American politics in 2016 makes me want to cry. As a moderate conservative, I become more frightened every day that my party will be represented by Donald Trump. Even just a few years ago, I loved the caricature of Donald Trump, an absurd but ultimately harmless businessman with an endless supply of antics. He extended his well wishes to all — even the “haters and losers” on the 12th anniversary of 9/11 in a tweet that is objectively lots of fun.
Since then, he has transmuted into a bigot whose most high-profile endorsements include Kid Rock (probably racist), C-list MTV reality star Tila Tequila (who recently insisted that black people shouldn’t be the only ones allowed to say the n-word, so pretty racist) and former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke (definitely racist), an endorsement that he repeatedly declined to disavow.
There is a lot about the Trump phenomenon that concerns me, not the least of which is that a good portion of his supporters want slavery to make a comeback in 21st century America. But even more confusing is that his supporters believe that out of all the candidates, he is the one that will break the gridlock in Washington. Trump, though, is not the only candidate who makes my heart ache.
Despite all Trump’s blustering, Bernie Sanders continues to be the most radical candidate in the race. Besides his policies,very few with which I agree, Sanders would be a monumentally worthless, if not dangerous president, whose candidacy is just as absurd as Trump’s, albeit with fewer outrageous soundbites.
Despite the stark differences in proposed policies, both candidates are equally horrible options and are far more similar than you think. I want to be abundantly clear that a vote for Bernie Sanders is unequivocally less reprehensible than a vote for Donald Trump. But both are symbolic candidates rather than serious ones. In a time when many serious issues are facing this country, domestically and abroad, votes need to be directed towards candidates with legitimate and attainable platforms.
First and foremost, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both intentionally run campaigns that create a persona much different from the reality. Trump supporters will be quick to profess their love for a candidate who “tells it like it is,” when roughly 75 percent of his statements checked by Politico have been rated varying degrees of false. Trump’s voters are attracted to inflammatory statements, like the promise to target the families of terrorists (a war crime) and famously, that a majority of Mexicans crossing the border are rapists and murderers. This is what “telling it like it is” and eschewing political correctness to get to the heart of the issues looks like for Trumpoids.
Across the aisle, Bernie repeatedly espouses his anti-establishment past, a ludicrous claim, considering his 25 years of service in Congress, and before that, eight years as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. How he earned the tag of an anti-establishment candidate is beyond me. He is a career politician whose only anti-establishment trait is his utter inability to accomplish any legislature.
During his quarter century in the House, Sanders has sponsored just three bills that have been signed into law. Two of those bills renamed post offices in Vermont, an issue that is wholly non-partisan and cannot reasonably be met with any opposition. The other was a bill for cost-of-living adjustments to veterans’ benefits, which ought to be commended, and was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
There is a notable dearth of legislature regarding Bernie’s principal issue, the rigged economy. His claims that he is not a single issue candidate also suffer from the absence of any foreign policy proposals: only six sponsored over the course of his tenure, none of which have gone beyond the introductory stage. His grasp on foreign affairs is tenuous at best, and it is exceedingly rare for measures in his area of specialization to gain traction.
Bernie’s extremist rhetoric has made him an ineffective legislator, unwilling to meet anyone at a reasonable consensus. Even in Democrat-controlled houses, he is viewed as little more than the cranky old socialist. Thanks to the checks and balances of the federal government, there is no reason to believe his obtuse nature will lead to any change when he is in the Oval Office.
I understand the appeal of both Trump and Sanders on a superficial level. Both are populists who claim to be representing the “silent majority” and “99 percent” respectively. Neither can be “bought” by any special interest groups and therefore will not be beholden to big donors when making policy as commander in chief. Neither seems to realize however, that there are hundreds of congressmen who remain closely affiliated to big donors. The president will not, and has never been able to, alter the political landscape unilaterally.
There are not as many problems with America as either of these candidates would lead you to believe. A significant problem, however, is the way compromise is treated as a dirty word in Washington. And yet, two zealots stand a nonzero chance to be going up head-to-head in November.
Neither Trump nor Sanders has a real plan. Yes, socialism exists — and has been proven time and again to not work at the federal level. And yes, we can build a wall on the Mexican border, but the notion that Mexico will pay for it is absolute lunacy. But always beware a candidate with a simple answer to a complicated problem.
Bernie, to this day, does not understand that taxing the top 1 percent of earners at 100 percent, holding all else equal — would not fund medicare for three years, much less pay public university tuition, expand social security or create a single-payer healthcare system. Likewise, bombing the “s—” out of ISIS sounds nice to the angry American but is ultimately more of a joke than anything and is a fringe opinion, even in the GOP.
Central to Bernie’s foreign policy chops is his 2002 “no” vote to invade Iraq, a vote that means nothing in 2016 with ISIS gaining steam in the Middle East. Bernie recently defended his ability to deal with tough world leaders like Vladimir Putin by saying he dealt with tough people as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Equating a former KGB thug or a lunatic son of a dictator with a nuclear weapon to Burlington’s pot-smoking-hippies-turned-politicians is as bad a gaffe as Sarah Palin insisting she could deal with Russia because of its proximity to Alaska. But yeah, that Iraq vote will keep us safe. Trump wants to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in this country and bring back jobs from Mexico and China, yet insists that there are some jobs that no American wants to do. You can’t have it both ways.
Furthermore, both run fear-mongering campaigns that prey on the deepest concerns of Americans. For Trump that means appealing to xenophobic Americans who, despite living thousands of miles from the border, are convinced that illegal Mexican immigrants are the greatest threat to their way of life. For Sanders, his fear campaign consists of demonizing the millionaire and billionaire class that has greedily sucked up all the wealth in the world from a perch atop a pile of money while deriving immense pleasure from the middle and lower classes’ struggles.
Honest question: how many billionaires do you know? If you can even claim to personally know multi-millionaires, that’s a bit of a shock. Those who have delayed gratification their entire lives to achieve that level of monetary success should be commended for their work ethic, not vilified. Similarly, immigration is what this country was founded upon and continues to be a good thing for culture and the economy. Ostracizing recent and prospective immigrants is likewise contrary to the American spirit.
Moreover, regardless of where on the political spectrum you reside, you must accept that neither Trump nor Bernie has any chance of accomplishing meaningful legislature as president. Trump has recently been exposed by rival candidates for the glaring absence of substance to several of his propositions. Hillary has similarly attacked Bernie for his insignificance in the Senate. House Republicans will fight tooth and nail to prevent tax and minimum wage increases, just as a potential Democratic Senate will not pass a comprehensive mass deportation bill.
We are quickly approaching a turning point as a country, and we need a real president, not one who just gets you fired up. The end game of these populist revolutions is unclear, as the message therein is not shared by more than a small fraction of the rest of the politicians in Washington. As horrifying as Trump is for a slew of reasons, a large part of this country finds Bernie equally frightening for his desire to fundamentally change America. What both have in common is an unattainable vision of America. We need someone who can unite the country at a reasonable common ground in the Oval Office, and whether that means Hillary, Rubio or Kasich, anyone willing to compromise is better for the country than an unflinching extremist.