When the Murmur Becomes a Roar: the 'Trump Sanders Effect'

There has been a murmur of discontent across the political spectrum in the U.S. for some time, with Occupy Now on the left and the Tea Party on the right two prime examples. On May 3 the murmur became a roar, a profound and angry outcry against the status quo. Trump has become the presumptive candidate for the Republicans and Bernie just will not go away on the Democrats side.

What sense are we to make of this? As much as we would like to think we are immune from these kinds of extremes in Canada, we are not. The Liberal sweep in the last federal election was an extreme reaction by the body politic and, in the election before that, the upsurge of the NDP in Quebec was both extreme and, in the longer term, illusory. As far as saying ugly things we would have to go some to match the proposed establishment of a 'barbaric cultural practices hotline' by the recently defeated Conservative government.

The 'Trump Sanders Effect' is what happens when the populace becomes disillusioned with government. People feel unheard and disadvantaged by political decisions that do not represent their best interests, government tolerance of out of the country manufacturing and deregulation of the financial sectors being two such examples. Many people feel that their material aspirations are slipping away from them and, in many cases, they are. Unlike 'Trump talk', akin to what you hear in the bar before a game and 'Bernie speak', straight from the 1970's Boomer playbook, political discourse seems abstract and formulaic to most listeners....blah, blah, blah. Finally, two outsiders are giving voice to their real concerns.

We have a perfect set of conditions to produce the 'Trump Sanders Effect' in Vancouver. Many people, and I count myself in this number, who voted for a handsome, apparently competent, socially concerned and politically green mayor have woken up to find themselves surrounded by cranes. While condo construction and movie making are in evidence everywhere, poverty, mental illness and despair thrive in the downtown eastside. The homeless roam the streets.

My reactions to two contrasting experiences this past week taught me a lot about the 'Trump Sanders' conditions on the ground in Vancouver. One encounter was with a casual acquaintance who was run out of the neighbourhood when the rundown bungalow in which her basement apartment was located was sold for a mere 2.1 million. She is a gardener and, along with some young Woofer friends, had grown a delightful tangle of vegetables and herbs in the backyard the previous year. She was back gardening with the permission of the new owner, her new Kitsilano digs permitting only container gardening. This gentle familiarity and 'over the back fence' talk makes for community and there are patches of it throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. In a lighthearted way, I feel, "Life goes on."

In contrast, another note from the City arrives inviting us to a 'community consultation' about a new multi-unit, monstrosity to be built a few blocks away. The assembly has been purchased and telltale orange fencing on the proposed site surrounds a few defiant bushes and trees. It's a done deal. My reaction is sign up to be a speaker and treat the audience to some primal therapy. Well, there is the mix: a tantalizing touch of neighbourhood and community and the frustration of the relentless and impersonal onslaught of government condoned development. Look out for the Trump Sanders Effect in a riding near you.