There are a lot of people out there commenting that the rise of Bernie Sanders in this primary is in many ways like the rise of Donald Trump, with a lot of the focus being on both campaigns’ railing against the current state of America, and the fact that they are capitalizing on growing voter discontent to get the support they need.
While there might be one or two parallels here, the fact is that there is very little that is similar between the two campaigns. Aside from the political views of each, the fact is that Sanders is capitalizing on something very different than Trump did. The two men might look similar from a distance, but when it comes down to the facts of either situation, there are simply too many differences.
Sanders, for example, isn’t attacking the status quo nearly as much as he’s attacking the entire American system and way of life. Trump’s campaign focused on the status quo – the way things were under Barack Obama and how it was hurting American business. Using the pain of the American people in the midwest and other often-overlooked portions of American society, Trump built a coalition of American workers who wanted their jobs and their way of life back.
Contrast that with Sanders, who has been critical of American business and our capitalist system, focusing on grievances that can only be solved with that system being completely destroyed. He does not think private companies can do better than publicly-owned entities could, and he wants American workers to simply work for the government.
Truth be told, we could list all of the policy ideas that the two men differ on, but there is one major difference between the two that fully captures the above and all subsequent differences: Belief.
Trump, a lifelong Democrat before deciding to run for office, talked a great game on the campaign trail and knew how to connect with voters. Upon getting into office, he did work to keep as many of the campaign promises he made, to his credit, though there are some disappointments (government spending, for example) that we have to deal with.
Sanders, though, is speaking from his heart, from his most deeply-held principles, and connecting with people who, like him, seek a utopia that isn’t possible. Where Trump’s presidency is one of pragmatic stepping stones toward improvement, Sanders’ presidency would be one of huge leaps into the unknown chasing after a dream that is not possible, whether he could successfully destroy the current American system or not.
That’s why the two simply aren’t comparable. Trump is not someone who is promising the moon. Instead, he promised to fight and move the ball down the field – something he is doing successfully. Sanders is promising the moon, but in exchange is going to force Americans to take ownership of it, no matter whether they want it (and the taxes necessary to pay for it) or not.
Trump offered something realistic, and appears willing to negotiate to get it. It won’t be ideologically pure, but he has made gains his voters sought. But Sanders demands ideological purity, no matter how many American lives have to be forever changed in order to make it happen.
What’s scary, though, is how close a major party in this country is to making it happen.