Sutherland: Trump, Sanders? Flip a Coin

o04_0RTXXRO6The election prospects for this country a year out are appalling in both parties…

Both the Republican and the Democratic races have been dominated, at least in terms of excitement and enthusiasm, by demagogues.  We have a Fascist (Donald Trump) and a Marxist (Bernie Sanders).The fact that neither is likely to get their party’s nomination is cold comfort because,even in losing, Trump and Sanders will have forced the eventual nominees to take irresponsible positions out of political expediency.

The politician who the Trumpster most closely resembles is Silvio Berlusconi,the former prime minister of Italy. Both are performers who have mastered the use of television. Both are billionaire business moguls, who boast of their wealth and sexual prowess. Both claim their riches render them immune to corruption. At the same time, both swear their own shady business dealings make them uniquely qualified to purge a rotten system, on the theory that it takes a thief to catch a thief, e.g. FDR appointing notorious Wall Street “operator “Joseph P. Kennedy as the first head of the Securities Exchange Commission. Both delight in making crude and offensive public comments,which their followers find funny and endearing.

In short,both Trump and Berlusconi are totally unqualified by character, temperament, and intellect to be heads of state of major countries, especially in these parlous times. This is true even without considering their positions on major issues, which consist of a grab bag of ridiculous and contradictory pronouncements, consistent only in their crass opportunism and unerring ability to appeal to voters’ worst instincts.

By comparison, Bernie Sanders’s positions reflect a coherent ideology.

A notable example is his stance on immigration, where he has broken with Democratic orthodoxy by questioning whether flooding the U.S. with impoverished immigrants willing to work for low wages really helps American workers.(Most Democrats simply want to increase the number of Latino voters, with little concern what the economic impact that will have on groups they supposedly champion.)

The problem is that Sanders’s consistency means Bernie is consistently wrong.

The real impetus for his campaign is hatred of the rich. George Packer, a proudly liberal writer for The New Yorker, has noted that Sanders REALLY hates the rich. Packer marvels that Sanders hates them even more than Elizabeth Warren, in whose stead he was drafted by the Trotskyite wing of the Party of Workers, Peasants and Intellectuals when she got a case of the vapors.,i.e. scared of taking on the Clinton machine.with its apparatchiks like Sidney(“Sid Vicious“)Blumenthal.

maxresdefaultIn a prime example of “punitive liberalism”, Sanders said in response to a question of how he would work with the Republican opposition if elected, “I’d make them an offer they couldn’t refuse!”

This is,of course a very dated joke,referencing the first Godfather movie, meaning he would threaten them until they went along with his radical program. Every thing from single payer health care, free tuition at public colleges, paid family leave, etc.could be provided, Sanders claims, by making the 1% pay their “fair share”.

Not only does Sanders refuse to say what that “fair share” would consist of, but he never mentions that even a 90% marginal rate would only cover part of the current deficit. No explanation at all is offered as to how the additional  $18 trillion in federal tax revenues will be raised to pay for the rest of his program.

Taking another cue from Elizabeth Warren, Sanders also wants to double down on all the existing entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), even though these programs are already actuarial time bombs, set to go off with changing demographics. Why is giving current beneficiaries far more money in benefits under these programs-far more than they were promised-a good and noble thing if it means they’re won’t be enough money to pay future beneficiaries the benefits they WERE promised?

Donald-TrumpIt’s like robbing your kids’ college fund to send Grandma to Vegas. The old lady may love you for it but God Help You when Junior finds out!

If you’re Bill Clinton’s former Labor Secretary Robert Reich,who was here in October to promote his new book and to dialogue with Red-Staters for a documentary he’s doing, you would insist there is a big difference. Trump, Reich & Company argue, is merely a demagogue, while Sanders and he are, by contrast, “populists”.

Right-wingers can also be populists, Reich conceded, but its a BAD form of populism, because it stirs up fear and resentment of unpopular minority groups. There is a universal human tendency to look for scapegoats, he noted, and Trump plays on this by blaming everyone from Mexicans to Moslems for the country’s problems. He gives the further example of such a” bad” populist as Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman,turn of the century South Carolina-rabble rousing senator and governor, who blamed blacks, Roman Catholics, and Jews for the plight of the poor whites who were his supporters.

Reich unwittingly gets himself in hot water here because Tillman, like other Southern demagogues of that era, also railed against Wall Street, the wealthy and corporations – all the same people Reich and Sanders despise!

Why not, after all, come up with multiple scapegoats if you’re a demagogue/populist?

There is a whole rogues gallery of Southern demagogues who switched back and forth in finding unpopular groups to incite hatred against. Another such figure was cited by Tom Wolfe in his 1970 classic essay”Radical Chic”. This was Senator Tom Watson of Georgia, who offered a combo special of yahoo positions,right wing (support from the KKK ) and left wing (attacks on capitalism and imperialism). In our own era we had Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, Bill Clinton’s mentor, a fervent opponent of both the Vietnam War AND civil rights for black people! All these race-baiters were of,course prominent Democrats,and stayed that way until the 1970’s,a little fun fact I was never taught in college, but what would you expect of an institution that still bore the stamp of Woodrow Wilson? I did talk to old alums,who’d had his constitutional law class,and they say he was the best teacher they ever had.(If you knew people who were in the class of 1912 and also know people who graduated in 2012,it gives you the long view!)

Most recently we had Occupy Wall Street.

Embraced by the leaders of the Democratic Party,including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and  President Barack Obama, it harshly attacked American capitalism, a position which was highly publicized, which it blamed on International Jewry, a position which was not publicized at all, at least by the mainstream  media.

Populism, left or right, too often degenerates into hatred and resentment towards some handy targets. Tactically, it makes little difference if it’s poor brown people (Trump’s Mexican “rapists and murderers”) or rich white people(The 1% or the Kochs).

It’s always someone else who is to blame for your problems,who has “rigged the system”to enrich themselves at your expense..whether you’re a “poor farmer”or “a working man”(preferred 1915 terminology) or part of the “struggling middle class”(preferred 2015 terminology).

So why be surprised when someone combines ethnic or racial hatred with class hatred ?

They’re two sides of the same coin.

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17 Responses to Sutherland: Trump, Sanders? Flip a Coin

  1. Kerouac says:

    If ‘Obamateur’ can sully his way into the White House, ANYONE can… and likely will.

    TRUMP 2016


  2. HARLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    kerowacky wrong again.

    Sputnick…good to hear from you again.
    But you know as well as anyone this is not going to be a close race.
    The repubs could end up nominating trump….because after the first 3 or 4
    primarieis many are winner take all…andthat helps trump.
    How cool would that be….trumpthe republican nominee on stage with
    the cool and comfortable Mrs. Clinton. she would take him apart piece by piece..but you have to know that trump is really pretty liberal in his views such as pro
    Forget the wall sputnick….its Hillary all the way in the start of many many
    consecutive democratic presidents while you him and hawabout the dem
    Haven’t you seen enough of these rethugs to know they know nothing about
    foreign policy…nothing about “replacing” obamacare….they’re just plain
    and as the saying goes….STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES.
    good luck sput nick…..
    your friend
    (who predicted the exact electoral college of anyone in the nation in 2012 and
    that’s a fact.

  3. Stomper says:

    Thanks Dwight, good piece. I’d much rather comment on Trump in response to your post than the one by Lefsetz. I pretty much agree with your perspectives on both Trump and Sanders for the same reasons you do. I do like Sanders and would vote for him if he was the nominee but I don’t think he could win the general election.

    My only real problem with with what you wrote is your use of the word “entitlement” as it carries some powerful baggage. You say that Sanders wants to double down on ALL the existing entitlement programs ( Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) but you don’t seem to consider things like corporate subsidies ( the fossil fuel industry gets more government subsidies than do the three entitlement programs you listed) as an “entitlement”. Capital gains ( including the obscene profits of hedge fund managers) being taxed at 15% versus the 35% or greater amounts to huge corporate “entitlements”. Pointing that out does not mean I hate rich people, just that maybe we should be treated the same. The government redirecting tax revenues to “social” subsidies is to be regarded as a bad thing but the government redirecting tax revenues to “corporate” subsidies or the war machine/foreign military actions is to be regarded as a good thing. To me that’s a disconnect in reasoning. Trying telling a retiree who worked 40+ years paying into the system and is now receiving social security and medicare that he is getting government “entitlements” and he’ll dispute it vigorously. Hayakawa could not have picked a better word than “entitlements” when writing about semantics.

    What insight I would crave from you as a conservative republican is your opinion of how the GOP is conducting their 2016 campaigns ( Senate campaigns are arguably more important than the campaign for the White House as the Senate will confirm any Supreme Court nominees that Hillary might have the opportunity to present). I know you are not one to walk away from your beliefs just because it may be expedient but isn’t winning elections the goal here? Everything I read and hear with regards to Trump is about his continuing lead in the polls among the republicans. He’s striking a nerve with voters. Give or take some percentage points, about 25% of the electorate identifies as republican/conservative and about 25% identify as democrats/liberals. It’s the remaining 50% or so of voters in the middle that identify as independents that will decide the election, both for the White House and for the senate campaigns in the individual states and the recognition that the the candidates for the White House do provide a “coattail” effect on the choices down the ballot. To me, the signature positions of the GOP are small government and low taxes. To me, that’s what should resonate best among the independent voters. Why not focus on those issues and steer clear of immigration, planned parenthood, or whatever other hot button issue seems to fire up the conservative base. Why risk pissing off Hispanics or Women voters. You can’t afford to alienate a single one so why even risk it? Focus on your core strengths and hammer them continually. Priebus and the RNC are not doing your side of the aisle any favors by allowing these peripheral/losing issues to remain in the forefront of discussion.

    As a liberal, nothing would make me happier than to have Trump or Cruz win the GOP nomination. The independent voters would stampede to the left. A more moderate Rubio is the only serious candidate who could strike a little fear in the left. Not saying he could win but he wouldn’t scare the hell out of the majority of voters. Rubio/Kasich is your best ticket imho.

    • Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr. says:

      “Entitlements” in the sense I’m using them simply means that if you are eligible,your benefits cannot be taken away without due process,i.e.notice and hearing. Since they are paid out automatically to everyone who is eligible,they are not expenditures that are part of the usual Conressional appropriations process,I.e.discretionary spending. Liberals get incensed when the term is used,thinking it’s a not-so-subtle dig,based on the psycho-babble term from the 70s, when the worst insult you could make against someone was to accuse them of “a sense of entitlement”. That’s not how I’m using the phrase. On your second point,I really got into it with Dave Helling of the Star at a recent event. He claimed that every tax preference,whether it be capital gains tax rates ,the home mortgage interest deduction,is a form of”crony capitalism” so noone who took advantage of such a break could criticize the Star for its 25 million dollar property tax abatement. If the government decided for legitimate policy reasons to tax different forms of income at different rates,as opposed to an individual tax payer like the Star getting a break through threats and bribes to the tax authority,the latter qualifies as crony capitalism,the former does not. Corporate welfare there is no excuse for but one man’s corporate welfare is another man’s research and development of green energy.I beg to differ with you on one point. By my calculation,SS,Medicare,etc. are the biggest share of Federal dollars spent,even if they’re technically not part of the budget. Also,re Medicaid,it’s become impossibly burdensome to the states since they’re stuck with half the tab and has grown exponentially in a way nobody anticipated. These are the budget busters,not corporate welfare,defense or any of the other discretionary programs.

      • Stomper says:


        Hoping you are researching a piece to address my 3rd paragraph. Of the current candidates, who gets your vote?

        • Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr. says:

          We’re in the same bind you guys are in with our base. By the way,I have yet to see any of the Democratic candidates stand up to the Black Lives Matter crowd or any of the recent wave of college protesters. When you show a little backbone in that regard , more keynote addresses at your conventions by Al Sharpton,then you can talk to me about us catering to extremists.

          • Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr. says:

            Rubio or Christie on your last point.

          • HARLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! says:

            Rubio or Christie…
            a liar anda soon to be indicted governor.
            Now that’s onehell of a pick for you

          • chuck says:

            Harley, the first time you post anything remotely approaching an intelligent comment on this blog will be right after Paris Hilton grows her hymen back.

    • HARLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! says:

      stomper….please save me from the recent diatribe you gave.
      The country is not 25/25 repub-dem. Its 43-45 on each side and
      10% in the middle. That 10% or maybe even a lower % will decide
      the elections.
      yes…the repubs are in bad shape. No donors…no organization for trump
      or any of the other repu candidat5es while Hillary has 1.5 million volunteers
      ready to go.
      And lets stop the b.s. about campaign money. Its now the law…so everyone
      has to play the game. Find your backers…take their money….and then
      be their puppet. Its happening and if you’re a pol and you want to plays
      the game…you play by the rules on the books…no excuses.
      As far as pissing off voters…trump and his 13 dwarfs have hung themselves.
      Heard a speech on network called OAN and trump reminds me of the
      hitler rallies. He makes statements but the guy can’t get specific…no
      numbers…stats…just appealing to the hate and vile attitudes the
      30% of the repub party….this guy is too much.
      Of course Wilson/porky/whinery/glaze/southy love trump. He’s their
      god come true.
      go with the winner…Harley….Hillary in a landslide…..hopefully she debates
      trump and she’ll knock his d*** in the dirt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Stomper says:

        Harley, my numbers are rough reflections of how American voters SELF identify based on various recent polls ( Pew, Gallup, CNN).

  4. chuck says:

    You might be underestimating the publics disgust with what your boy Marco has called the Democrat “Super Pac”, the Main Stream Media.

    The disgust on Main Street for journalists like George Stephanopoulos who pretend to be unbiased is palpable and could be a catalyst for Independents to vote for Trump out of spite. Just my opinion.

    Here is an interesting (At least I think so.) take on the press and the people.

  5. Wendy says:

    Interesting perspective. I’ve not considered them quite so equally matched, but it does work. The draw to both is undeniable, but both candidates are short-sighted (and both are buffoons). With what does that leave us? As a nation we need someone who is strong on national security, reasonable regarding taxes, socially responsible, trustworthy, and mindful of the laws of the land. Who is that candidate?

  6. Vincent Vega says:

    There is approx. the same fraction of each party that favors these 2 nut jobs. The only reason that Trump is leading and Sanders is not is that the Repubs. are dividing the remaining majority too many ways (at least at this stage). The majority of Dems has coalesced around Hillary and I belive the Repubs will ultimately coalesce around Rubio (which would be fine) or,hopefully, Christie. So, the share of wackos in the Repub. party is no greater than that in the Dem. party.

    Isn’t it time to give Chuck his own blog? While Dwight’s columns are always well thought out, exceptionally well written and spur thought and discussion…I tune in just as eagerly for Chuck’s “hymen growth” observations and clever responses.

    • Stomper says:

      I’d vote for a blog by Chuck. I’m always looking for a reason to comment and a point to question and Chuck certainly offers that.

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