Sanders and Trump: An odd couple of winners

“If someone told you ten years ago that Donald Trump would win the New Hampshire primary for the Republicans and Bernie Sanders would win the Democratic primary, you would have said they were crazy.”
That was Jake Tapper, CNN presenter, speaking to the nation only a few minutes after the polls closed and the network projected that the brash billionaire and the self-described democratic socialist would win their respective primaries. His fellow presenter agreed she would have thought they were crazy, but I’m not so sure.
Americans have always loved people in all walks of life who tell it like it is. Politicians like Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman (all courageous presidents); sports stars like college football coach Knute Rockne, pro football coach Vince Lombardi, baseballer Ted Williams; civil rights leaders like Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, poet Langston Hughes, and congressman John Lewis, to name just a few. One of the CNN commentators actually confirmed there was such a category: “Fifty-two per cent of ‘tell it like it is’ Republicans are voting for Donald Trump.” Trump won 35.3 per cent of the votes (100,406), way ahead of Ohio Governor John Kasich in second place on 15.8% (44,909), with Texas Senator Ted Cruz in third spot on 11.7% (33,189), and former Florida governor Jeb Bush not far behind in fourth on 11.0% (31,310). Florida Senator Marco Rubio was in fifth place on 10.6% with 30,032 votes. Rubio admitted he performed badly in the last Republican debate, but promised his supporters: “That would never happen again.” Good luck with that, Senator.
Trump’s victory speech (Photos: Trump’s thumbs up above, Bernie Sanders celebrates at the top and John Kasich waves to supporters below. AFP & AP) confirmed he would continue to “tell it like it is”: “I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created — remember that. We’re going to knock the hell out of ISIS.” He repeated his promise that he would build a wall to keep out the drugs from Mexico, adding: “We are going to make America great again, but we are going to do it the old-fashioned way. . . . The world is going to respect us again, believe me.”
On the Democratic side, it was a two-horse race with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leaving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the starting gates. He won by 60.4% of the votes (151,584) to 38.0% (95,252) for Mrs Clinton, who had her husband and daughter behind her, pretending to look upbeat. Former President Bill Clinton doesn’t like to lose, and his wife was not able to emulate the Comeback Kid’s victory in the New Hampshire primary in 1992, which led to the White House for the Clintons.
Bernie Sanders continued his war against Wall Street and income equality and repeated his revolutionary aspirations: “What began last week in Iowa, what voters confirmed here tonight, is nothing short of the beginning of a political revolution,” Sanders said. “We will all come together to say loudly and clearly that the government of our great nation belongs to all of us, not just a few wealthy campaign contributors.”
The 74-year-old Senator has become something of a cult hero to young voters, and many could be seen at the venue in Concord, New Hampshire, along with those old enough to be their parents and grandparents. It was a long speech, but his enthusiastic supporters applauded often and chanted “Bernie” whenever he stopped to catch his breath. In his concession to Trump, Governor John Kasich made a funny comment about the Senator’s speech: “Bernie talked so long I thought he was going to get his 77th birthday before he got off the stage.” The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza described Kasich’s speech as the best of the night. It was, he said, “an emotional call to action for a different kind of politics and a rejection of the Trumpian movement that has seized the Republican Party over these last eight months all rolled into one.” Kasich said in his opening comments: “Just maybe we are turning the page on a dark part of American politics because tonight the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigning, and you made it happen.”
On the other hand, Donald Trump was being his usual outrageous self: the Wall against Mexico, repeal Obamacare, protect “the sacred second amendment” (if everybody had guns, San Bernardino and Paris wouldn’t have happened), etc. And then I realised something: Donald Trump is a celebrity with a simple message and Bernie Sanders is a socialist with a simple message. I never thought this would happen, but I found myself agreeing with a New York Post columnist. John Podhoretz has this to say in his column today: “Donald Trump and Sanders have a remarkably similar and remarkably simple message, and it’s this: You’re being screwed. They agree that international trade is screwing you, that health care companies are screwing you and that Wall Street is screwing you … Simple, straightforward and catchy — that’s the key. And none of it is your fault. Everything bad that’s happening, everything that makes you nervous and worried and uncertain about the future, is the result of a great wrong that is being done to you.”
Then I heard one of my favourite columnists, EJ Dionne, of the Washington Post also talking about Sanders’ simple message in an interview with Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast today: “His pitch is very simple: We have a corrupt political system in which money plays too big a role which leads to government policies that create these radical inequalities in our society. And you can do his pitch in an elevator in 25 seconds, 30 seconds or a minute if you want to elaborate on it.”
If they continue with their simple messages and “don’t f—k up,” as a woman told Prime Minister Turnbull offering him good advice in Canberra last week, I will have to make a bold prediction: the Democratic and Republican nominees in the election campaign later this year will be Bernie Sanders v Donald Trump. Like Jake Tapper, if I told you that would be the case last year at this time, you would have said I was crazy. You would definitely tell me I was crazy if I mentioned I would vote for Bernie Sanders if he wins the Democratic nomination. I think he’d make a good president.
But it’s a long and grueling campaign, and if Hillary Clinton (Photo earlier in the campaign below) can win the upcoming Nevada caucus and the South Carolina primary, she’s back in the race. And if Donald Trump does stuff up, and Cruz or Bush or Rubio or even Kasich (candidates Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie have pulled out of the once big field) win a few primaries, then they have a chance of securing the nomination. Then there’s the wild card, the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is considering a run as an independent if Donald Trump looks like being the Republican nominee. Take out your wallet, Mr Bloomberg.
As is our wont, we were having a discussion in the local yesterday about the apparent lack of good candidates in both parties, given that there must be more than a million Americans who would make an excellent president. But it seems you need the money and the backing of one of the major parties. Bernie Sanders has opposed Super PACS (Political Action Committees), groups who raise funds for their favourite candidate, saying he wants small individual contributions; he doesn’t want money from billionaires.
And politicians are on the nose. Both Trump and Sanders are aware of that. Sanders, the long-time politician, declared his anti-establishment credentials in his victory speech: “What the people here have said is that, given the enormous crises facing our country, it is just too late for the same old, same old establishment politics and establishment economics. The people want real change. Together we have sent the message that will echo from Wall Street to Washington from Maine to California.”
Hillary Clinton was also aware of the anti-establishment feeling from sea to shining sea, echoing some of Sanders’ policies on campaign finance reform and Wall Street in her concession speech: “People have every right to be angry. But they’re also hungry. They’re hungry for solutions. What are we going to do? What is the best way to change people’s lives so we can all grow together? Who is the best change-maker?” At this point in the campaign, the American people don’t seem to believe Hillary Clinton is the best change-maker. If she doesn’t start to win some primaries, she may have to make some changes in her own life and go back to the board of the Clinton Foundation which “builds partnerships between businesses, NGOs, governments, and individuals everywhere to work faster, better, and leaner; to find solutions that last; and to transform lives and communities from what they are today to what they can be tomorrow.”
That’s one solution.

2 thoughts on “Sanders and Trump: An odd couple of winners

  1. Great blog, Tom. It is an interesting race. Remember the Chinese curse, ” May you live in interesting times.” Sanders – Trump might be a reset button for American politics. I am much more afraid of Trump than Sanders. Trump’s biggest followers seem to be those whose emails I delete without reading when I see “Obama” in the first sentence. The next round of primaries will be very interesting. Hang on. Jim

    Sent from my iPad Jim Morgan


    • Thanks, Jim. Yes, in some cases Trump’s followers are worse than Trump. And the next round of primaries will be very interesting, and then Super Tuesday! I’m hanging on. Tom PS Ain’t it great that Villanova is number one. Hope they can make it to the Final Four this year!

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