Bernie Sanders is not the “Trump of the Left,” but He May Be the Anti-Trump, and that’s Why the Democrats Hate Him
I dislike, and reject most, comparisons made between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. As pertains to policies, records, behaviors, beliefs, mannerisms, essentially everything that matters most in a person, a political candidate, a president, they are completely different, in many ways one another’s opposite.
Sanders is not, and I cannot stress this enough, the “Trump of the Left.” The idea that Sanders is dangerous, that his ideas are too radical, that his popular support, primarily among young people and people of color, is comparable to the borderline (or all the way over the line) neo-Nazis that comprise Trump’s most fervent base of support is absurd. It is beyond disgusting, the way that faux-left “liberal” assholes like Chris Matthews would compare Sanders’ Nevada primary victory to the Nazi invasion of France, or that Chuck Todd likened Sanders’ supporters to Brownshirts. I won’t get on a tirade about what a joke MSNBC and its corporate mouthpieces are, or who should be fired, but it should be absolutely discrediting for anyone presenting themself as a journalist to accuse the would-be first Jewish president, much of whose family was killed in the Holocaust, of being comparable to Hitler, or his base of diverse, progressive supporters being akin to Nazis.
But there are ways in which the two men are alike, beyond the superficial identifiers of them both being elderly male crackers. Both of them are representational, each at different stages, of changes in the electorate and a rebellion against the status quo of their respective parties.
When Trump entered the 2015-2016 Republican primary, the consensus was that he would never win. Not only would he not have a shot at winning office, he wouldn’t even get the Republican nomination. He was a joke, a buffoon, a racist, a misogynist, a known rapist, bigot, and an almost universally derided moron. The Republican establishment did not want him. So-called moderate Republicans distanced themselves and withheld support, many of them criticizing him openly. In part this was because they genuinely disliked and disagreed with him, but it was largely because they thought that that was the safe bet. They felt assured that he’d fizzle out and accomplish nothing more than making a further embarrassment of himself, rather than reshaping their party and becoming a national and global nightmare.
But he had the support of a base. Not the whole of the traditional Republican base, but enough of it that, combined with his supporters even further to the right, it proved enough for him to scrape through with an electoral college victory. It didn’t take long after that for the Republicans who’d spoken against him to either get in line or get the fuck out. Spineless bitches like Paul Ryan and Lindsay Graham pivoted and played friends with Trump, becoming supporters and enablers.
The Republican party has for many decades been awful, the party of wealthy, straight, white, Chrisitian men. The party of big business and deregulation, of segregation and limiting of civil rights, of the fortunate few over the unfortunate many. Whomever else they could con and cajole votes and support from, it was always to serve that very particularly privileged class. That said, the Republican party has changed for the worse under Trump. It’s not as though his influence has been reinventive, but he’s undeniably dragged the party harder to the right.
Prior to the party leaders all but having their hands tied and being forced to nominate Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, he was not a Republican. He effectively altered what it means to be a Republican.
This is relevant to Bernie Sanders’ campaign because he is threatening to do the same thing to the Democratic party.
It’s been said that Bernie Sanders is not a real Democrat. He calls himself an Independent and a Democratic Socialist. Too many call him a radical, a socialist, a communist, or other such trigger words that, frankly, frighten people far less than they used to, and which are flatly false. Whether it’s him, his supporters, or his opponents who refer to him by any of those words, none are accurate. Nothing describes Sanders better than the term Social Democrat, as exemplified in Nordic countries, or in the context of US politics, a political philosophy closely aligned with that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Sanders is definitely in no way like Hitler or Stalin, and anyone who says so is a fucking moron, and nor is he much like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, or any other “socialist” boogeyman to which the right and faux-left attempts likening him. He’s not demanding that all businesses be nationalized, or that the rich be executed in the streets. He’s proposing a health care system and a tax structure that would put us in a position more like that of Europe’s most successful, happiest, and well-functioning social democracies of northern Europe, or this country during FDR’s presidency.
Yet the Democratic establishment and the corporate media wing working at their behest is doing all they can to villainize Sanders and push him out of the race. They’d much rather have a Republican like Bloomberg wearing their flag, or even hand over another term to Trump, than accept Sanders as their candidate and the head of their party. The Democratic leadership, the heads of the DNC, dried up neoliberal husks like Pelosi and Schumer, old sexually predatory crackers like Bill Clinton who should have long since shut up and gone away, and the party’s superdelegates, are so threatened by Sanders, by his popularity and the ways his policies would improve the party and the country, that they’d reportedly rather lose than allow him to win. For all their similarities to Republicans, this is where they differ most. Republicans actually care about winning. Republicans are willing to change and adapt to an extent so long as it means they win and maintain power as a party. Democratic leadership has by contrast shown itself to be inflexible. They’re so set in their ways, so dedicated to neoliberal ideology, that they’d rather dangle for us one charmless “moderate” after another, take loss after loss, and refuse to acknowledge the failure of their strategy. Or rather, they display that they don’t care, because for many among the elite, whether they be political tools or television hacks, the Trump presidency is preferable, more financially profitable, than a Sanders presidency would be.
But, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, this is where we can take a lesson from Trump. There needs to be such overwhelming support for Sanders that the nomination cannot be denied him. Further, it needs to be demonstrated through that support that the time of the old guard, of the establishment, the neoliberals who’ve been running the Democratic party, doing all they can to silence those dissenting from the pro-corporate, pro-military, so-called moderate line, that their time is over. They do not represent the majority of constituents who identify as Democrat or those many of us generally inclined to vote Democratic as the lesser evil. They do not represent the majority of Americans. With each poll and primary victory, Sanders is proving himself more popular than the party establishment, and his ideas more appealing than the status quo.
It’s understandable that they’re afraid. Apart from having a lot of money tied up in the corrupt and exploitative systems Sanders seeks to reform, they stand to lose their jobs. I don’t foresee Sanders displaying any of Trump’s petty vindictiveness, bullying dissenters out of the party. Some may resign, as some Republicans did under Trump, and good riddance. For the most part, however, it will be up to us. A president alone can only do so much, particularly when it comes to legal reform of domestic policy. Those in congress and around the country who resist and obstruct Sanders’ agenda and the will of the majority will have to go.
You can call it a revolution, if you want to be dramatic. If history is a reliable guide, one form of revolution or another is coming. Inequality and disparity of wealth have grown too great to put it off forever. The form it takes will rely less on those bringing it than those resisting and clinging to the old ways. If those in power want it to be a quiet, nonviolent revolution of peace and civility, then it is up to them. Either help or let it happen; fighting will only make it worse.