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  • Hannah Strauss

The "Benefit" of Trump

Looking at Donald Trump and the stream of vitriol that spews from his mouth at each campaign

stop, we see a man who has tapped into an incensed public. He plays into fears of globalization

and anxiety over a future that does not have the white American at its epicenter. After a week of

this anger in the fore-front of our news cycle with the RNC, it seems like a very dark time in

American politics.

However, pundits and politicians repeatedly used these words during the Democratic National

Convention: “This is the most progressive Democratic platform ever.” A form of tuition-free

public higher-education has been adopted, promising great change for families making under

$125,000 a year. The platform adopted social security expansion, raising the federal minimum

wage to $15 an hour, and increased paid family and medical leave, along with a pledge to have

criminal justice reform and an end to mass incarceration. How did this come about?

The push towards a more progressive platform is largely the result of Bernie Sanders: his

campaign and it’s far left ideals gathered traction and support from the grassroots and showed

that a large portion of the American people are ready and waiting for this move towards a more

progressive government. After a long, well-fought primary between Sanders and Clinton, Clinton

and the Democratic Party listened to Bernie Sanders and found ways to implement his ideas into

the party base.

In a strange twist of fate, these positions may not have been possible to adopt had it not been for

the rise of Donald Trump. A typical presidential campaign tends to converge in the center to

entice centrist, undecided voters. The Trump strategy does not take this into account. This results

in polarizing actions and speech that isolates rather than appeals to the undecided voter. Many

Republicans in the House and Senate have chosen not to endorse Trump, or to openly endorse

another candidate, as they grapple with sticking to the party and also their morals.

Not only is the Trump campaign making few moves to appeal to the center, it isn’t making great

strides to appeal to the Republican establishment. During the RNC, Ted Cruz encouraged

Americans to “vote their conscience” rather than endorsing Trump as the Republican candidate

and the Koch brothers are choosing to focus their contributions on House and Senate campaigns

rather than supporting the party’s nominee. The Harvard Republican Club released a statement,

writing that “for the first time in 128 years, we, the oldest College Republicans chapter in the

nation, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee.”

In a two-party system, when one stops playing by the rules, it allows the other side to play more

loosely with the rules as well. For the Democrats, this means the ability to adopt more

progressive ideas and promote them. Many center and center-right voters will consider the

Democratic candidate not because they agree with her views, but because they feel the

alternative is unsuitable. Third party candidates Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green

Party) have come out of the woodwork, but their bases are too small to constitute a serious threat

to the Democratic Party and its candidate, Hillary Clinton.

This election cycle has perplexed and confounded analysts and voters alike as it strayed from the

well-trodden path of prior years. As Donald Trump moved away from classic Republican views

and has instead launched a very different campaign, the Democratic Party also adopted a new

game-plan, moving more to the left as Mr. Trump stuck to his impassioned base. While the

country will have to wait until November to see how this shift in campaigning affects the

outcome, the rules of the game have, at least temporarily, changed.

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