There’s a new reality show in America generating ratings and rave reviews before an audience that had been waiting a long time for it to begin.
It’s called “The New American Transformers,” but unlike the “Transformer” movies this series does not revolve around a galactic battle but something much more down to Earth.
It is a story about Americans looking to transform a system that’s broken, in a country that’s lost its way, led by politicians who’ve become more interested in self-preservation than national revival.
The search for newness, freshness, and a jolt of confidence explains why both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, hailing from wholly different universes of ideology and temperament, whether they win or lose, are scoring big today.
Both are armed with declarations of transformation, from policy and politics, to America’s relations around the world.
Sensing our system is progressively collapsing under its own weight, Trump and Sanders have come to embrace this truth. To their credit, the American people have as well. Trump and Sanders, separate yet together, have lent voice to what we’re feeling.
Separate, yet together, Trump and Sanders rejected canned political hyperbole in favor of spontaneous declarations, in the moment and for the moment.
Separate, yet together, they command the stage, despite doubts about their electability, despite the establishment’s desperate attempts to explain it away, or wish it away.
After all, how do you stop a movement? How do you slow the momentum of candidates who simply refuse to play by the normal rules of the game?
Trump and Sanders are not programmed by advisers, manipulated by donors, or controlled by polls. They’re refreshingly real, dependably candid, and totally human.
Do they mess up at times, driving the pundits and prognosticators nuts? Yes.
Do they sometimes fumble when asked to fully explain their remedies? Yes.
Yet, Americans today are more interested in the honesty of intent, than the dishonesty of promises never pursued.
After a Versailles–like ceremony where Dr. Ben Carson blessed the Trump insurgency with an outsider’s hug, The Donald says, “I try to be who I am.”
Bernie Sanders, in denouncing the system amid a throng of believers, says “there’s too much shouting at each other; too much making fun of each other.”
Now anyone who’s ever run for office, and those like me who have served them, understand all voting is emotional.
We are not robots. We vote our feelings.
Psychiatrists liken this to falling in love, a kind of inexplicable madness that while not always rational, is overwhelmingly emotional.
Consciously or not, Trump and Sanders are wooing America, without the varnish of prepared speeches, without the crutch of poll-driven drivel, without permission from the establishment or the media elites.
That same establishment is now out to stop them, at all costs, and they’ve settled on their choice of weapon: the negative ad.
When an establishment candidate can’t sell himself or herself, their strategy is to air negative ads against everyone else.
When the audience is not buying the establishment’s pick, they are made to feel stupid, uninformed, manipulated by ignorance.
Yet this conventional dismantling of candidates is falling on hard times, outmatched by Sanders’ and Trump’s panache in made-for-television rallies built from enthusiasm and bred from frustration.
Here are three reasons why.
One. People don’t form impressions of candidates from negative ads, especially when the source is self-serving, the claims are questionable, and the intent is malicious.
Two. After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates on negative ads, funded by outside groups with outside interests, they’re not unique anymore.
Three. When any voter bonds with a candidate, that voter resents anyone who stands in the way of that relationship.
No wonder Trump and Sanders are transforming the face of politics. In their world, it’s us versus them.
In parallel, they have challenged party rules that preserve the interests of insiders, while challenging Americans to feel empowered again.
Together, they have given us a choice: accept mediocrity in our domestic and foreign affairs, or expect excellence from themselves, and the nation. Together, they represent the agony and optimism of the American people.
Given that choice, Michigan and Colorado Democrats sided with Sanders.
Given that choice, Mississippi and Massachusetts Republicans flocked to Trump.
By exercising that choice, the American people have begun to feel something the system long ago took for granted: hope.
Meet the “New Transformers” — Sanders and Trump.
Meet the new America, where democracy is alive, and well.
Adam Goodman, a national GOP media consultant based in Florida, has created, directed and produced media for more than 300 candidates in 46 states over the past 35 years. Column courtesy of Context Florida.