump is running for. It’s possible that he’s serious, but I’m not entirely convinced. What’s driving him right now is name recognition in the media. People are talking about him 24/7 so he is going to keep going with his plan for now,” Allison said. “Sanders is good to have in the field to pull the Democratic Party to the left. He has a strong chance of staying in the race before 2016. His votes have increased in the last few weeks, but still pretty far behind Clinton.”
Matt Horn, senior, finds it hard to believe that Trump has come to represent the Republican Party.
“He characterizes a small minority of conservatives. It’s embarrassing he’s come this far,” Horn said.
Horn also viewed Sanders’ platform favorably but was cautious of political gridlock.
“If he gets elected, the republican controlled Congress won’t let him do a thing,” Horn said.
Both Sanders and Trump have been gaining traction as the clock ticks down toward the 2016 Election Day. They may not end up as the presidential candidates for their respective parties, but they look like they are going to put up a strong fight until the end.