There is a curious intersection between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Corporate Dems have never failed to point it out when they try and discredit the latter. However, this intersection between the two is not rooted in personality. Both Trump and Sanders are very different people with contrasting views and principles.
The intersection between Trump and Sanders lies in the people they represent. And the people they represent believe in one universal truth – there is something wrong with the country.
In 2016, part of the reason Bernie and Trump found success running against Clinton was their message of change. Hillary promised incrementalism. She promised to preserve Obama’s legacy. In simple words, she promised to keep America as it has always been.
Neither Trump nor Bernie supporters could live with this. While Hillary managed to beat Sanders, she couldn’t beat Trump.
The Two Outsiders – Bernie and Trump
When put against each other, Sanders has all the things Trump lacks. Unlike the president, Sanders has an unbesmirched record in public life. He was part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He stood up for gay rights in 1983 when he signed a Gay Pride Proclamation. For comparison, liberal icon Hillary Clinton only supported gay marriage in 2013 (three years after Modern Family started airing).
(This video belongs to C-SPAN)
He voted against the Iraq War, the Wall Street Bailout, and NAFTA. In the run-up to the 2016 election, he came out against TPP and forced Hillary Clinton to do the same.
Many major positions Sanders took in his long career put him at odds with the establishment. If there is a candidate that would ever blow up the establishment, it should’ve Sanders.
And yet, the Senator from Vermont lost two of the most crucial campaigns he ever ran in his career.
Then consider President Trump. For all his life, the real-estate billionaire cosied up to the establishment when he needed to. The media tried to act surprised when Trump’s sleaziness was revealed in 2016, but the American public wasn’t. They had watched the loudmouth billionaire for more than three decades. They knew exactly the kind of person Trump was. And yet, they choose Trump to blow up the establishment and rejected Bernie Sanders twice.
Senator Sanders has done more to make American politics progressive than any other incrementalist Democrat in decades. His campaign against Clinton brought to light ideas like universal healthcare and free college establishment-types scoffed at.
Four years later, all Democrats running for president had to explicitly state if they supported Medicare for All. The policies and positions of no other candidate got as much attention as those held by Bernie Sanders.
This is real change and something one cannot put a value on.
Yet, there is a hard truth here. Sanders shifted the discourse in 2016 and 2020. Yet, he lost to the establishment favourite on both occasions.
Trump, unlike Bernie, has done well against the establishment. He blew the Republican establishment half to hell in the 2016 primary. Then he made the other half bend to his wishes. Trump beat Clinton (unlike Sanders) who outspent and outorganized him at every turn.
After making it to the White House, Trump survived Russiagate, a hoax perpetrated to cover for the hopeless incompetency of the Democratic party. After the midterms, he got caught in a Ukrainian affair, got impeached in the House, and saved in the Senate.
To be honest, most people don’t even remember Trump was impeached.
Like Bernie, the establishment also hates Trump. Don’t be fooled into believing the Republican elites like Trump. They’ll drop him like a hot potato if he loses in November. However, Trump always manages to overcome the establishment while Bernie is crushed by it.
At this point, there is a need to consider the possibility that Trump knows something Bernie doesn’t about taking on the establishment. This is strange since Bernie has always stood against the elites while Trump only showed vague interest in taking on the establishment before 2015
Trump Knows His Enemy. Bernie Knows and Doesn’t Act
Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are outsiders. Sanders believes in putting pressure on the establishment from the outside while maintaining some stake within it. Even though his policies are transformational in nature, Bernie’s tactics are as incrementalist as the policy positions of any milquetoast Democrat.
Bernie doesn’t want to blow up the establishment. He wants to mould it, change it, and there is good reason to believe he is finding some success in his ways. The progressive caucus he co-founded in 1991 is bubbling today with principled progressives like AOC, Pramila Jayapal, and so on.
However, this slow approach to changing the establishment doesn’t work for long. The establishment eventually co-opts idealistic progressives and outsiders. The progressive caucus barring Pramila Jayapal just voted for the HEROES Act, a legislation that grants lobbying groups access to forgivable small business loans amongst other things.
The progressive caucus is not strong enough to resist the Democratic establishment leadership. This is partly because they, like Bernie, don’t want to destroy the establishment.
The establishment acts in two ways if you try to oppose it – it either crushes you, or it consumes you entirely.
In order to beat the establishment, you need to have the will to destroy it.
In this primary cycle, Sanders resisted counsel from his campaign advisors to take on Biden’s policy record. At the time, Biden looked like a dear in headlights. People were counting him out and Bernie was unstoppable.
Biden was exactly in the position Jeb Bush was in 2016. Like Biden, Jeb was also the establishment favourite. Trump didn’t blink twice before eviscerating Jeb Bush, debate after debate. He didn’t think twice before taking on the Republican establishment then. To Trump, every establishment Republican in the debates was a brick in the wall.
Bernie, on the other hand, showed restrain. Like Jeb, Biden was weak. He was ready to fall. All Bernie needed to do was provide a punching blow.
Trump called Jeb Bush low energy. Bernie called Biden his ‘good friend’.
At every crucial stage when Bernie failed to attack the establishment, Trump didn’t think twice before pouncing. On a purely tactical level, Bernie Sanders and progressives can learn a lot from Trump on how to beat the establishment.
Play nice, and it will crush you.