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“Speaking To Our Anxieties”: The Pissed-Off Primary; Bernie Sanders Vs. Donald Trump

Apart from surprising popularity, weird hair, and zero chance at actually becoming president, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders could hardly seem more different. One’s a socialist-hating billionaire and the other is a billionaire-hating socialist, right? Yet there they are, delivering boffo poll numbers long after everyone in the smart set had written them off as flashes in the pan.

Perhaps, like Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, they’re not so different after all. Indeed, the unanticipated appeal of Trump and Sanders to Republican and Democratic primary voters comes from the same psychological wellspring. They represent, in the words of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito, “populism born of frustration.” They are angry candidates, bitching and moaning about the sorry shape of the United States and they are unabashedly protectionist. Each identifies immigrants and overseas competition as the root cause of most if not all of our problems. They both believe that if only we can wall off the country—literally in The Donald’s case and figuratively in Sanders’—we could “Make America Great Again!” (as Trump puts it in his campaign slogan).

Trump notoriously looks at Mexicans sneaking across the border and sees crime lords, drug dealers, and rapists, though he has magnamiously granted that “some, I assume, are good people.” Sanders, for his part, looks at the same hard cases and sees a reserve army of future wages slaves for the Koch brothers.

In an interview with Vox, Sanders was asked what he thought about increasing immigration in order to help poor foreigners increase their standard of living. “That’s a Koch brothers proposal,” he huffed, “That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States.” So much for the internationalism and universal brotherhood on which socialism once prided itself.

Being anti-immigrant isn’t a new position for Sanders. As Politico noted earlier this year, Sanders’s loyalty to the AFL-CIO and other labor unions undergirds his consistent opposition to opening up borders and his contempt for free-trade agreements.

In regularly complaining about China, Sanders sounds just like…Donald Trump. Riffing in post-industrial Michigan on August 11, Trump noted China’s currency devaluation and announced, “Devalue means, suck the blood out of the United States!

For good measure, Trump also attacked Sanders as a weakling even as he saluted him as a brother in spirit. Commenting on how the Vermont senator lost the microphone to Black Lives Matter activist at a recent event in Seattle, Trump said, “I felt badly for him, but it showed that he was weak. You know what? He’s getting the biggest crowds, and we’re getting the biggest crowds. We’re the ones getting the crowds.”

Indeed, they are. Even after gracelessly implying Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly suffered from PMS during the first Republican candidates’ debate, Trump leads among GOP voters with 23 percent and Sanders has “surged” ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire polls.

Despite this, there’s no chance either will win his party’s nomination, much less become president. As Jack Shafer has noted, they are less candidates and more demagogues, who trade in “anger and resentment to attract supporters.” Such intensity can get you a hard-core band of supporters—just ask George Wallace or Ross Perot—but it also ultimately limits the broad-based support necessary to pull enough votes even in hotly contested three-way elections.

Which isn’t to say that Trump and Sanders haven’t already had a major impact. In the early stages of the campaign, they are tapping into immense voter dissatisfaction with not just the Republican and Democratic Party establishments but a 21st-century status quo that is in many ways genuinely depressing and disappointing. Trump and Sanders offer seemingly authentic responses to and truly simplistic solutions for what ails us. Close the borders! Fuck the Chinese!

What’s most worrisome is that other candidates who are more likely to actually succeed in 2016 will try to win over Trump’s or Sanders’s supporters by co-opting their Fortress America mentality. All of the GOP contenders except Jeb Bush have called for some type of impenetrable border with Mexico as a precondition for discussing any changes in immigration numbers. By and large, they have also signed on to mandatory use of E-Verify, a national database that would effectively turn work into a government-granted privilege while increasing the reach of the surveillance state.

Though she pushed for President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal while secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has flip-flopped and now is a critic of the deal. If Sanders continues to eat her lunch or even nibble around its edges through the end of the year, look for her to rethink her generally positive position on immigration too.

Trump’s and Sanders’s appeal isn’t hard to dope out.Twice as many of us—60 percent—think the country is headed in the wrong direction as think it’s going in the right direction. Trust in government has been skidding since the 1960s and the general loss of faith has accelerated since the 9/11 attacks. Trump and Sanders speak to our anxieties with a mix of shouty slogans, moral certitude, and magical policies on everything from health care to the minimum wage to ISIS.

In the current moment, it’s the billionaire and the socialist who feel our pain. But if their Republican and Democratic opponents adopt their xenophobia and protectionist ideas, they will have helped increase our pain long after they’ve inevitability sunk in the polls.

 

By: Nick Gillespie, The Daily Beast, August 13, 2015

August 14, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Immigration | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Trump’s Got The GOP By The Balls”: Trump Has The Power To Elect Clinton, And Both He And Priebus Know It

Deflating as it is, the likely Donald Trump scenario is this: He burns hot for a little while longer; he says something really out there in the first debate that roils up the base but makes Reince Priebus and Karl Rove break out in canker sores; but by the time of the baseball playoffs maybe, his act gets old, and somebody else becomes the Herman Cain of October. Then, next year, the primaries will start, and he’ll have to get votes. He’s not going to be all that competitive in Iowa, so it’s New Hampshire where he’ll need to deliver something. And if he doesn’t, he’ll just go away.

That’s the pattern anyway. I seem to recall that at this point in 2011, Michele Bachmann had a pretty good head of steam going. So maybe we shouldn’t get too overheated about him.

But Trump is different from Bachmann, and even from fellow entrepreneur Cain, in one major respect: He doesn’t give a crap about the Republican Party. He cares about Trump. And don’t forget he has the power singlehandedly to make Hillary Clinton president. He knows it, and you better believe Priebus knows it, and it is this fact that establishes a power dynamic between Trump and the GOP in which Trump totally has the upper hand and can make mischief in the party for months.

How does he have the power to elect Clinton all by himself? By running as an independent. Two factors usually prevent candidates who lose nominations from running as independents. One, they lack the enormous amount of money needed to pursue that path (pay the lawyers to get them on 50 state ballots, etc.). Two, they have a sense of proportion and decency, and they figure that if primary voters rejected them, it’s time to go home.

Well, Trump has the dough and lacks the decency. In an interview this week with Byron York, he left the door open a crack to such a candidacy. And that would be all it would take. Given his fame and name recognition, he’d likely hit the polling threshold needed to qualify for the fall debates. And with that kind of exposure, he’d do well—enough. All he needs to get is 5 percent of the vote in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado, and the Republican, whoever it is, is sizzled. Another electoral landslide.

The question is would he, and the answer is who knows? To York, he expressed awareness of the obvious drawbacks, pointing to the spoiler role he says Ross Perot played in 1992: “I think every single vote that went to Ross Perot came from [George H.W.] Bush…Virtually every one of his 19 percentage points came from the Republicans. If Ross Perot didn’t run, you have never heard of Bill Clinton.” He is—shocker—wrong about this, but what matters for present purposes is that he believes it, so maybe that means he wouldn’t follow through.

But he is an unpredictable fellow. Suppose Priebus and the GOP piss him off in some way, and he thinks the hell with these losers. Suppose he decides—and don’t doubt the importance of this—that an independent run would be good for the Trump brand in the long run. And suppose he doesn’t actually mind so much the idea of Hillary Clinton being president. We already know he retains a soft spot for old Bill. And he donated to Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign.

All that’s speculative. But even in the here and now this dynamic has consequences. It means the GOP can’t afford to offend Trump. This is why Priebus’s spokesman characterized the chairman’s Wednesday evening phone chat with Trump as “very respectful.”

And it’s why the other candidates’ criticisms of him have been a little, ah, restrained. Politicians aren’t always real smart about any number of things, but one thing in my experience that they almost always have a very keen sense of is risk. Members of Congress, for example, generally know exactly what percentage of their electorate they’re going to sacrifice by casting X vote. Jeb Bush’s Trump criticisms are muted because he has a lot to lose by offending Trump and his supporters. Chris Christie, who’s little more than an asterisk in the polls, has less to lose, so he’s willing to be a bit more blunt. Same goes for Rick Perry.

We’ll see if Trump has developed that politician’s sense of risk. If he goes too far, one or certainly two more equivalents of “Mexican rapists,” it’ll be open season on him. He’s at a point of maximum leverage right now, and if he wants to stay there, he’s got to tuck it in about 10 or 15 percent and start employing the kind of racialized euphemisms that are not only tolerated but celebrated within the Republican Party—build the damn fence, no amnesty, Al Qaeda is storming the mainland through Obama’s porous border, etc. That way, he’ll hang around. And he’ll build enough of a following that the threat of a viable independent candidacy remains a real one. And that is Trump’s trump card. And it makes Reince Priebus a very nervous man.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Dail Beast, July 10, 2015

July 10, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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