Exposing Hillary So She Won't Get Elected

Trump and Sanders: Differences Define Their Similarity

In what is already one of the oddest season of primaries in recent American history, a new dynamic is taking shape. In addition to some sharp divisions on policy among and between the candidates, there remains a “conservative/liberal” sub-theme that may fizzle in the wake of Super Tuesday, or emerge as the defining element of the general elections.

Liberal Versus Conservative

The more conservative candidates — Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and perhaps Ted Cruz — earn that title not for their policy positions per se, but for the consistency of their policies with what has come before them. All want to change some things, but not so much and not so fast.

Clinton is the most obvious standard-bearer of this way of thinking, stressing (and stressing…) how her administration would be an extension of eight years of Obama policy, and going as far as telling voters her opponent Bernie Sanders is calling for so much change that a recalcitrant Congress will pretty much block any change from happening at all.

Trump and Sanders: Radical Change In The Way Things Work

What we’ll call the liberal candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, hold that title in that they represent a unitary, fully-conceived vision of America, nearly in manifesto form, that represents radical change in the Way Things Work.

Social Issues, Much No

On the social issues that matter deeply to Americans, the two men could not be further apart. Trump favors even less restriction on guns, opposes civil rights for LGBTQ people, and is steadfast in wanting to slam the door on a woman’s right to an abortion. Trump wants to get rid of many environmental regulations as bad for business.

Health care represents an interesting gap — Trump opposes even the limited innovations of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). He wants to repeal the legislation. Meanwhile Sanders is pushing for a single-payer health care plan that would mirror that found throughout most of Europe, Canada, Japan, and in some Latin American nations.

Though candidates devote much of their campaign rhetoric to issues of foreign policy and big economic issues, many voters are swayed by stances on social issues that touch them emotionally, if not personally. Sanders has definitely made universal healthcare a much larger part of his campaign than Donald Trump.

Economic and Foreign Policy Issues, Some Yes

That said, Trump and Sanders share an odd set of similar positions, albeit coming to those similar conclusions for often very different ideological reasons.

For example, though their overall healthcare policies are different, Trump and Sanders have both called for government regulation on prescription drug prices. Americans pay some of the highest drug prices in the world; Trump has claimed those prices impose a $300 billion drag on the economy. Sanders focuses on cost, but more in the way it can prevent individuals from getting the medicines they need.

Both candidates have called for higher taxes on the wealthy. Both are wary of broad-based foreign trade agreements, and both call for limits and restraints on the American interventionism that has been a near-signature policy of both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Trump wants a reevaluation of China’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) with the same energy as Sanders employs in talking about how China has siphoned off American jobs. Sanders has gone as far as agreeing with the statement “there’s never been a single trade agreement this country’s negotiated,” including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), that he is comfortable with.

Trump and Sanders speak often on the terrible distortion of our democracy, and inherent corruption, of the huge-money donors unleashed by the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case. Sanders relies on small donations from individuals that leave him unbeholden to the hyper-rich. Trumps takes no money from the hyper-rich because, with a net worth in the billions, he is one. At the end of the day, both men insist they will owe nothing to no one should he gain the White House.

Tapping Into What America Wants to Be

At the core of their campaigns both Trump and Sanders are living symbols that a large number of voters don’t feel represented by more mainstream politicians, and are deeply unsatisfied on the direction America is headed. Both candidates put forth a clear vision of what turns America must make to regain itself.

Trump is tapping into the fears of an angry, mostly white, declining, middle class. They see the world they were promised, one of rising prosperity and a near-assurance of a better life for their children, being taken from them. They wrongly blame an odd mix of big government, liberals, immigrants, people of color, and terrorism, and respond when Trump stokes their beliefs.

Sanders speaks of a better America, more equitable, more just, more fair, one where the resources of government are used to make the lives of the people better. He presents a nation where such things are not handouts, or entitlements, or stop gaps, but basic rights.

Punditry is easy. The test of these theories about Trump and Sanders lies ahead, when voters step up to make choices in Iowa (February 1), New Hampshire (February 9), and especially on the multi-state simultaneous primary called Super Tuesday (March 1).

That is when we will learn if Trump and Sanders represent a wave sweeping America, or just an odd ripple in the world of politics.