bernie sanders caricature flickr cc

At first blush, it sounds crazy. A socialist, running in a Democrat primary, who has made a career of limiting American influence abroad thinks he can attract voters from a GOP candidate who is running on the motto “Make America Great.” But that is part of the plan of Bernie Sanders. The underlying idea apparently is that Trump is channeling anger and Sanders is channeling anger and anger pretty much equals anger so these people might as well be angry for Sanders as for Trump.

“What I’m suggesting is that what Trump has done with some success has taken that anger, taken those fears — which are legitimate — and converted them into anger against Mexicans, anger against Muslims,” Sanders said.

But while he made the case that both candidates had tapped into a similar frustration, Sanders was careful to underline the different approach he offered — a sharp contrast to Trump’s often controversial or demeaning rhetorical spasms.

“For his working class and middle class support,” Sanders said, “we can make the case that if we really want to address the issues that people are concerned about…we need policies that bring us together, that take on the greed of Wall Street the greed of corporate America and create a middle class that works for all of us rather than an economy that works just for a few.”

This reasoning has a lot of obvious attraction for Sanders — and it will be quoted approvingly by some in the GOP — because it is superficial. Where this falls down is when it is confronted with reality. If he was correct then you would have seen Trump supporters turning out by the battalion to join the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the We Are The 99% spoiled whiners. But you didn’t because the life experience of the people in the two groups is very, very different and their preferred remedies are not compatible. What Sanders calls anger against Mexicans is really anger about illegal immigrants. Trump people understand that business is not the enemy. They have lost their jobs to cheaper labor and understand that a $15/hour minimum wage is not going to work out well for those folks making $20/hour.

Nothing here is new. During the height of the student protest movement, student groups like SDS and the Weathermen were convinced that they could make common cause with working class America because they really wanted the same things. Surely the working class kids who were getting drafted and sent to Vietnam would gladly work with rich college kids who milked their educational deferments while they worked for a socialist America. For a lot of intuitively obvious reasons, the two groups had little in common beyond on group wanting to crack the other group’s heads.

war protest

This is a free country, unless Sanders or Clinton wins the presidency, and Sanders should feel free to try whatever he thinks will win but this seems to me to be either an elaborate troll of Donald Trump or the worst sort of self-deception. But he is a socialist and they are really good at self-deception.

Image credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons