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Democracy Speaks: All Hail Trump and Sanders

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Jennifer Schwab

LOS ANGELES - At what can best be described as a one-percenter wine dinner, I was entrenched in deep conversation about the election with some close friends.  A smattering of real estate developers, financiers, entrepreneurs and Hollywood types.  The conversation inevitably turned to the presidential race and our collective fears about a Trump vs. Sanders showdown.  
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Then it finally hit me.  This is indeed not a nightmare.  In fact, it is something to celebrate.  Why?  Because the one percenters and the intelligentsia are exactly that, a very, very small minority.  Why should the one percent be able to so strongly influence presidential candidates based upon who will continue policies that have shrunk the middle class and may make the gulf between the wealthy and working class even wider? 
 
Make no mistake, I personally am not supporting Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders.  That said, I am happy, yes, happy, to accept a Trump vs. Sanders race.  The general population, the millennials, the silent majority, the working class, poor and underprivileged, the other 99 percent is speaking, loudly and clearly:  they are tired of the professional politicians, they don't trust them as far as they can throw them, they have had it.  They want tellers of truth and candidates who truly call them as they see them.  Trump and Sanders are perceived to fit this bill and this explains their unexpected strength in the primaries and the polls.  I do believe Bernie Sanders is genuine (and five million individual donors have voted with their wallets already on that note), not sure Donald Trump will actually do what he claims (in fact I hope not) but that is not the issue.  Americans are finding Trump's version of calling them as he sees them to be a breath of fresh air.  They like the candor, they like the political incorrectness, and they like the fact that he is not aggressively soliciting their campaign contributions.
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I am ready to celebrate and embrace this.  After all, this is what America was intended to be when the framers of our Constitution designed the world's greatest democracy.  The People speak at the polls, and they should be able to overpower special interests and other wealthy and powerful influencers who have their own agendas.
 
The only corollary to this is that sometimes letting "the people's will" prevail has been met with disastrous consequences, as my friend Diane Zeiger, always an astute observer of things political, points out.  "Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and the Arab Spring countries of Egypt, Yemen and Libya...on some level all were based upon the concept of free stuff for the people.  Free stuff is only free until it isn't anymore.  Venezuela is a great example of this," Ms. Zeiger reminds us.
 
Thus the will of the people must be balanced with the tenets of a true democracy.  Consider the following list of what makes a democracy, from Law and Democracy. This is a terrific assessment and litmus test if you will of how to judge whether a government truly practices the basic principles of democratic law:  
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You can insert the name of many of the world's most important countries and by the time they reach number one, Citizen Participation, or number three, Political Tolerance, the buzzer goes off and they are already eliminated.  How about China, where President Xi Jinping recently ordered the entire country's media outlets to act as his personal PR machine...or else?  Or Thailand, where according to BBC News, since May of 2014 the military has taken control of the democratically-elected government because of widespread corruption, and suspended the constitution in order to restore order and enact political reforms.  Or Russia, where Vladimir Putin is trying to reconstruct the USSR and his political challengers have a convenient habit of disappearing or mysteriously dying.  Or Turkey, where Recep Erdogan, who has been in power for over 13 years, seems to make new laws designed to keep him in power, even when elections and public opinion say otherwise.  The list goes on...it seems like true democracy is becoming more of a scarce commodity than in recent decades.
Thus it really does make me proud to be an American when I see the groundswell of frustration with our clearly non-functional partisan political situation in Washington beget Trump and Sanders campaigns that continue to gain momentum.  As the saying goes, it is the will of the People.  It is a mandate, to borrow from the classic film Network, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take this anymore."
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Amen.  Perhaps Diane Zeiger sums it up best by concluding, "If it comes down to Sanders and Trump, I am voting for my cat."

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