Americans Gamble on Trump and Sanders

The American people might benefit from a visit to Gamblers Anonymous, but when it comes to choosing the next president, they definitely don’t need a shrink.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then American voters are clearly sane, if not sober. After two terms of President Obama’s “hope and change” that, as I see it, delivered little of either, the people are ready to roll the dice.

American voters are finally so fed up with politics as usual that they’ve actually developed an uncharacteristically voracious appetite for risk.

If the 2016 primaries are any indication, the electorate seems willing to take a flyer on a casino magnate slash reality TV star and a full-blown socialist who seems to think we can tax our way to prosperity. Wonder what the Vegas odds were on that combination just eight months ago? Somewhere between slim and none, I’m guessing.

Nobody knows who’ll be left standing come November, but back when Donald Trump stood in his eponymous tower and announced his candidacy and the citizens of this great land had yet to “Feel the Bern,” who in their right mind thought the Donald and Bernie Sanders would be anywhere near this close to the White House?

Don’t get me wrong. From the day the guy most known for the phrase “You’re fired!” stood for the cameras and proclaimed without a trace of humility, “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created,” I knew he meant every word, and that his attitude and message could resonate with the American people.

But I never expected him to become the odds-on favorite to win the Republican nomination. And while Sanders is still a long shot to beat the venerable Hilary Clinton, the very fact that their delegate count is practically neck and neck at 51 to 52 (not counting superdelegates) just a week from Super Tuesday is quite a shocker.

We usually associate entrepreneurs, entertainers and athletes with risk-takers, not Joe six-pack and his middle-class friends in the fat part of the American bell curve. Clearly, the powerful populist movement behind Trump and Sanders demonstrates that many if not most of us are through – as in put a fork in us, we’re done – with the dysfunction and incompetence of the political establishment in Washington.

Make no mistake. When it comes to these two candidates, we are gambling Vegas style.

Let’s start with Trump. Yes, some of his businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring. Four times, to be exact. No, nobody knows if he means to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, hit China with a 45% tariff or boycott Apple’s products. And even his supporters aren’t sure if he’s serious when he calls people idiots, dumb, neurotic, or bimbos.

While it’s certainly his right to say he thinks it’s disgraceful for the Pope to question his Christianity and for Apple CEO Tim Cook to decline to help the FBI unlock an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terror attack, even Trump recently admitted that he probably needs to start acting more presidential … pretty soon.

That leaves us to wonder if the man with an increasingly decent chance of becoming the next resident of the White House just shoots off his mouth and asks questions later, or maybe he really is the type of leader who’s prone to Ready, Fire, Aim, in that order. If it’s the latter, is it not risky to have his finger on the proverbial button?

And what about Sanders? Is it better or worse that the lifelong socialist means every word he says about making college tuition free, expanding health care coverage to all Americans through a single-payer system, spending $1 trillion on infrastructure, expanding Social Security and providing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers?

By some estimates, Sanders’ social programs would cost upwards of $18 trillion. He plans to pay for some of this unprecedented government expansion with $6.5 trillion in across-the-board tax increases that would weigh most heavily on big business and the wealthy. But I can’t see how it wouldn’t end up expanding our already astronomical national debt of $19 trillion.

The very notion of abandoning the core principles of personal responsibility and free-market capitalism that made America the greatest nation on Earth by setting into motion a massive plan to redistribute wealth and reengineer the economy has got to be about the riskiest bet of all time.

This new appetite for risk reveals just how done the electorate is with the status quo in Washington. This is what people do when you’ve pushed them too far for too long. If this isn’t a wake-up call to the permanent political class – that we’re willing to try almost anything rather than sit back and watch you muck up our country – then maybe it is time to throw the bums out and start over.