The two big similarities between Democrat, Republican primaries

Posted3/20/2016 1:00 AM

By Paul Green

Guest columnist


The 2016 Presidential nomination fight in both political parties has become truly unique. Why? Two major reasons.

First, both Republican and Democratic nomination battles have strong candidates who have never run for office under their party label. True, Donald Trump has never run for any political office, but up until recently has seldom if ever, identified himself with the GOP. One has to go back to 1952 to find someone who fought for the Republican presidential nomination (and won) without ever being a party player. His name Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As for the Democrats, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, has been elected to various offices, but never as a Democrat. Labeling himself a democratic Socialist is a clever ploy to give himself a party identification, but as far as party names are concerned, it does not exist.

Second, though Trump and Sanders have been placed at opposite ends of the political spectrum -- not so on the economic front, where they are seeking similar voters, admittedly with obviously different appeals. As in George Orwell's masterful "Nineteen Eighty Four" about the country of Oceania, both Trump and Sanders have simplified both the economic problems facing voters as well as the solutions.

Many white middle and working class Americans feel hurt and betrayed by the country's business and political leaders. A generation of economic and social changes have turned many voters' lifestyles, beliefs, and hopes into objects of disdain and/or avoidance. And they have become angry!

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Trump's solution to this problem: blame foreign countries, especially our trading partners. The "Art of the Deal" man believes the United States has been hoodwinked by smarter and craftier leaders in Asia, Mexico, Central America and the Middle East. His slogan "make America great again" to many of his followers has become personal, because they as individuals want to feel great again.

So it matters little what Trump says or who he insults or if he makes factual mistakes, because to these voters it's the "music" not the "lyrics" that matter. Sanders has a different answer, one that he repeats over and over: "It's Wall Street 'one-percenters' who are destroying opportunities for lower- and middle-class Americans."

Whereas Trump promises to re-cut all the bad deals, Sanders simply argues that taxing the wealthy will pay for all his promises, like free college education, health care for all and ending all corporate loopholes, etc.

Though each man as of yet, has not asked their supporters for a daily "two minutes of hate" session, it could be possible. Seriously, given the heat of their respective appeals, it should not surprise voters that the potential for confrontations between Trump and Sanders' supporters is real.


Clearly there are major foreign policy and social issue differences between them; however, on the economic front their followers believe they have been cheated by the elite governing class.

Last Tuesday's five primary election results have basically closed out the presidential nomination process in both parties. Trump has all but locked up the GOP nomination as has Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party. As the political jockeying moves forward, an interesting and perhaps key development could be the following: Will Trump's angry white lower- and middle-class appeal become attractive to former Sanders people or will Clinton win them over with a more traditional Democratic message.

For those readers who are chuckling at such a possibility, keep this in mind: So far in the 2016 presidential nomination contests, many white working- and middle-class rural voters have supported a socialist Vermont U.S. senator for president -- even though most of them one year ago never heard of Bernie Sanders.

Paul Green is director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University in Chicago and Schaumburg.

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