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The Bizarre Attempt to Present Bernie Sanders As the Democrats’ Donald Trump

Stranger things have happened in American politics, but the sudden surge of Democratic/populist Bernie Sanders and Republican/populist Donald Trump puts one in mind of alternate universes.

And I don’t mean Miss Universes.

Both men are holding second place in some polls behind Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, respectively. And both are steadily ascending in the polls at a greater pace than anyone could have predicted — or imagined.

Sanders, a socialist running on a platform that should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, drew his largest crowd of the season — nearly 10,000 — in Madison, Wis., last Wednesday night. The anti-establishment candidate, who wants to break up big banks and redistribute wealth, makes President Obama (and Clinton) look like robber barons by comparison.

— The unexpected rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, Jul. 3

Stranger things have happened in American political journalism, but really, it’s not a shock that political pundits equate Sanders and Trump.  Not all political pundits.  Just some of them.  Several, actually; Parker’s piece is one of three or four commentary or analysis pieces I’ve read in the last few days that suggests not simply that the surge of attention and poll recognition is, in each case, unexpected, but that these two both are on the crackpot fringe.

Since Trump is appearing mentally unhinged, Sanders must be borderline-crazy, too.  After all, neither is part of his respective party’s establishment, and therefore, necessarily, both are extremists.  And equally so, since they both rose dramatically in their party’s polls during the same short period of time.

Yup, reinstituting the Glass-Steagall Act separating deposits-and-lending banks from investment-banking-and-derivatives-speculation financial institutions, and federally insuring only the former, is just like accusing Mexican immigrants of bringing drug traffic to this country and raping American women!  Not to mention babbling incoherently. The resemblance is striking, although not to me.  Especially since Glass-Steagall was in fact the law for forty-six years until its repeal in 1999.  During which time this country had several Communist presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Elizabeth Warren may send shivers up the spines of most Americans, but a majority of Americans probably would vote for her as a presidential candidate.  Especially since she would be running against a Tea Party Republican or a George W. Bush Republican.  As will the eventual Democratic nominee.  Whether it’s Clinton or Sanders.

And while, in the opinion of many of the targeted wealthy, Parker among them, raising taxes on them to levels above those enacted under George W. Bush, and reinstating meaningful estate taxes to, say, inflation-adjusted 1960s levels, should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, including the ones who aren’t wealthy—at least the ones who don’t like safe and modern infrastructure and access to college by the non-already-upscale—it doesn’t appear, judging from poll answers, that these policy proposals would be deal-killers for a nominee who proposes them.

And while single-payer Medicare-for-all-type healthcare insurance—another of Sanders’ proposals— would solve, once and for all, problems such as these, it’s likely that most Americans shutter at the thought.  Especially those who think Medicare itself is socialized medicine and want it repealed.  And all those Democrats who considered Ted Kennedy and extremist because he fought for decades for single-payer healthcare insurance.

First among those Democrats being Claire McCaskill, who as a Clinton surrogate told an interviewer last week that Sanders couldn’t win the general election—against Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush—because he’s an extremist.  Luckily for her—and for Clinton—McCaskill wasn’t asked which of Sanders’ proposed policies she, and Clinton, thought a majority of the public would consider extremist.

And which of Walker’s, Rubio’s or Bush’s she thought a majority of voters wouldn’t consider extremist.  Rubio’s proposal to repeal the estate tax completely?  Walker’s to effectively end collective bargaining in the private as well as the public sector, and his attempt to turn Wisconsin’s state university system into a lightly-funded job-training apparatus?  Jeb Bush’s Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for his brother?  (Glenn Hubbard for Treasury Secretary!)  Every single one of the Republican candidates’ Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for Jeb’s brother?

Ah, I know!  It’s their completely-deregulate-the-financial-services-industry plans!  And as a bonus, their Koch brothers’-dictated environmental policy proposals.

The point here being that while the claim of a mirror-image symmetry between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is preposterous, an analogy of that sort between Sanders and Walker, Rubio and Bush would be pretty close to spot-on.  And this is so even though those three rose in the polls weeks and even months before Sanders and Trump did.

Don’t think so, Ms. Parker?  Strangely enough, it is.

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