Brexit. Trump. Bernie.

Whether it’s Boris Johnson in England — whose UKIP led the misleading and unfortunate movement to separate the country from the EU — or Bernie Sanders — whose “revolution” ended in successfully pushing his party’s platform much farther left than Hillary Clinton probably would have liked — the political world is being seized by radically different candidates and movements.

With the force of young people and the chronically disadvantaged behind them, these movements have the potential to not only drive our world forward on issues like education, justice reform and women’s rights, they also reveal deeply entrenched divisions and long-harbored hatreds in societies around the world.

Donald Trump took the GOP by storm and bent the entire party to his will while garnering only 46 percent of the GOP primary votes. His rise to the top of “The Party of Lincoln” was an exercise in opposites, with the candidate garnering the most votes, for and against him, of any candidate in U.S. primary election history.

Political experts all over the spectrum have composed a similar narrative in talking about Trump, Brexit, and Bernie. At first, they dismissed them as fads or hoaxes faced with insurmountable odds.
“How could Jeb Bush lose?” said right-wing talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh. “British citizens will see the light!”

“Hillary’s coronation is all but guaranteed,” said The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

Look where we are now.

But pundits aren’t the issue here. They couldn’t have seen the populations of people who are the backbones of these movements: the liberal college students across America who led the Bernie or Bust movement; the economically depressed, conservative, white racist population in England who is tired of a faceless international organization stealing their hard-earned tax dollars to save Syrian refugees, or the similar populations in America who want to “Make America Great Again.”

Disenchanted blocs of voters have always existed in some number, but now they have spaces, like Twitter, and figureheads, like Donald or Bernie, through which they have made their opinions known—deplorable as those may be.

A revolution of this type and scope has taken years to come about and it will be a while until the effects fully materialize. Years of political and economic dissatisfaction have resulted in this enormous population of people with a distrust for “the establishment” — politicians, corporations and our world as a whole.

Emotions are running so strong that these traditionally-centrist and satisfied people are able to abandon some or all of their values; they have turned to people like Trump, Sanders, or Johnson as a way of voicing their displeasures.

Liberals, like me, may still be in disbelief at people who want to build a wall, defund Planned Parenthood and restrict which bathrooms we can use. But this is our reality now, and our democracy must adapt as it always has.

Although putting them in a basket and calling them deplorable might seem effective and necessary, how much progress have we ever gotten with that approach?

What the mainstreaming of bigotry has done is create a shift in our overall political climate. But the fundamentals of our democracy remain. And, as we should with any new ideological group that gains power in that democracy, all factions of America must work together to craft meaningful legislation that benefits the majority.

Bernie supporters rally in Greensboro on September 13, 2015. Photo courtesy Julia Klein

About Levi Hencke

Levi is a junior who likes traveling, sailing, and the Tar Heels. He was born in Denver, CO, but has lived in Chapel Hill for most of his life. CHS is the second high school he’s attended, but by far his favorite.