The 2016 Presidential Campaign and Long-Term Impacts on American Politics


Although the race for the American presidency has often been characterized by unprecedented eventualities; the candidacies of Mr. Bernie Sanders and Mr. Donald Trump were the most extraordinary political occurrences in the recent past. Although the 2016 election took place a few years ago, political observers, pundits, and commentators continue to debate over the weaknesses and flaws of the two contenders. Mr. Bernie Sanders, a social democrat, passionately amplified and organized his campaigns around ideas which resonated robustly with the radical grassroots as he contested for Democratic Party’s nomination.

Conversely, Mr. Donald Trump exploited the political environment within the Republican Party to connect with an arguably angry and frustrated support base. Although the American political landscape has undergone numerous fundamental changes, the candidacies of Mr. Bernie Sanders and Mr. Donald Trump will have long-term consequences on the country’s politics.

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump’s Candidacies

Bernard Sanders presidential nomination contest was politically extraordinary and has been a subject of raging debates. Mr. Sanders is an American politician and the current senator for Vermont State. Throughout his political career, Mr. Sanders has sustained an outsider image in party politics and has been ranked as the longest-serving independent senator in America’s congressional history (“Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator for Vermont”). However, he has established a close working relationship with the Democratic Party and has been accepted as a member of the Party’s Senate leadership team.

Between 1972 and 1976, Mr. Sanders was a senate and gubernatorial nominee for the anti-war and anti-capitalist Liberty Union Party of Vermont (Qiu). The Liberty Union Party nominated him twice for each of the two slots, but he lost the four contests, which culminated in his resignation from the Party in 1977 (Qiu). Mr. Sanders contested the Burlington mayoral seat in 1981 as an independent candidate and described himself as a socialist (Qiu). He retained the seat in three more consecutive terms before launching and winning his bid for a House of Representatives seat in 1989 (Qiu). Throughout the whole term in office, Mr. Sanders maintained and defended his independence, although his inclination and proximity to the Democrats were evident.

Over the years, Mr. Sanders’ connection and association with the Democratic Party has become increasingly pronounced. For instance, despite at least three Democrats intending to contest for the Vermont Senate seat under the Party’s ticket in 2006, the Democratic Party secured the nomination for Mr. Sanders (Qiu). However, the unique political friendship and closeness between Mr. Sanders and the Democratic Party reached its peak in 2016, when he declared his intention to run for the Party’s presidential nomination (Qui). During all there years, his press materials and website continued labeling him as independent and unaffiliated to any party.

Similarly, Mr. Donald Trump’s Republican Party’s candidacy was an unusual political event, particularly due to his previously blurred and undefined party membership. Although he registered as a Republican in 1987 in Manhattan, he switched his affiliation to the Reform Party in 1999 and later to Democratic Party in 2001 (Murse). However, he left the Party soon after and endorsed John McCain, a Republican, for the presidency in 2008 before fully reverting to the Republican Party in 2009 (Murse). In the subsequent years, Trump mooted the idea of running to be America’s president, although his utterances to that effect were generally not taken seriously.

Trump wanted to enter the race for White House using the perspectives of the Republican Party. He announced his presidential candidacy on Republican Party’s ticket in 2016 and was one of the 17 candidates contesting for the Party’s nomination. After winning the ticket, Mr. Trump’s campaigns and political positions increasingly reflected a consistent pattern of policies, which were conventionally aligned to the Democratic Party. Additionally, he openly expressed his disdain for political correctness, indicating his unwillingness and reluctance to comply with the established and long-standing ideologies and philosophies of the Republican Party.

For instance, his utterances during the campaign trail entertained fringe ideas, organizations, and beliefs, which he helped bring into the limelight. Mr. Trump also explicitly accommodated white supremacism by endorsing racist pronouncements and even declining to condemn some of their racially inspired activities.

Unusual Attributes of Trump and Sanders’ Candidacy

The candidacies of Mr. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been viewed as exceptional occurrences in America’s recent political history. Observers and commentators often review the presidential candidate’s ideology, endorsements, and partisanship to evaluate the viability of a contender. Mr. Trump’s candidacy and the eventual success in winning the presidency broke this barrier as the only contender in America’s history to have ever won the presidency with no political or military experience (McAdams 1). This was an unusual feature in the American presidential contests, as Trump was inexperienced and an outsider in the country’s politics.

Additionally, Mr. Trump continuously defied party norms and conventions and embraced a multifaceted proposal. Strom and Martin contend that Mr. Trump failed to adhere to both conservative or liberal agenda and breached long-established customs during debates and engagements with his opponents (6). For instance, he built his political campaign around issues that were inconsistent with the Republican Party and were predominantly the mainstay of the Democratic Party. Moreover, Mr. Trump’s amateurish and authentic use of social media was unusual, as he increasingly adopted the networking as his political communication tool.

Bossetta argues that the integration of digital platforms in politics influences the interaction norms among users (1). This viewpoint is corroborated by Rowland, who posits that Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign was peculiar in its flagrant disregard of enduring norms and traditions, which eventually disrupted American politics (343). Although these unique attributes projected Mr. Trump as a conventional politician who was willing to defy the entrenched culture of political correctness, they ultimately made his candidacy the most unconventional in America’s modern history.

Mr. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy equally carried its fair share of uniqueness and peculiarity. For instance, Mr. Sanders was not even a Democratic Party member to be able to compete for the Party’s nomination and ticket. Although Mr. Sanders affiliated himself with the Democratic Party, he has reiterated that he has never been a Democrat (Stein). In essence, this was unusual since had he won the ticket and gone ahead to clinch the presidency, he would have been one of the two independent candidates to have ever won the coveted seat. By extension, this phenomenon would have demonstrated the worthlessness of belonging to a political party. Additionally, it illustrated the convenient abandonment of the Party’s conventional ideological selling points by accommodating the radical views of an independent candidate.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Trump and Sanders

The candidacies of Mr. Donald Trump and Mr. Bernie Sanders enjoyed various strong points as well as beset with outstanding weaknesses. For instance, Mr. Sanders’ consistency and sustained onslaught against the wealthy business people and companies stealing the American Dream from the general population connected well with the masses. While most politicians preferred higher taxes on the affluent, increased minimum wage, and expanded versions of Social Security and Medicare, he proposed a progressive approach to these issues without focusing on cultural and social affairs (Giridharadas; Jacobson).

In essence, Mr. Sanders’ message reflected a concise and long-term comprehension of what ailed America without relying on technocratic advice. Quam and Ryshina-Pankova argue that Mr. Sanders’ political messages reflected a consistent identification with the 99% of Americans against another 1%, who were mainly the billionaire class and the Wall Street operators (143). Thus, he appealed to the masses through a universally sensitive topic of economic inequalities, which defied cultural and social patterns. Indeed, Mr. Sanders, despite being an alien was seen as capable of sustaining and building the Democratic Party’s brand.

Conversely, the strategy adopted by Mr. Sanders of developing a universal approach was also his weakness. As a result, he was castigated for the failure to formulate elaborate plans for African Americans, who have been shortchanged by the systemic, structural, and institutionalized racist policies (Purnell). Moreover, the question of whether he was a real Democrat often arose, which threatened to deny him the much-needed support from all the Democrats. Although Mr. Sanders was focused on winning the nomination by advancing ideological arguments, his indecisive political standing was a significant weak point for his candidacy.

Mr. Donald Trump’s candidacy enjoyed remarkable support due to the perceived injection of freshness into the political arena and his open disdain for political correctness. Indeed, he has been seen as the only presidential contender who had the willingness and courage to say the things that other contenders avoided. Mr. Trump increasingly gained ground due to his unmeasured and controversial remarks, which ultimately gave him an unprecedented amount of media coverage. Winberg notes that Mr. Trump’s exploitation of incendiary political language, populist utterances, and mocking rhetoric often reached exceptional levels (3). Notably, this strategy swiftly elevated his political standing in the Republican primaries and ultimately won him the Party’s ticket.

However, Mr. Trump’s weakest point was his lack of experience in public service and elective politics. This attribute was often cited as dangerous, particularly among his opponents who amplified the hazards of having someone with no prior experience in public service at the country’s highest office.

Another peculiar flaw is his obstinate disregard of the Party’s structure and leadership. Additionally, his unmeasured utterances, comments, and pronouncements were often referenced and increasingly became his opponents’ attack points. In various instances, Mr. Trump was compelled to disavow or disassociate with remarks he endorsed from his support base, which advocated for concealed racism as the Americans’ attempt to take back their country.

Role of Economic Inequalities, Racial, and Ethnic Antagonism

The candidacies of Mr. Donald Trump and Mr. Bernie Sanders were built around significantly politically sensitive issues, including economic inequalities and racial coexistence. For instance, Sanders consistently highlighted the need to develop an economy that served the interest of the working class as opposed to the current structure, which only advanced the interests of the minority affluent. In addition, he was admonished for his failure to formulate specific policies which would ensure that African Americans would overcome the racially biased socio-economic institutions.

Similarly, Mr. Trump fully exploited ethnic antagonism to his political advantage by explicitly appealing to his white supremacist support base and other fridge organizations, such as Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, he re-tweeted openly racist comments, which resonated significantly with quarters opposing to multiculturalism and immigration. For instance, the appointment of Mr. Steve Bannon as Mr. Trump’s campaign CEO was a strong message and signal of his stand on racial and ethnic issues, considering that Mr. Bannon was the executive chairman of Breitbart News. The news platform often used white nationalists to express their veiled disdain for the blacks.

Long-Term Effects of Trump and Sanders’ Candidacies

The candidacies of Mr. Bernie Sanders and Mr. Donald Trump will undoubtedly have long-term impacts on America’s political landscape. For instance, the former’s ascension to the higher echelons of the Democratic Party and even contesting for the nomination without holding the Party’s membership is a phenomenon likely to erode the significance of association with any party. In this regard, contenders for any political seat do not need to express their party loyalty or allegiance. Additionally, Mr. Trump’s candidacy illustrated the immateriality of being a long-standing party member as long as a contender can amass the requisite public appeal. Moreover, the fact that Mr. Trump did not have previous experience in military or elective positions opens the gate for other people who may feel confident enough to follow the precedence.


Although the race for the presidential seat often generates unprecedented and phenomenal occurrences, the candidacies of Mr. Donald Trump and Mr. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaigns opened a new chapter in America’s politics. The two candidates have broken barriers, have set new records, surpassed obstacles, and opened the political landscape to even more surprises. Mr. Sanders, despite not being a member of the Democratic Party contested for the Party’s nomination and even became a frontrunner at some point. Similarly, Mr. Donald Trump, despite having no prior political experience or military proficiency, contested the Republican Party’s primaries and won the ticket. Therefore, their candidacies will have long-term impacts on America’s elective politics.

Works Cited

Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator for Vermont. “About.” Bernie Sanders. 2020. Web.

Bossetta, Michael. “The Digital Architectures of Social Media: Comparing Political Campaigning On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat in the 2016 U.S. Election.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 95, no. 2, 2018, pp. 471-496.

Giridharadas, Anand. “Bernie Sanders Wants to Change America. But He May Have to Change Himself First.Time. 2019. Web.

Jacobson, L. “What Bernie Sanders has Said About the Democrats Over the Years.Politifact. 2020. Web.

McAdams, Dan, P. “The Appeal of the Primal Leader: Human Evolution and Donald J. Trump.” Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture, vol. 1, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1–13.

Murse, Tom. “Was Donald Trump a Democrat? Why the Billionaire Real Estate Mogul has Changed Political Parties”. ThoughtCo. 2020. Web.

Purnell, Derecka. “Bernie Sanders’ Political Outsider Savviness was His Strength – and Weakness.The Guardian. 2020. Web.

Qiu, Linda. “Is Bernie Sanders a democrat?Politifact. 2016. Web.

Quam, Justin, and Marianna Ryshina-Pankova. “Let Me Tell You…”: Audience Engagement Strategies in the Campaign Speeches of Trump, Clinton, and Sanders.” Russian Journal of Linguistics, vol. 20, no. 4, 2016, pp.140–160.

Rowland, Robert C. “The Populist and Nationalist Roots of Trump’s Rhetoric.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs, vol. 22, no. 3, 2019, pp.343–388.

Stein, Jeff. “Today, Bernie Sanders Truly Became a Democrat for the First Time.Vox. 2016. Web.

Strom, Kathryn, J., and Adrian D. Martin. “Thinking with Theory in an Era of Trump.” Issues in Teacher Education, vol. 26, no 3, 2017, pp.3–22.

Winberg, Oscar. “Insult Politics: Donald Trump, Right-Wing Populism, and Incendiary Language.” European Journal of American Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 2017, pp.1–15.

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