They both seem to praise dictatorial regimes, regardless of public opinion.
Are we talking about foreign leaders here?
Uh, no. How about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. One is a billionaire capitalist; the other is an avowed socialist. And both are proud of it. Unyielding. Dogmatic. Demonstrative. Stubborn. Boisterous.
In several arenas, Trump and Sanders walk a similar line. Besides drawing huge, raucous crowds in arenas and assembly halls all around the nation, they are navigating parallel avenues. The bottom line is this: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are more alike than different, which is either terrifying or reassuring — depending on your ideological path and/or tribal attachment.
OK, let’s check the checklist:
They both rail against the media: Sanders has openly spoken out against MSNBC, especially talk-show hosts Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd, and The Washington Post, while Trump has blasted — well, just about every outlet, including the conservative Fox News Channel.
Neither of them plays well with others, and are low on the LQ — the “Likability Quotient.” For references, just check Hillary Clinton’s “LQ” assessments on each gentleman.
They both attract overzealous supporters who engage in silly public attacks. Following Super Tuesday, Sanders admonished some of his followers who bullied fellow candidate Elizabeth Warren by tweeting ghastly photos of her attached to snake emojis. Trump supporters, as we’ve all heard, maintain a rollicking ritual of chanting “Lock Her Up” whenever Trump mentions Hillary Clinton during his rowdy rallies.
It’s Sanders’ “Bernie Bros.” vs. Trump’s “MAGA Mob.”
Now, the terrifying vs. reassuring part: Some may say that to beat Trump, Sanders would have to be Trump-like in some aspects, meaning aggressive, accusatory and angry with a win-at-any-cost attitude. If you are pro-Bernie, that may be reassuring. But for Trump fans, it could be terrifying.
What about flexibility?
Neither Trump nor Sanders seems to qualify in that department. According to an article in the February issue of The Atlantic magazine, Sanders in 2011 considered mounting a primary challenge against then-President Obama before the 2012 election. But Harry Reid, then the Senate majority leader, twice talked Sanders out of such a divisive move.
The Atlantic reported, “Obama and his circle tend to see Sanders’ ‘You’re with us or you’re wrong’ approach as unworkable and the criticism of his own record as president overrepresented on Twitter (Obama’s approval rating among Democrats is consistently in the 90s).”
With that, many of us have seen that new campaign commercial in which Sanders appears to portray himself and Obama as “best buds.”
Uh, not so fast.
Note that at the end of the commercial, Obama exults “Feel the Bern!” Sounds like an endorsement, doesn’t it? Well, according to CNN, that exultation by Obama actually occurred during Obama’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention when Obama was trying to urge Sanders’ ardent followers to vote for Hillary. A bit misleading, isn’t it?
Trump, of course, knows enough about recalcitrance and misleading comments and proclamations to fill the Grand Canyon. Multiple times.
Like the other day, after touring tornado-ravaged Tennessee, Trump’s next tour took him to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta as the United States deals with getting a handle on the coronavirus scare, the “Black Swan” event of our time because of its harsh blow of unpredictability, which could cost Trump his re-election bid in November.
In Atlanta, Trump announced, “Anybody who wants a test gets a test.”
But the day before, even Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence, during his daily coronavirus news conference, contradicted the president. “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.” Pence added that reaching the target number of tests would take at least another week.
Perhaps, the conflicting reports from the White House can be blamed on Trump jet lag.
There also is that hint of demagoguery.
As Mark McKinnon, a political adviser and host of the Showtime political show “The Circus” mentioned on CNN: “[Sanders] is creating a passion among voters, the same kind of passion you see among Trump voters. Sanders has got a narrative. And his narrative is very much like Trump’s, ironically. Which is, the system is rigged, you’re getting screwed. He just has a different prescription and a different cause.”
Elsewhere, Sanders and Trump, being two non-traditional politicians, have been media bonanzas for the press, whether television, websites, national newspapers or radio. And let’s face it: They are keeping many press members employed.
They both denounce certain demographic and socio-economic groups — Trump vs. migrants and Sanders vs. billionaires.
And with no apologies.
Sanders and Trump seem to have an affinity for certain authoritarian figures. We know about Trump and his cozy relationships with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. It’s like romancing the stone. While Sanders appears to admire Fidel Castro and strongmen regimes espousing socialism, if not communism.
Remember Alan Gross, who was held captive in Cuba for five years. He was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He traveled to Cuba to expand internet service to that nation’s small Jewish community. Sanders visited him in captivity as part of a congressional delegation in 2014.
Gross recalled to NPR about Sanders: “He said, quote, ‘I don’t know what’s so wrong with this country.’’’ However, Sanders denied Gross’ allegation on Chris Wallace’s “Fox News Sunday” show.
Yes, Sanders and Trump show there can be a thin line between political ideologues in opposition.
Trump obviously knows the score, as he sized up Sanders this way last month: “I actually think he would be tougher than most of the other candidates because he is like me, but I have a much bigger base.”
Guess it takes one to know one.