THE PARALLELS BETWEEN TRUMP AND SANDERS

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION?  

Wherever your sentiments lie, and ultimately where your vote in this year’s Presidential election goes, there are some remarkable parallels between the Trump phenomenon and the Sanders phenomenon, both of which we’ve all been following this election cycle.   Yes, I know, both sides would vehemently deny such a confluence of campaigns, but there are.  First and foremost, both started off – in the eyes of the press, in the eyes of the public – as no-chance campaigns.  Six months ago, before Iowa, New Hampshire, and Super Tuesday, both Sanders and Trump were dismissed as impossibilities.  They had no chance of winning their respective nominations.  Both, as of today, both very much do have such a chance.  But before I delve into the remaining parallels, let me dispense with “the lottery effect,” as I call it

In purely economic terms let’s say, or call it achieving what we call “The American Dream,” the past thirty years of conservative economic policies embraced and adopted by both Republicans and Democrats from city, county and state governments – not all, of course - to the Federal Government, have virtually quashed working and middle class hopes of achieving The American Dream and ordinary Americans have not had any significant gains in incomes and overall wealth while the wealthy have increasingly scooped up the bulk of whatever economic progress we’ve made.  No matter how you slice it, the past thirty years have not been good ones economically for most Americans. And while I often use what seems to be the conservative’s primary public policy when it comes to economics,  “cutting taxes creates jobs,” my disdain and discouragement with the past thirty years of economic pubic policy revolves around the seemingly accepted idea of the shift of responsibility for our economic prosperity from corporations, the wealthy, industries and the rest of our national actors in economic exchanges, to us.  To us ordinary Americans.  To the working stiffs of America rather than as it used to be, from every actor to one degree or another. 


From the fact that so many of our multi-national corporations pay no taxes to the U.S. Treasury, to the continued shift of public support for higher education to the individual, the increase in personal, individual taxes in the guise of “fees,” the crushing mound of debt students accumulate to get an education, the continuing decline of pubic tax dollar support for public facilities shifting costs to individuals, the inability of Congress to raise taxes, and much more, has simply shifted once publicly supported activities and services -  the common good, as it used to be termed - to the individual.  This shift has also led to the decline of Americans’ belief in The American Dream, of successive generations being able to prosper to a greater degree than the prior one, and a loss of trust in the American system of government, politics and social construct. 

Today, it seems to me that we are left with The Lottery Effect: a belief that the only way that anyone can achieve what used to be readily achievable – The American Dream – can only be achieved only through extraordinary means, that working hard, playing by the rules, climbing up the ladder of progress are no longer operative means to success.   That only by winning the lottery will one be able to extricate oneself from ones born class and circumstances.  The Lottery Effect.  (This Lottery Effect does not apply to the wealthy since they inherit wealth and, therefore, had no need to depend on pubic lottery winnings.) 

This massive decay of what we used to believe was available to everyone regardless of class and social status, the idea of universally available and unlimited opportunities, the idea that today only through some hugely improbable event – winning the lottery – is all that is left to us to progress up the ladder of success.  Other than winning this one-shot pot of gold, there remains no practical, legitimate and achievable means to success.

How does this premise relate to Trump and Sanders?  Both men, both campaigns, offer “quick-fixes” to our current less than ideal social, economic and political state of affairs.  Sanders, the quick fix of a populist revolution, from the bottom up, to overturn the stranglehold of big business on American society, the transformation of government into an efficient means of re-distribution, and the banishment of big money in our political system, are what he offers. 

Trump, on the other hand, takes the “Strongman” approach to fixing things.  His business experience, his experience in negotiating deals, his “straight from the hip” talk of banning Muslims, building a wall and bombing ISIS into oblivion are direct appeals to the fears that many Americans are currently feeling.  His solutions are also based on the “quick fix” mode of political rule based not on any thoughtful, practical, well-crafted policy solutions but on an emotional appeals that have struck a chord in a segment of the American populace.    

Both men, both campaigns, are unrealistic.  Both follow the “winning the lottery” quick fix model of rule that pander to the inequalities, inequities and disillusionment many Americans feel have crushed them in their lives.  Both campaigns are fully based on emotional appeals.  Both don’t have the underpinnings of process and detail that are always at the very heart of how great societal change actually occurs. 

Bernie Sanders has alluded to the fact that his revolution will not be accomplished by a single presidential four years but will require a longer time period to achieve.  He’s right, of course.  Still, his campaign is based on a “bottom up revolution,” a revolution nonetheless.  Trump has no long term vision of how his revolution will actually be implemented leaving such details to the promise that his business experience will conquer all obstacles. 

As for me, I don’t think that in either case the respective revolutions of Trump or Sanders can be successful.  We haven’t fallen into the dastardly state of affairs we are currently faced with overnight.  Yes, right wingers would have you believe that it’s all Obama’s fault but those of us who are able to thoughtfully analyze things, understand that the loss of the American Dream as a practical reality, has been a long time in the making.  As for Bernie Sanders, I am wary that he can succeed given the fact that nearly all of his stated policies require pretty significant legislative initiatives from Congress.  And this can only happen if both the House and the Senate fall into Democratic hands again.  That, while possible, seems unlikely.  Then too, even with House and Senate majorities, will a sufficient number of Democrats go along with the legislation that must flow to achieve Sander’s revolutionary vision?  After all, they will still be in the thrall having to depend on lobby money for their political futures until such time (years, in fact) until the Supreme Court overturns Citizen's United.      

As for Trump, who knows.  His vision are much less revolutionary than those of Sanders, yet they still require much cooperation from Congress. 

And therein lies the Achilles heels of both campaigns.  Neither can accomplish what each is proposing without laws being passed, new regulations being adopted, new systems put in place to reform our current system of governance.  It is why my support tends towards Hillary Clinton.  She is an operative although not a criminal as the right wing is trying to convince America that she is.  The “fixing of America” is not going to occur from a one shot revolution or the populist actions of a Strong Man president.  What’s required, in my view, is a many decades long, hard, intricate, multi-faceted, sloughs through endless negotiations, sometimes unpalatable compromises, and the continuing pressure from us liberals, progressives and independents voting year after year to defeat the right wing conservatives locally, at the state level and nationally who have led us gleefully into the sorry mess we find ourselves in today. 


The liberal, progressive future, I think, will not come about from a revolution on the right or on the left, but through the combined efforts of all of us to overturn, to turn back, in reality, the insidious three decades of “the private sector can do it better.” “government isn’t the solution, government is the problem,” “ the markets are self-correcting,” “individual initiative and personal responsibility” and “cutting taxes creates jobs” sloganeering that has passed for public policy.  And this effort, it seems to me, is not going to take place with the election of a revolutionary – either on the right or on the left - this coming November.  There is so much conservative political, social and economic rhetoric embedded in the American psyche that it will take decades to undo.  And, that, as I see it, is why Hillary Clinton is the better candidate.   

NOTE:  I am compelled to differentiate between the conservative, right winger, Tea Bagger view of life and that espoused by the rest of us.  Sure, there's been a whole shitload of stuff in my life that I didn't anticipate, didn't see coming down the pike.  But I have to say that I simply don't agree with the Lottery view of life, which basically says that you are simply subject to the outside forces over which you have no control.  Yes, I have no control over Comcast or AT&T or Washington Gas who, for some reason just sent me a $700 bill for the month of February.    

But unlike my fellow Tea Bagger Americans who seem to think that their lives are controlled by Government (I mean, seriously, the government? Is this the same government who simply can't cotton to the idea that maybe demarcating every single curb parking space downtown needs be tagged with a number even though the whole block also has a number?)   But I have to admit that this is not my metier.  Sure.  Sometimes governments can be pretty dense, but in general,  I'm of the persuasion that governments really do exist to provide us with goods and services that make our lives fundamentally more livable, and this they more or less succeed in achieving.  In fact, today, in 2016, I much prefer having to deal with Washington Gas than Comcast and AT&T even though as private sector economic actors the latter two "can do it better."

And there you have it folks!   My take on the 2016 elections for the Presidency of the United States of America!
     


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