10 Things Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders Have In Common

Looking back over the last two weeks of political conventioneering, and having watched both the Republican and Democratic conventions pretty well gavel-to-gavel, one of my takeaways is that, despite the wide divide in some policy areas, the number of similarities between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is quite marked. And, judging by the language and the issues some of  Bernie Sanders’  delegates chose to trumpet, many would have  been more in their element at the Republican National Convention. It is no surprise then that the Bernie or Bust holdouts don’t fear Donald Trump or that some will vote for him. In some ways, he will feel as comfortable as an old pair of slippers.

The Match List

  1. Both are white men born in the 1940s.

    Supporter for former Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., John Stanley from DeForest Wis., reacts during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Monday, July 25, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

    Supporter for  Sen. Bernie Sanders reacts during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia (AP Photo/John Locher)

  2. Both men are party “outsiders.” Neither is a longtime card-carrying Republican or Democrat. Pulitizer prize winning, PolitiFact, reported that, when Sanders declared his candidacy, he said was running as an independent who is going to be working with the —‘ He tantalizingly cut himself off in mid-sentence. In November, Sanders, however, did announce he was full-fledged Democrat and declared as a Democrat in New Hampshire.  In September 2015, CNN reported that Donald Trump had to sign a loyalty pledge to “calm the nerves” of party brass that he would stick by the party if he lost.
  3. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders garnered support by claiming the “system is rigged.”
  4. Both men are virulently anti-trade. CNN reports on the similarities as early as August 2015. The supporters of both men chose the Trans Pacific Pact (TPP) as the crucible for their most potent anti-trade stances, although anti-NAFTA sentiment also featured in both campaigns.
  5. Both men led virtually identical attacks against Hillary Clinton . Trump with #CrookedHillary and Sanders‘ repeated accusations that Clinton was “corrupt” “establishment” and “unqualified” formed an astonishing pile on against one woman that rained down day-after-day and culminated at both conventions.  In addition to the “Lock Her Up!” chant that was debuted by raucous delegates at the Republican convention, other choice RNC anti-Clinton slogans included “Trump That Bitch,” “KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts, Left Wing,” and “Life’s A Bitch — Don’t Vote For One”. And according to The Daily Beast, over at the Democratic Convention the following week, anti-Hillary, pro-Bernie protesters frequently chanted “Fuck Hillary, Fuck Trump!” “Lock Her Up!” and sported T-shirts reading “Hillary for Prison.”

    trump supporters

    Trump supporters at the Republican National Convention 2016

  6. The rhetoric of both men has mined seams of deep-seated anger and resentment, and inflamed supporters to heights that extend well beyond what could be called reasonable or factual. One Sanders’ supporter quoted by Time magazine said, “He sees the choice between Clinton and Trump as “four years of a buffoon vs. eight years of a genocidal warmonger.”
  7. Neither leader takes responsibility for the anger their campaigns have stirred up. “I don’t think we’ve ever had control over our supporters nor have we ever tried,” Jane Sanders said in an NBC News interview on July 25, 2016. In March, 2016 Trump said, “There’s no violence. It’s a media fabrication.”
  8. Neither Donald Trump nor Bernie Sanders have had to incorporate ethno-racial inclusivity into their worldviews to become the public figures they are today. According to the 2010 U.S. census, Sanders’ state of Vermont had a population of 625,741.  The number of people identifying themselves as Black in Vermont equalled 6,277 (1.0% of the population). The number of people identifying themselves has Hispanic equalled 9,208 (1.5% of the population). Compare that to the state of New York, which during her Senate career Hillary Clinton represented with one other U.S. senator, Chuck Schumer. In 2010, New York had population of 19.4 million—3,081,116 (15.8%) of the population identified themselves as Black and 3,410,543 (17.6%) of the population identified themselves as Hispanic. Like Trump, whose never held positions on these issues,  Sanders did not, as representative of Vermont, have to incorporate the reality of ethno-racial circumstance or division in his thinking or politics in order to be successful. He had no accountability to those demographics and his current prognostications on the issues are entirely theoretical.
  9. The supporter base of both the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns is largely made up of white voters. Trump, because of his white nationalist bent, appeals to disaffected and racist white voters. Bernie Sanders, by virtue of the state he represents, has never had to involve himself in issues of race (see #8) and was thus widely unknown among those demographics.
  10. Neither man has gotten to where they are today by playing well with others. Bernie Sanders has served in Congress and Senate for 25 years as an independent, choosing when he wanted to caucus with the Democrats and when he didn’t. He has been able to craft a 40-year political career without the benefit of compromise, an extraordinary feat in politics, a theatre that is, by definition, about compromise. It is a fact that goes a long way to explaining the compromise-phobic culture of some of his delegates. Donald Trump, as an egotistical billionaire, has always had the financial power not to have to compromise, at least publicly. Both candidates appear to hold the notion of compromise in distain. Yet, most people have to compromise on some thing, some day.

I think it fair to say that both men have contributed to the level of anger and shocking depravity we are bearing witness to on the U.S. campaign trail today. And it is largely because the only party either one of these two men has ever been motivated to show up at is their own.

Gail PiAuthor Photo 01 Sandy Tam Photographycco is a strategist who has worked in the nonprofit sector for 25 years,  most of which as President of Gail Picco Associates. Prior to establishing Gail Picco Associates, she spent eight years working in a shelter for assaulted women and children. She is the author of What the Enemy Thinks, a recent novel set in the nonprofit sector, of Your Working Girl, a blog of memoir and commentary on politics, charity and popular culture, and writes a regular column for Hilborn Charity News. She is a Principal with The Osborne Group in Toronto and Chair of the Regent Park Film Festival.

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