Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Trump Appeal Very Different From Sanders Appeal

The pundits keep (trump)eting the idea that the two front-runners in the presidential race are draining the same swamp. Wrong.  Trump and Sanders are appealing to fundamentally different yearnings.

Donald Trump is looking back.  He has the 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s in his rear view vision:  a simpler world with a dramatically better economy.  People actually received real health care, their incomes were rising, their futures and that of their children were bright.  (Not to mention that the US commanded the respect of other nations).  None of this is true anymore.  While the US is wealthier today than in the earlier bygone eras, there is no vibrancy to today's economy and the life chances of a majority of Americans are significantly diminished from the life chances of earlier generations.  Very few Americans think the future for their children will be better than the present.  And they are right.  A growing economy and opportunities for lower and middle income families are ancient history.

Bernie Sanders has an entirely different point of view.  Sanders believes that America is, and always has been, an unfair place.  He thinks that rich people run America and imprison the rest of us.  Rich people, in Sanders' view, are bad people with bad motives.  His statement that "the business model of Wall Street is based upon fraud" is telling.  One suspects that Bernie sees all businesses as based upon fraud. The fraud is the free market, which Bernie, who chose to take his honeymoon in Moscow when the communists were still firmly in power, would like to dismantle.  "Free this" and "free that" is just another way of saying:  "lets replace the free market with a few well-intention plutocrats like me and we will distribute society's production in a fair and equitable manner."  This is the fixed-pie concept.  There is only so much to go around -- economic growth is a non-starter of no interest to Bernie -- so lets divvy everything up the way I want it divvied up.  Forget the free market.  I know best what should be produced and who it should be given to. That's the Bernie message.

For Trump's vision to be a reality, there would have to be a return to free market economics.  It is by no means clear that he understands that.  What he seems to have in common with Bernie is the "strong man" formulation.  "I know best.  Trust me." That is what Trump and Sanders seem to have in common.  Sanders would prefer something along the lines of the old Soviet state, except Sanders seems to believe in "benevolent" state dictatorships.  Other than Singapore, there appear to be no examples of benevolent dictators in the long history of the world, so Sanders vision of compulsion probably would, in practice, be the same compulsion that one saw in the Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea.  Good intentions are rarely borne out when power is involved.

Free markets and free politics are the ticket to a good future, not "I know what's best for you."  The "I know what's best for you" view always ends in dictatorship and oppression. If Trump and/or Sanders are ultimately successful, the endgame would likely be the same for either.  But, they are certainly not tapping the same well.

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