Trump and Sanders: Two sides of same “Progressive Populism” coin

Trump and Bernie SandersIf the 2016 presidential race is not the strangest political saga in American history, it’s close: A left-wing populist and a right-wing populist are in agreement that the “establishment” must be dethroned.

Hey, what a deal! If we didn’t have real enemies plotting our death and dismemberment, it might be very entertaining.

In truth, the “populist anger” fueling Trump’s coalition is fundamentally different from Sanders’ “progressive populism.” The superficial similarities between the two end when they talk about solutions.

Take, for example, their mutual opposition to the TPP, the “trade partnership” agreement that has not yet been adopted by Congress. They both say they want Congress to vote NO on the TPP, but their reasons are as different as night and day, which tells you their two coalitions’ “anger” is quite different.

  • Trump said this past week on the “Morning Joe” television show, “He (Sanders) knows that our country is being ripped off big league, big league on trade. The problem is he can’t do anything about it.”
  • Sanders’ opposition to the TPP is a knee-jerk opposition to anything that benefits “Big Business,” socialism’s evil witch of the East, whereas Trump says that the TPP hurts blue-collar workers, who are the principal victims of socialism.

Sanders’ coalition of millions of spoiled, narcissistic rich kids and big government addicts is worlds apart from the Trump coalition, and the two have very little in common. The anger arising from not getting a bigger welfare check, “free” college education or more aggressive affirmative action entitlements is a fundamentally different animal from the anger arising from the government stealing your job by importing foreign labor.

The media will not admit that Trump’s America and Sanders’ America are as different as Venus and Mars: they represent a very polarized America with two different answers to the question, “Who are we?”

And yet, the two campaigns are similar in one important way: in both cases, if either Sanders or Trump win the race to the White House, their most ardent supporters will be disappointed and more angry than ever. Why? Because neither candidate has a platform based on coherent principles that can deliver us from our peril. Anger is an emotion, not a compass.

The first rule in problem solving is, if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Instead, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is demanding a bigger shovel. Trump sees the hole but has a rather vague solution: “Trust me on this.”Sanders is campaigning for the White House as an admitted socialist, and no one is shocked by that because the United States is already 80 percent of the way down the road to European-style socialism. Our establishment institutions have already adapted to that devolution from free markets to social democracy, so how radical would it be to travel the remaining distance? Sad to say, not much.

The truth is, Sanders is as much an “outsider” as Peyton Manning is a rookie football player. Sanders is part of the ruling class, as illustrated by his Senate voting record, which is 95 percent identical to Democrats such as Schumer and Reid. If those 45 Senate Democrat colleagues aren’t socialists, what are they? Vegetarians?

Every Democrat in Congress today has drank the Kool-Aid of the “living constitution,” along with half the Republicans.  Expansions of government that would make Karl Marx and Benito Mussolini green with envy will find a ready justification in the “living constitution” – and a Harvard or Yale law professor to sanctify it as progressive.

That’s why the American left hated Supreme Court Justice Scalia. By his brilliance and his devotion to the Constitution, Scalia honored the limits of power and challenged the pretensions of judicial hubris that brings us such atrocities as Roe v. Wade and John Robert’s Obamacare ruling.

By contrast, socialists like Sanders live by the hubris in their veins.

But what about the other aspiring avenger of populist anger? Hubris has many faces, and Trump has shown many of them.

If Sanders is channeling George McGovern, maybe Trump is channeling Andrew Jackson, who did in fact throw the White House open to ordinary folk. But what kind of “outsider,” what kind of “populist” brags about buying politicians to advance his business profits? What man of the people works hard to have Queen Hillary at his daughter’s wedding and says his pro-abortion sister would make a great Supreme Court appointee?

Can constitutionalists trust the mirror image of socialist Sanders to restore liberty instead of makings “great deals” with Pelosi and Putin?

  • Why is it rational to think either Sanders or Trump will dismantle “the establishment” when both are well credentialed members of the establishment?
  • Is Trump an outsider merely by never having held public office? Was Nelson Rockefeller an outsider when he was elected Governor of New York?

Both Trump and Sanders have something else in common besides benefiting from being the new kid on the block. None of their followers have the slightest clue about what their hero would actually DO if elected.

  • Both are saying, If you don’t like the status quo, vote for me! I can turn the county around.
  • “By their fruits you shall know them,” but is it impolite to ask, where are their fruits?

Neither Sanders nor Trump offer any details of their roadmaps to prosperity and rectitude. In proposing a “leap into the unknown” based mainly on distrust and anxiety, they are two sides of the same coin.

That a substantial majority of the nation appears to be willing to make that jump into the unknown is both encouraging and frightening – encouraging because it means a large majority of voters understand that the nation has veered off course, but frightening because it is clear “we the people” are almost evenly divided – “polarized” is the term now in vogue– over what new course to take.

Our country took that plunge into the unknown in 2008. People were tired of George Bush and the Iraq quagmire, and were panicked by the economic collapse. So, the voters gambled with Obama. Can we afford to gamble like that again?


Tom Tancredo pic 2

Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC.

Tom represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former presidential candidate.


He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security.