Outside the political box

Republican Carly Fiorina is one of the non-politician candidates for president. (AP photo)

Political “outsiders” have often run for president. Some have even won — at times to our nation’s benefit. So don’t too quickly assume that the ongoing rise of non-politicians in the White House race is a negative development.

And given the current widespread frustration with all-too-familiar gridlock inside the Beltway as pressing problems continue to be neglected, this assertion from a participant in last month’s main-event Republican debate packs a powerful “outsider” appeal:

“Experience comes from a large number of different arenas, and America became a great nation early on not because it was flooded with politicians, but because it was flooded with people who understood the value of personal responsibility, hard work, creativity, innovation — and that’s what will get us on the right track now, as well.”

No, early Republican White House front-runner and publicity hound Donald Trump didn’t say that.

Dr. Ben Carson did. The renowned neurosurgeon, like Mr. Trump, is an unorthodox candidate who, despite — or perhaps because of? — never having held elective office, is doing quite well in the polls.

But though Mr. Trump keeps leading the GOP pack, bragging about himself and making outrageous remarks, Dr. Carson has soared into second place while expressing his disdain for the status quo in a much more thoughtful manner.

Another outsider appeal from a GOP presidential candidate: “We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring. I am not a member of the political class. I am a conservative; I can win this job, I can do this job.”

That pitch came from Carly Fiorina during the Aug. 6 “happy hour” debate of candidates then in the lower standings of the GOP race.

Since then, Mrs. Fiorina, who once had the job of running Hewlett Packard, has been on an impressive poll climb of her own, thanks largely to her outstanding performance in that debate.

And though she’s never held political office and lost her 2010 bid for a U.S. Senate seat from California against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, she — like Mr. Trump and Dr. Carson — has tapped into a deep well of disdain for politics as usual.

Bernie Sanders, though a third-term U.S. senator, is also an outsider of sorts who’s doing well in the polls on the Democratic side.

So what Mrs. Fiorina called “the political class” should be nervous about this sustained — and potentially positive — trend.

No, these outsiders don’t have all the answers. But they are raising essential questions.

OK, so Mr. Trump’s ugly notion of rounding up 11 million illegal immigrants then deciding to keep “the good ones” in the U.S. while deporting the rest is preposterous.

Yet he’s not the only non-politician shaking up the presidential race — nor is he the only alternative for Americans dismayed by politics as usual.

The success of not just Mr. Trump, but Dr. Carson, Mrs. Fiorina and Sen. Sanders sends this clear message:

A significant portion of the electorate no longer buys the stale, divisive rhetoric and broken promises of the political class.

And the GOP and Democratic establishments should remember that Andrew Jackson, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan — among others — won the White House by running as “outsiders.”