By Nicole Goodkind
John Kasich suspended his campaign, and Ted Cruz dropped out last night. It is now likely that Donald Trump will clinch the Republican nomination and move on to the general election.
Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, however, is still hanging on in his battle against frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Sanders, who won the Democratic primary in Indiana last night, celebrated by tweeting “The political revolution wins!” to his two million followers.
Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been paying close attention to the Trump and Sanders races and has some thoughts on the popularity of the unconventional candidates.
“There are insurgent movements to the right and the left that are very populist, very charged with emotion. They’ve come out of people’s anger—they feel that the system isn’t responding to their needs,” he says.
It’s a global phenomenon, according to Blair. “This is going on in the U.S. with Donald Trump on the one side and Bernie Sanders on the other side, but frankly it’s happening all over Europe,” he says. Blair’s own center-left Labour Party has struggled to find its voice recently. The party is projected to lose 175 council seats in local elections Thursday, which would mark the worst Labour performance in 35 years.
As wealth stratification rises in the U.S. and through Europe, Blair says the middle class feels underrepresented by government. Nontraditional politicians are picking up on that anger and using it to boost their campaigns, but Blair warns that “anger and answers are two different things, and ultimately we need answers.” Blair worries that the popularity of populist politicians will lead to policy that is harmful to the U.S.
Isolationism would be a disaster for the West, Blair says. “If you start shutting down free trade, you’re not going to create new jobs. You may think you are, but you’re not,” he says. Trump has spoken out against trade agreements such as NAFTA and plans to tighten immigration policy.
Blair says the next U.S. president must be fully engaged in world affairs. “There are new powers arising, there are big challenges around geopolitics, and I want to see an America that’s strong and engaged and providing leadership.”
Centrist politicians, he adds, “need to get their mojo back.” Blair believes they come across as stale and out-of-date to disgruntled voters. Candidates, he says, can no longer have a “this is complicated, leave it to us,” attitude.
“People are looking at the U.S. and scratching their heads a little bit, [but] it’s happening everywhere,” says Blair.