Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Are Two Sides of the Same Coin
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have swept the country off its feet. They’ve drawn massive crowds by the thousands to hear them speak. They’ve electrified the airwaves with bellicose statements and promises to defeat the establishment. They’ve created throngs of dedicated supporters who protect their names on social media and dream of the day that they take office. The pair — an eccentric Republican billionaire and a 30 year Congressman playing a Democrat — couldn’t be more different at first glance. A brief look at the two would have most believing that Sanders champions liberal values while Trump espouses conservative ones. But there’s a reason why so many voters are choosing between Trump and Sanders. The two are inexorably linked, their Presidential aspirations born from globalization and the economic angst of working class white voters.
Sanders and Trump are White Economic Populists
If you boil Trump and Sanders’ main thesis down to its core, it is essentially the same: the working class white man is getting a raw deal. Trump and Sanders vow to restore the working class white man to his former glory, by returning what was “stolen” from him. Trump alleges that his wealth and place in society was stolen by minorities, particularly by Hispanic migrants. Sanders alleges that his wealth and place in society have been stolen by the nebulous billionaire class.
Both candidacies were created by globalization, a natural consequence of capitalism which has led to lower standards of living in the United States. Factory jobs have been shipped overseas, and American workers now find themselves competing with those in emerging economies who can do the same jobs for mere pennies. Sanders nor Trump admit the truth: that forces of globalization are beyond the President’s control. Presidents cannot force corporations to stop outsourcing jobs for profit. And throwing up tariffs or other isolationist measures will simply create a trade war with other nations that will inevitably cost Americans even more jobs, potentially leading to an economic depression.
The truth is that globalization is here to stay, and as billions living in rural India, Africa, and China eventually come to the global market, the American standard of living will drop even further. This is an inconvenient truth that Sanders and Trump choose to ignore. Instead, they fuel their candidacies with the anger of those most displaced in society by globalization — angry white men. Trump and Sanders claim that they will right the wrongs of globalization and restore these men to their rightful standing in society.
Their Policy Platforms are Too Similar to Ignore
Too often, we think of candidates in sweeping terms. Trump is a conservative. Sanders is a liberal. Cruz is an evangelical. Clinton is an elitist. We need to peel back these labels to actually look at the policy platforms of each candidate. When we do that for Sanders and Trump, we find that the two aren’t that different at all. In fact, they are shockingly similar.
- Healthcare: Trump has been on record saying that he likes the healthcare mandate, and that he “doesn’t want people dying in the streets.” This is a massive break from conservative ideology. While Trump doesn’t go quite as far as Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan, he clearly sees government having a significant role in providing healthcare to its citizens, a view Sanders agrees with.
- Free-Trade: Both Trump and Sanders have railed against free trade. The pair have gone on about the perils of the Trans Pacific Partnership while decrying past deals such as NAFTA. Trump and Sanders’ anti-trade argument is key to their (quite delusional, in my mind) idea that they can bring high paying factory jobs back to America.
- Special Interests: Sanders has become notorious for his fight against special interests and big money in politics. But Donald Trump has also championed the same cause. Trump has called out Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush for being “bought” by special interests. Sanders all but asserts that Wall Street is running the Clinton campaign.
- Foreign Policy: Both are running as purported isolationists who opposed the Iraq war, and would oppose future US intervention. Trump wants the US to leave NATO and largely abandon the Middle East. Sanders essentially has argued for much of the same. Sanders track record betrays him though: he’s voted for or supported US intervention in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Kosovo, just to name a few.
- Immigration: The pair appear to hold differing views on immigration. Trump wants to stop the practice entirely for Hispanics and Muslims, and build a wall. Bernie claims to want to open up the immigration process, especially for families who have had to live in the shadows for years. But a 2007 interview with anti-immigration champion Lou Dobbs revealed Sanders long held position that immigrants drive down wages for American workers. Sanders agreed with Dobbs’ anti-immigration ideals and even went as far as to say that the entire thing is a ploy by billionaires to extract wealth from the working class.
- Guns: Trump and Sanders are both pro-gun. Trump has repeatedly told us that he owns guns and about how he wants to protect the 2nd Sanders connections to the NRA are inescapable. The guns-rights group invested tens of thousands of dollars getting Bernie elected to Congress, and he has voted against the Brady bill multiple times. In a recent debate, he vehemently argued against holding gun manufacturers accountable for mass shootings.
Stances on Race
While both Sanders and Trump believe that the system is broken, they differ on the reasons why. Trump believes that the system is broken because minorities are “stealing jobs” from working class whites. Sanders believes that the system is broken because of billionaires. But what is particularly interesting is their stances on race, and how each stance shines through their respective platforms. Trump believes that the solutions to a broken system come through overt racism, such as building a wall and deporting Hispanics or denying Muslims entry into the country. Sanders believes that solutions to a broken system come through ignoring race altogether and simply focusing on class.
Overt racism, or ignoring race altogether, are “solutions” that are attractive to the white working class for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t matter that neither solution will bring back high paying factory jobs. The solutions are palatable to their respective bases because blaming minorities or billionaires is easier than accepting the harsh truth: nobody can stop globalization, and it is going to get worse.
Trump’s overt racism galvanizes his base while Sanders’ “class over race” argument is part of the reason why black voters have overwhelmingly rejected him. Trump’s stance on race will likely deny him the Presidency, as his coalition is too narrow for the general. Sanders’ stance on race has already denied him the Democratic nomination for the same reason.
Independents Are Choosing Between Bernie and Trump
There’s a reason why so many independents are choosing between Bernie and Trump, and why many Bernie supporters are considering voting for Trump in November. Their ideologies aren’t all that different. Pundits have pointed to their shared outsider status as a reason for this phenomena. But in fact, the two share a common ideology, a shared view that working class whites are being harmed by government inaction. Both Bernie and Trump are buoyed by a large number of Independents. Generally, this demographic tends to be white, low income, and anti-establishment. Trump lost high income earners to Rubio early on in states like Virginia, while Bernie has lost high income earners and minorities across the board. Even if we shed the “independent” label, Trump and Sanders share a base. White working class voters feel that both are “authentic” outsiders who have their best interests at heart. Never mind that it is pretty tough to be an outsider when you’ve been in Congress for 30 years, or when you’ve been donating to political campaigns and getting real estate favors for decades.
Are Trump and Sanders Really The Future?
The candidacies of Trump and Sanders have political pundits simultaneously scared and intrigued. While their outrageous proclamations make for entertaining television, many party insiders on both sides of the aisle are worried about the post-Trump/Sanders future. Sanders’ coalition likely remains loud but relatively isolated because of its lack of diversity. Trump’s coalition could really destroy the Republican Party, even as early as the convention in Cleveland this summer.
The Sanders coalition, which enthusiastic, is too narrow to win nationally. The Sanders campaign punted on the entire southern region of the country because of its large black population — the equivalent of spotting a football team a 21 point lead before the game even starts. The Sanders “class over race” argument doesn’t appeal to minorities (particularly black voters), and until the far left fundamentally changes this argument, they will continue to lose to establishment candidates simply because their coalition doesn’t include black people. The Sanders coalition has a future as a loud but strategically limited wing of the party, unless they fundamentally change their ideology to incorporate minority interests. The Democratic establishment and the liberal wing of the party are both socially and economically liberal. The difference in liberal orthodoxy is only one of degrees, so the two groups will remain married.
The Trump coalition on other hand, is likely to actually destroy the Republican Party. While the liberal wing of the Democratic Party will likely remain attached to the establishment apparatus, the opposite is true of the GOP. That’s because Trump isn’t actually a conservative. He’s a Dixiecrat, which a lot of poor whites were before the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. They like social programs and big government…just only for white people. Trump is fairly liberal on economics and hyper conservative on social issues, while the establishment wing of the GOP would like to be more of the opposite in order to placate big business interests and to appeal more to minorities. The wings are moving in the opposite direction and thus are likely to split, even as soon as the convention. A Trump nomination could prompt a third party run from a traditional conservative, which would create a schism in the party. Likewise, if the nomination is stolen from Trump on the convention floor, the same thing will effectively happen. The Republican Party is headed to a messy divorce, and Donald Trump is only the beginning of things to come.