I’m sure this article is going to tick off more than a few liberals, especially those on the far-left, and definitely those who were once referred to as “Bernie or bust,” and that’s fine. If people want to take this as an “attack” on the left, or Sanders, then so be it. The way I look at it, many of those folks are probably many of the same individuals I’m about to discuss.
That being said, I like Bernie Sanders. I just don’t worship him (or any politician, for that matter) like a lot of people seem to. Nearly every day I chat with people who act like he’s some sort of infallible deity.
Fun Fact: He’s a career politician. Sure, he’s a good politician, and by all accounts a great guy, but he’s still a career politician.
Do I agree with a lot of his ideas? Yes. Do I like him in general? Absolutely. Do I view him as a great fighter for the middle class? Without a doubt.
But he’s still a career politician.
That said, Sanders ran a presidential campaign that was, in many ways, like a liberal version of Donald Trump’s campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the two men are alike — not at all — but that doesn’t mean their campaigns didn’t have quite a few similarities.
Let me repeat that: I am in no way — not even a little — saying that Bernie Sanders is like Donald Trump. I’m simply comparing the tactics used by both men during their campaigns to appeal to the populist movements that fueled their success.
Everybody got that? Probably not for some, but it’s time to move on.
What I mean when I say the two ran similar campaigns is that they were both “populist candidates” whom not many people expected would stand a chance at being competitive, let alone winning. Both men fueled their campaign by appealing to the emotion of their bases by telling them what they wanted to hear. Trump pandered to the hate and bigotry that’s been a cornerstone of the modern day GOP for decades, while Sanders pandered to this utopian idea that we can get all of this “free” stuff with very minimal tax increases on 99 percent of Americans because — Denmark.
However, very similar to Trump, Sanders never really outlined a feasible, detailed plan on how he’d go about accomplishing many of his biggest campaign promises. Usually when he was pressed on how he planned to pass universal health care, provide free college tuition, and invest over $1 trillion into our infrastructure, his answer was typically “by creating a political revolution.”
Once when asked how he’d break up the big banks, one of his campaign’s biggest talking points, Sanders replied, “Let’s talk about the merit of the issue, and then talk about how we get there.” In other words, let him keep using this for a talking point to get people worked up and excited, but he really didn’t have an answer for how he planned to fulfill one of his biggest campaign promises.
I’m sorry, but that’s not a realistic plan, nor was it a credible answer. Sure, it played well to his supporters, but an answer such as that is nothing more than a political appeal to the emotion of people who backed him.
Much in the same way Trump usually responded with vague talking points when he was asked how he planned to make Mexico pay for his wall, create a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days, and provide better health care for more Americans (all things we now know he has no way of actually doing) Sanders, too, rarely provided much in the way of specifics on how he planned to accomplish most of the extremely lofty promises that were adored by the folks fueling his populist movement.
Even their tax/economic plans were built on the same premise that “economic growth” would pay for them. Both plans assumed, by many expert accounts, unrealistic future economic projections.
For either Sanders or Trump’s plans to come anywhere close to paying for the very expensive promises they made during their campaigns (if those costs were even covered at all) would have required economic conditions, over a long period of time, that weren’t based on realistic projections.
But who cares, right?
Feel the Bern! Political revolution! Make America great again! Emotions, yay!
Both individuals even made generalized, blanket attacks on free trade agreements a big part of their political rhetoric to appeal to working-class voters. Except, as some fact-checking organizations have found, there’s no concrete data to support the idea that trade pacts like NAFTA have contributed to any significant job loss in the United States.
The truth is, automation is the leading cause of the loss of American jobs — especially manufacturing — not outsourcing or free trade agreements.
Let me reiterate, I’m not saying Sanders is anything like Trump. All I’m saying is that both men ran similar campaigns that were designed to appeal to the populist desires of their particular bases by making bold promises, providing little to no specifics on how they planned to accomplish many of them, all while working people up by preying on emotion and/or fear of what would happen if anyone else but them won.
The truth is, like we’ve already seen with Trump, Sanders wasn’t going to be able to get any of his major legislation passed. Take a look at what we’re dealing with right now. Republicans control both the House and the Senate, yet they’ve struggled to even repeal Obamacare, the #1 lie they’ve been pushing for the last few years. Are there people out there who really believe Sanders could have convinced Congress, which would have required a good chunk of Republican support, to pass universal health care? Even Trump’s massive tax cuts aren’t flying through the GOP-controlled Congress. Do those same folks really think Sanders would have been able to get his, by Republican standards, fairly large tax hikes passed?
The $15 minimum wage?
Paid maternity leave for every American?
$1 trillion in infrastructure spending?
If so, please, learn how Congress works and how legislation gets passed. For Sanders to have stood even the slightest chance of getting anything passed would have nearly taken super-majorities by Democrats in both the House and Senate — which he would have never had.
As I said earlier, I like Sanders. Unfortunately, for a good chunk of his supporters, any time someone is critical of him, even when completely factually based, it automatically means they’re “Bernie bashing” — which is asinine.
Oh, I know, I’m just a “shill for Hillary,” right? Nope, not at all. I supported her, voted for her, and believe she would have made a great president. That being said, I think she needs to stay away for a while and should definitely never run for office again. I like her, though I know she’s far from perfect, but it’s time for some fresh faces to lead the party going forward.
My main issue right now are the people out there who still worship Sanders like he’s some once-in-a-lifetime messiah of some sort who’s our only hope to save humanity. Because, you know, it’s totally rational to act and feel that way.
When you get right down to it, he ran a campaign that was largely driven by the same “nothing to lose” attitude that Trump had. Nobody gave him a chance, he knew this was his last opportunity to run for president, so he went “all-in” in doing so. If he won, great. If he lost, well, there wasn’t really any need to worry about possible negative ramifications on his personal political ambitions. This gave both men a huge advantage when it came to constructing their perspective campaigns.
Doubt me? Go ask any athlete who’s played in a sport where they were in an “all-or-nothing” situation against an underdog that had nothing to lose. You’ll find that many will tell you those are some of the most difficult opponents to deal with.
Whether some folks want to believe it or not, Bernie Sanders built his campaign by pandering to what his base wanted to hear, even though the vast majority of his biggest campaign promises weren’t realistic — at least not based on the current realities of our government — but they damn sure sounded good.
If progressives want to evolve and change the Democratic Party, we can’t accomplish that by becoming blind ideologues like tea party conservatives. We don’t need to be a party based on some specific ideology. Far too many people have decided that their ideological beliefs matter more than facts, and that’s extremely detrimental to the overall goal of making progress on some of the most important issues of our time.
What the left needs to do to fix the Democratic Party is to do nothing more than believe in facts, reality, science and history, while leaving our pride and egos at the door. We can’t be afraid to admit we were wrong or that the “other side” might be right from time to time. We shouldn’t be trying to silence those we oppose or ignoring facts we don’t like.
We can and should be part of a real political revolution that truly brings our nation forward. One where reason, facts, truth, and reality matter more than emotion, blind devotion to ideology, or the desire to be right rather than factual.
The best part about being a progressive is that there’s no reason for us to lie, exaggerate, or distort the truth. History has shown us that progressives are almost always on the right side of history. All we have to do is make sure that we’re plotting out realistic, effective plans for pushing our country forward instead of allowing our emotions to irrationally fall in love with unrealistic plans that often don’t get us anywhere — and sometimes even take us backwards.
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