Blame this on Matthew Dowd. On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Dowd suggested that the young people who support Bernie Sanders might not automatically turn to Hillary Clinton, but to Donald Trump. Dowd argued that Trump’s positions on issues were more likely to resonate with those who feel the Bern than with folks committed to trudging up the Hill. That seemed preposterous when he said it, and more so the more I considered it. And then, suddenly, I saw it. I’ll explain.
I don’t presume to tell other people how to vote, nor can I read anyone else’s thoughts and/or feelings. I’m also less interested in politics than in policy. I care about what works, regardless of ideology. I have been consistent in my views all along when it comes to this election. I am a liberal. I am a progressive. For that reason, I support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for Presidency. If Bernie Sanders were the Democratic nominee, I would cheerfully support his candidacy. And I find Donald Trump frighteningly unqualified for the job.
Let’s start here: as someone who does study the issues pretty carefully, the idea that there exists any compatibility whatsoever between the views of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is simply laughable. No such compatibility exists, either in terms of domestic policy or in terms of foreign policy.
Bernie Sanders believes in raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. Donald Trump believes that the current minimum wage is too high. He does say that when he becomes President, everyone will, magically, have higher wage jobs, without specifying how he would make that happen–renegotiating trade deals, mostly. Bernie Sanders wants the United States to provide free college tuition. Trump most emphatically does not, and started a for-profit, non-accredited on-line university that is accused of fraud in a major lawsuit. Bernie Sanders has called wealth and income inequality the biggest moral issue of our time. Trump is a rich guy who clearly intends to get richer. He proposes a tax cut that would sharply reduce the top tax rate on individual income from 39.6% to 25% and lower the tax rate on corporate income from 35% to 15%. It would increase the federal deficit by $10-12 trillion. It’s the most preposterously profligate tax proposal in US history. I mean, Fortune Magazine opposed it, in part because of how much it would increase inequality. Let me repeat this: the Trump economic plan is so extreme, it drives Fortune to Bernie’s side of this issue.
But what about foreign policy? Didn’t Trump oppose the war in Iraq? Which Sanders also opposed, and which Hillary Clinton, famously and wrongly, supported? It’s certainly true that Bernie Sanders was outspokenly opposed to the Iraq war. Good for him. Hillary Clinton was unequivocally wrong to support it, which she has, repeatedly, acknowledged. So if Trump did oppose the US intervention in Iraq, that’s an issue where he and Sanders were in agreement. And Trump is certainly plenty vocal about how strenuously he opposed the war back in 2003. If he did.
Which he didn’t. No one has found the slightest shred of evidence that Donald Trump opposed the Iraq war at any time in 2001-3. Factcheck.org couldn’t find a single statement, prior to the war, in which he opposed it. Politifact rated that claim, by Trump, as Mostly False. He certainly did come out against the war later on, in 2004, when everyone else could see what a fiasco it had become. But before the war? Didn’t happen.
Salon.com has run a number of articles strongly supporting Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. Salon’s best political writer, Digby, recently examined Trump’s foreign policy. (May I strongly urge you all to start your day reading Digby–she’s terrific). As she points out, Trump has consistently, regularly talked with great enthusiasm for torture, and for the commission of war crimes. Repeat: he’s pro-torture, pro-war crimes. 26 years ago, Trump was interviewed by Playboy, and he talked approvingly about how the Chinese government dealt with the Tiananmen Square protestors. “That shows you the power of strength,” he concluded. There is absolutely no evidence that Donald Trump is an isolationist, or a dove, or anything but an imperialist thug.
(The more you read Trump’s foreign policy statements, the more he sounds like a mafioso. “You want our protection? You gotta pay a lot more, pal.”)
Donald Trump wants to build a massive wall on the American/Mexican border, so he can keep Mexicans out of the US. It’s the one issue he mentions at every rally. He also intends for Mexico to pay for it. Bernie Sanders, um, does not support anything like that. Donald Trump wants a national registry of Muslims, and wants to refuse Muslims into the US, even if they’re US citizens traveling abroad. Bernie Sanders does not. Donald Trump’s rallies have been frequently punctuated by acts of violence. That cannot be said about Bernie Sanders rallies. Bernie Sanders believes that billionaires have too much influence over our politics. Donald Trump is a billionaire who wants to be President of the United States. Bernie Sanders wants the US to take bold action to combat the threat of global climate change. Donald Trump believes that the notion of global climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.
An important Sanders’ issue is health care reform, and it is an issue where there is a superficial resemblance to his plan and Trump’s. Sanders’ plan is simply to extend Medicare to cover all Americans. Trump’s plan? Well, that gets complicated. He has variously suggested something similar to Medicare-for-all, but also has offered a seven-point plan full of unworkable conservative bromides: selling insurance across state lines, making premiums tax deductible. The one thing we can say for certain is that Trump loathes Obamacare, and intends to replace it. With what? Hard to say. He wants the government to ‘cut deals’ with hospitals, if that helps. Suffice it to say that Bernie Sanders has offered quite specific proposals for reforming health care, along with detailed funding mechanisms (which may or may not add up), while Trump has spoken off-the-cuff on the subject in contradictory ways.
So okay. There’s no single point of convergence between Trump and Sanders. They don’t believe in the same things, they don’t support even slightly similar proposals. They have essentially nothing in common. But I do think that at least some Sanders’ supporters might vote for Trump nonetheless.
This isn’t a matter of logic, or reason. It’s about emotion. Both Sanders and Trump are fervently supported by very large crowds of people who are angry with the status quo. Both candidates speak to and for people who are disaffected from the political process, who believe that the ‘establishment’ is hopelessly out of touch with and unresponsive to their needs. Put it stronger. Both Trump’s and Sanders’ supporters feel lied to and ripped off. Both feel that mainstream candidates have no viable solutions to the very personal issues with which they contend. Both groups of supporters are in the mood for a revolution. And so, both groups have turned to candidates who are, at the very least, unorthodox. Outsiders.
There are simply no issues of significance on which Trump and Sanders agree. What their supporters have in common is something beyond reason. They’re pissed off. They’re furious. They have that in common. And their rage may be enough to bring them together, strange bedfellows though they are.
What’s really strange, though, is that the sensible, pragmatic progressivism of Hillary Clinton is likely to come much closer to solving the specific problems that have become issues in this campaign. But that’s not an easy case to make in a weird year like 2016.