It’s an argument I am hearing increasingly from Democratic strategists and pundits. Confronted with the unelectability of their party’s putative nominee for president, Bernie Sanders, they say, “But look at Donald Trump four years ago. No one thought he had a remote chance at winning the Republican nomination, much less defeat Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless here we are.”
Although much of this rationalizing amounts to whistling past the graveyard, there are parallels between candidates Trump and Sanders. Back in 2016, Republican voters were looking for a leader who could expunge the bitter taste eight years of Barack Obama had left in their mouths. Democrats claim now to be craving the same remedy after three years of Trump.
Back then, there was hardly unanimity with respect to a Trump presidency among the Republicans. Does the term never-Trumper ring a bell? Fairly reliable right-wing commentators like Jonah Goldberg could never get their heads around the notion of a “President Trump.” Many remain disenchanted to this day. (Much of this disaffection is a reflection of Trump’s style, which many reject as crass and “unpresidential.” It’s frankly difficult to see where Sanders’s perpetual scowl and tendency to bark, rather than speak, will strike anyone as much of an improvement.)
So where does the comparison fail? It collapses as soon as we inject substance into the mix. Trump ran on a platform of cleaning up Washington inside the Beltway, fortifying our nation’s southern border, restoring America’s position as a world power, and rolling back Obama-era regulations, which had prevented the economy from flourishing.
Sanders in contrast promises — overtly! — to bring full-fledged soviet-style socialism to America. He promises a nanny state of epic proportions funded by the trillions of dollars he imagines he can shake down from billionaires. He applauds breadlines and holds up Fidel Castro as a model of a great leader.