The Power of the Political Clown Car: Trump and Sanders

wikipedia: circus clown 1907
wikipedia: circus clown 1907

Donald Trump looks like the runaway leader in the Republican run for the presidency at the moment. On the left hand side of the aisle, Bernie Sanders is making more waves than anyone else. But it is Trump, who is most raising the eyebrows of America, especially among educated progressives. “How,” they ask, “can anyone be so stupid to vote for Trump.”

This is no surprise to me. In fact, my theoretical work*  on peacemaking and navigating relationships between radically dissenting opinions and positions predicts the rise of someone like Donald Trump, and to a lesser degree, Bernie Sanders.

The political parties in America are divided into hard opposing positions, and the resulting polarization is all too predictable. There are no nuanced opinions making their way into the public arena. Instead we are given options of yes or no, good or evil, black or white, intelligent or dumb; and one person’s black is another person’s white, one person’s common sense is another’s stupidity.

It is a colorless political world. It is an angry, bickering, albeit dull relationship we have with politics, like two people stuck in a dreary gray marriage, refusing to bend to the other’s concerns; we have no words except the short bursts of polarized arguments we throw at one another. But Donald Trump brings excitement into the room, as does Bernie Sanders. These men come from a position no one else is coming from. They are political Mavericks, or more specifically, they are clowns, and to many people these voices from outside the political two-ring circus bring life to the party, and critique the stiff systems in ways we often appreciate.

Most people think of this word “clown” in the context of the political arena as a bad thing. Yet, as we see in Trump and Sanders, they come from outside the polarized lines of standard political confrontation and mock the system. They are the interruption to the Bread and Circuses political manipulation we have been accustomed to seeing. They are like the clown in the circus: an interruption in the performances of lion tamers, tightrope walkers, and men being shot out of cannons. They run into the audience. They drag the audience onto the stage. They are at once both performers among spectators, and spectators among performers.

Trump and Sanders may not be the kind of clowns we need as President in this hour, but we desperately need these clowns in American politics today, and we need clowns more than ever. If someone does not break our party lines, and effectively mock our polarized positions; we will continue down a path, which allows for the highest bidders to continue to win our votes with cheap bread and expensive circuses.

“The clown does not come from the right or the left, from the establishment or from the disenfranchised, and not from the educated or uneducated. The clown does not hold my monological perspective, or the similarly limited perspective of my ideological other. The clown stands on nobody’s point of reference. The clown emerges from the space in between us, and is birthed from nobody’s perspective and yet speaks mockingly into everybody’s perspective.

In the space between “religion” and “secular society” (which are some of the worst defined words in our pop pseudo-intellectual culture) we need an invasion of clowns to surprise us – an invasion emerging from that impassable space between us. It might change the way we look at things, and refocus our attention away from the other we cannot or will not identify with. It might do us good to see ourselves mocked, even while being drawn into an accepting celebratory space.” – Burning Religion

Burning Religion is coming out in October 2015. Help bring this revolution to life by ordering the book.
* (really too large a description, but I have no other for now)

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