Left, Jacquelyn Martin/AP - Right, Stephen B. Morton/AP
These are extreme times, so it is no surprise that the both sides of our increasingly moribund two-party system are being roiled by avatars of “radicalism.”
I put scare quotes around “radicalism” because, in spite of the irresistible pull to equate the populism of Donald Trump with that of Bernie Sanders, there is a clear difference between the characters of these two men and the movements they represent/inspire. This is much more than just a left vs. right worldview contest.
This is Thunderdome. At least I hope it is.
As of this writing, however, it looks as if “The Donald” is going full Wile E. Coyote on us, and may be exiting stage-left sooner rather than later. Whether or not that happens, it seems his party will be left in smoking ruins, at least in this election cycle.
In any case, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are currently shaking up the cherished plans of respective party leaderships.
This is really great news for America - but it’s also very dangerous. There is a reason that the “establishment” is eyeing the fainting couch. We, the people, should not let it get too far out of our sights, either.
The first contrast I’d like to make between these two interlopers is that while one is likely to leave his party in serious disarray regardless of whether or not he remains, Sanders is playing a class act and it is clear that the Democratic Party will be left in relatively good shape at the end of the primaries. Sure, there will be some viscera exposed by the respective “bases” of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (remember 2008,) it is clear from his current - and very classy - respect for his opponent that the latter will fall in line with the Party message if things do not go his way (a point of criticism from the true believers of the left, but this aspect of Bernie’s pragmatism is key to his viability as an actual leader.)
Both candidates (and their constituents) are angry, to be sure. But the targets of their anger are of significant difference. While Bernie Sanders has a coherent and righteous message to articulate in his decrial of the obviously corrosive trend of wealth accumulation to the very few, Donald Trump is stumping on the inchoate and incoherent hatred directed towards whatever “Other” he can conjure up in the speech-de-jour. The inspiration that Sanders offers his supporters - however Quixotic it may seem - is at least directed towards their rational self-interest. Trump is agitating a base that refuses to think clearly about their problems, and are being roused up to further buttress up the institutions and systems that are robbing them blind.
One thing is not like the other. There is no “one the one hand, on the other hand” in this narrative.
On a somewhat personal and whimsical note (and leaving aside the question as to how much a “radical” President can do in the face of the hugely entrenched colossus that is called the United States Government,) I would like to see a general election between these two. Why, it would be the Hippies vs. the Wingers, laid bare for all to see... at long last.
Leaving aside the fearsome danger to our country if the Wingers make a bigger turnout. But, after the Obama landslide, I’m not seeing that as a possibility.