If this year’s Iowa Caucus was a dramatic beginning to the presidential election season, last week’s New Hampshire primary was a true game changer. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries were won by radicals who have built their campaigns around anti-establishment sentiment and promises of major change in the government. Donald Trump won the Republican primary with 35.3 percent of the vote. The viability of the leading Republican candidates — specifically Trump and Cruz — with their deplorable policies and childish antics would lead many to question how they are serious contenders for the highest office in the land. But that is the ludicrousness that has befallen the Republican party. It is a sad fate for a party founded in opposition to expanding slavery, and which had, in generations past, been open to new ideas and intellectualism rather than foolhardy and ignorant populism. The Democratic results were even more shocking. Senator Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire with an astounding 60.4 percent of the vote. This is a serious setback for Hillary Clinton, who campaigned hard in New Hampshire and saw widespread support in the state during the 2008 election. It has opened up a path for Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic nominee for president.
Despite my avowedly leftist leanings, I had little faith that someone who espouses socialism and wants to fundamentally change the American state could be a serious contender for the presidency. I have been proven wrong. He has achieved victory in a bellwether state early in the primaries, assembled a broad liberal coalition and raised large amounts of funds. A campaign that once seemed to be little more than an anointing of the chosen Democratic candidate has quickly transformed into a duel between an establishment mainstay and someone at the very edge of the American political spectrum — someone who doesn’t use “socialism” as a dirty word, but as a promise of change. Sanders does, without a doubt, have a hard path to the candidacy, much less the presidency. Hillary Clinton has the support of 362 Democratic superdelegates, individual delegates untied to any state who can choose any candidate they want — giving her a total of 394 delegates compared to Sanders’ 44. This is a sign of the Democratic establishment’s total support for Clinton. Sanders, on the other hand, has built his campaign around being an outsider. In order to clinch the Democratic nomination he will have to win over Clinton state by state until he gains the 2,382 total delegates he needs. Before Tuesday this did not seem truly possible — now, however, it does.
This is a time of both cynicism and hope. Our political system is archaic, ineffective and hopelessly corrupt. However, the New Hampshire primaries tell us that people want change. There is widespread disillusionment with our system, with very good reason. A clear message has been sent to the political establishment: traditional candidates do not have a lot of support in the 2016 campaign. Perhaps, when all is said and done, things in our country will change for the better. But this will only happen if we can come together to affect major changes in our economic and political systems.