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The unexpected popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – like it or not – is a direct result of voter disenfranchisement finally reaching the boiling point.

It’s a day of reckoning for establishment politicians.

For more than a few election cycles, we have seen establishment parties alienate the populous to the point of extreme frustration. Problem was, there were no viable, anti-establishment options.

Until now.

This year, a perfect storm that has been brewing became a deluge. Disenfranchised voters are energized by the anti-establishment candidates; they feel that maybe, just maybe, they finally have some power to overthrow the do-nothings in Washington.

Neither Sanders nor Trump seem like a candidate who should connect on a political level – although for very different reasons.

Trump was, until now, a joke of a blustery reality television star with two ex-wives, four bankruptcies and bad hair. Sanders is kind of a rumpled and uncomfortable-looking candidate whose necessarily loud campaign voice sounds kind of cranky.

Neither man comes across like a traditional, politically savvy candidate.

On Super Tuesday, however, Trump gave a news conference after prevailing over his GOP rivals in seven of the 11 states up for grabs. He slightly mellowed his rhetoric and struck a quasi-presidential (for him) pose from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

OK, he had a bunch of American flags (and a sedated looking Chris Christie) standing behind him. But still, the bluster seemed toned down if the message wasn’t particularly substantive.

Substantive, though, isn’t what Trump’s supporters want. And it’s not just because they are uninformed and “poorly educated” – those voters Trump really loves, he says.

No, many Trump supporters want someone to shake up the system, someone who doesn’t espouse some empty party line that sounds polished and educated and means nothing.

It doesn’t matter how substantive the message if it’s an empty promise, a lie.

In political reporter Greg Gross’s Tuesday story, “Yorkers feel the Bern, stump for Trump,” West Manchester Township resident Tom Smith offered his opinion of Donald Trump:

“When Trump announced, I switched to him because he’s not a politician,” Smith said.

That he is not. You got that, politicians?

Trump supporters believe he says what he means and does what he says. That remains to be seen. But that is why, in large part, the empty suits in Congress should understand this political moment is going to be a transformational one.

Independent Bernie Sanders is also an anti-establishment candidate who is seeking the Democratic nomination and, although he is currently a senator, his record is far more progressive than Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s. Clinton has long been a part of the political machine, Sanders is more of an outsider.

Clinton is poised to win the nomination – and she has the political savvy and acumen to work with those in Washington to continue to advance Barack Obama’s progressive agenda.

However, there are a number of progressives who feel that agenda didn’t go far enough to punish Wall Street for the economic crisis of 2008 and balance the scales of economic disparity.

That’s why Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed Democratic Socialist, has touched a nerve with a number of young voters. These are people saddled with student debt and without much confidence that they’ll land jobs that will help them pay off that debt.

They want change. They want to say to the establishment Democratic Party that it is time to stop catering to special interests and start living its progressive values. The thinking is that if the candidate is part of the Washington establishment, it has been too long entrenched with moneyed donors and lobbyists to be effective.

These young voters want their education to be free and their opportunities as plentiful as those afforded to the powerful Wall Street movers and shakers – the one percent.

Fairview Township resident Chris Gendron supports Bernie Sanders. “He’s the first politician in a very long time who’s addressing issues that are important to all Americans,” Gendron said.

In order to become president, it seems, it’s not enough to be a career politician any longer. In fact, it’s a liability. So politicians in Washington, across the nation and right here in Pennsylvania need to understand this and take it to heart.

The American people have had enough.

Empty promises won’t cut it anymore.

If you don’t walk the talk, the voters may demand you just walk.

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