Political outsiders ride wave of voter frustration this primary season

The American electorate is fed up, and isn't going to take it anymore.

At least, that's what the primary elections in both major parties would lead one to assume. This presidential election season, it may turn out that the primaries in both parties are far more interesting than the presidential election in November.

We have all gotten a very good education on delegates, superdelegates and the manner in which the parties choose their candidates. It's an education that is causing considerable consternation for many primary voters.

The Republican Party primary has been crazy for many reasons — some would say, mostly because of the level of crazy that exudes from their candidates. However, a look into the intricacies of the Republican primary paints a very interesting picture.

We all know the story of Donald Trump rising to the forefront for the GOP nomination as a party "outsider;" however, take into account for a moment, the runner-up.

Ted Cruz used to be the face of GOP party outsiders. Truly, only Donald Trump could have made Cruz look like the GOP insider. While the Republican Party has reportedly been exploring backdoor ways to replace Trump as the nominee, names like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and even fellow billionaire Mark Cuban have been rumored to be potential candidates rather than Cruz.

From the very beginning political pundits from nearly every arena (including me) said that Donald Trump would be washed out before January. I had said that after the holidays those flirting with the idea of Trump as a nominee would come back to reality and choose amongst the front-runners.


That never happened.

[Steve Haycox: How would Alaska fare under a Trump presidency?]

The GOP is not the only party experiencing outsider pain. In a race that everyone thought was a formality before naming Hillary Clinton the nominee, Bernie Sanders has completely shaken up the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders isn't your typical Democrat; in fact, he wasn't a Democrat until he decided to run for president. He was one of two independent members of Congress. "Feel the Bern" fever has been running rampant in the most recent Democratic primaries. Also, most of the contests have been fairly close — so why is Clinton still the presumptive nominee?

Clinton still has a commanding lead because she has far more superdelegates than Sanders. Superdelegates are delegates not pledged to one candidate or the other; they can choose whom to vote for on their own. They are often Democratic National Committee loyalists who generally can raise or donate large amounts of money to the party. The overwhelming support that Clinton is seeing from these delegates shows where party loyalties lie.

Sanders supporters have grown frustrated with the support Clinton seems to get from the party leadership. Here in Alaska, a state Sanders won with 81.6 percent of the vote, Sanders supporters promised a walkout when DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz took the stage. The protest fell flat when only a handful of people walked out.

[Suzanne Downing: How would Alaska fare under a Clinton presidency?]

A protest that did not fall flat however was in Nevada. Sanders supporters at the Nevada Democrat State Convention booed down chairwoman Roberta Lange. The booing evolved, or devolved, into shouting, throwing chairs and death threats to the Nevada Democrats' leadership.

To muddy the Democratic primary waters a little more, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported in early March that 33 percent of Sanders voters would not vote for Hillary Clinton — a number that should be sobering for DNC leadership.

So, what is to be made of the fact that outsiders in both major political parties are getting such strong support?

It appears that the American electorate, regardless of party, is finally sick of the status quo.

Both GOP and DNC party leadership are being attacked by their respective memberships because of the status of the primary elections. Members of both parties seem to be trying to find people outside the "politics as usual" club. Party leadership is seemingly not amused.

Party leadership, whether it be on a local or national level generally has rewarded longevity. Those who have spent more time in office generally find more support from leadership. This is the case for many reasons: Party leaders like to concentrate power, they tend to know the long term members a lot better and because someone outside the party, an unknown, is risky.

The two major parties, and the politicians who align with them, had better take heed — the electorate is no longer content with the status quo. Voters are looking for "outside" candidates to replace the stale system they've become tired with. The parties can either adapt, and move forward with their memberships, or prepare to get run over. They can't keep pushing their candidates forward without the support of the electorate for much longer.

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late '90s. Email

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

Mike Dingman

Mike Dingman is a fifth-generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has worked, studied and volunteered in Alaska politics since the late '90s.