Trump and Sanders, Appealing to Each Other’s Voters

sanders_trumpThe political pundits are finally grasping what Bernie Sanders has maintained for years: that the core constituencies of the Republican Party have interests more in common with the political left than with the billionaires and corporatists that control the party’s leaders, legislators, and most of their candidates.

Political analysts and commentators are just now discovering that a major segment of Donald Trump’s support is coming from blue collar, low income, and modestly educated working families. A demographic that has born the brunt of the economic consequences of globalization, outsourcing jobs, manufacturing moving overseas, driven by multinational corporations and a political agenda shared by both Republican and Democratic administrations in support of international trade agreements.

The erosion of the middle class and the belief of many working people that their jobs and economic circumstances are threatened by big government and liberal policies are used by right wing politicians to foment xenophobia and fear to keep people from examining the actual causes of their woes.

Ignorant racists and bigots respond to the message, as do those who do not trust government or Wall Street. And it is those who do not trust government or Wall Street who are not going to support any establishment candidate, Republican or Democrat.

They would never vote for Hillary Clinton. But in a general election in which Sanders is the Democratic nominee, they are a constituency that could well be reached by his populist, anti Wall Street message,

What most all political pundits have not come to realize is that a similar dynamic is present on the political left. Among Sanders supporters there is a significant contingent of populists who do not trust government or Wall Street and who also, like those in the Trump camp, cannot be convinced to support an establishment candidate. Meaning they are not going to support Hillary if she is nominated.

In a Trump vs Clinton contest they will stay home, write-in Bernie, or perhaps vote for Jill Stein of the Greens. Some will support Trump on his trade policies alone.

The Clinton camp is already worrying that such an eventuality is possible, and is engaging in a massive effort to convince Democrats to vote the party ticket no matter who the nominee is, employing the carrot of enlightened social policies that will flourish under Hillary. The line that is frequently used as a stick is that the shape of the Supreme Court lies in the balance.

The problem with both approaches is that social policies are less important to populists than are economic ones, and the possibility of appointments to the Supreme Court is not seen as a compelling reason to vote for a Wall Street Democrat.

There are fault lines in both parties capable of generating political earthquakes that will reshape the landscapes. It is occurring in the Republican Party on the evening news, and each day seems to bring a new tremor or temblor.

On the Democratic side, it is less in the public eye, but no less significant. Sanders is leading an uprising among rank-and-file Democrats that will decide if the party will continue to be a capitalist one, beholden to Wall Street and big business, or whether it will become a true democratic socialist party.

The conflicts within the parties are substantially more significant than are the outcomes of this political cycle.

The political establishment is on the ropes. Neither Trump nor Sanders is likely to score a knockout, but the beating the establishment is receiving may keep it from recovering.



Author’s Notes:

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One thought on “Trump and Sanders, Appealing to Each Other’s Voters

  1. So blue collar, low-income workers are following Sanders and Trump. These were the people who were voting against their own self-interest in past elections that focused on social/moral issues. Until recently no one wanted to admit there were classes in America, and the mere mention of it resulted in outcries of “class warfare.” No longer. Income inequality is Sanders’ main issues on the campaign trail, and Trump is attracting people who worry about offshoring of jobs, competition from immigrants, and the decline of the country and their own prospects.

    President Obama and members of both parties recognize that anger in the country accounts for Sanders’ and Trump’s support but assert the anger is misdirected, often at immigrants in general and Muslims in particular.

    So what are the administration and Congress doing to resolve the anger or point it in the right direction? Signing more trade agreements that send work to other countries? Calling for entitlement cuts that make a zero sum game even tighter and pit working class groups against each other? Ignoring immigration reform? Refusing to make the 1% and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes? Using political correctness to shame people into silence without recognizing authentic concerns?

    About accusations of racism and xenophobia. The main problem may be culture and culture change, not race. We tout the value of diversity for bringing new viewpoints, energy, skills, and arts to our country. However, every culture has deeply held values, and values involve not just thoughts but feelings about what constitutes morality and the norms of personal and social behavior: How religion and politics should coexist, how marriage and the relations between the sexes should be defined, how children should be raised and educated, how the limits of personal freedom should be determined. Differences in those values should not be underestimated because they can result in real conflicts. But name calling will not solve them.

    In a year the election will be over. Pundits will still be trying to explain how a Wall-Street-hating socialist and a billionaire developer attracted so many followers. We will be back to business as usual, with sighs of relief from stockbrokers, lobbyists, and corporate CEOs. Yet the country will still be divided, the middle class will still be worried, and the working poor will still be screwed.


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