Trump, Sanders and The Politics of Karma

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So it’s beginning to look like the 2020 American Presidential race might pit Donald Trump – a right-wing demagogic populist – against Bernie Sanders – an extreme left-wing socialist.

It’s a potential confrontation that, if you’re into the theatre of politics, would be awfully fun to watch.

However, for a lot of people out there such a scenario is actually far from fun; I’m talking about so-called “moderates” from both the Republican and Democratic camps, the kind of moderates who want Trump to lose the election, but who also believe Sanders is just too far on the left to beat him.

Former Democratic Party strategist James Carville, for instance, recently spoke for the party’s moderate wing when he declared, “Do we want to be an ideological cult or do we want to have a majoritarian instinct to be a majority party?  He’s (Sanders) never been a Democrat.  He’s an ideologue.”

And now some “NeverTrump” conservatives, i.e. Republican moderates who oppose Trump, are starting to muse about creating a “NeverBernie” movement.

Even moderates here in Canada are getting in on the act.

Scott Reid, a one-time advisor to Prime Minister Paul Martin, tweeted:
“IMO Kamala Harris was the best pure talent in this race when it started.  She’s gone.  Elizabeth Warren was next – freakishly talented.  And she’s all but done.  I don’t understand what’s going on in this race.  It’s mental.  Don’t these ppl want to f**king win?”

So yes, it seems moderates all across the continent are on the verge of panic.

But I’d argue they have no one to blame but themselves for the mess they find themselves in, since, in my view, they helped to create the political environment where a Trump vs. Sanders election could occur.

Why do I say that?

Well, let’s first consider the moderate Republicans.

For years and years, Republican moderates were raising alarms bells across America about issues such as illegal immigration and unfair trade and “Washington elites”, a strategy which totally worked in terms of mobilizing and energizing their base.

But much to the dismay of that base, Republicans never really followed through on their rhetoric; indeed, once Republican politicians were elected to Washington, they seemed, at least from the perspective of many grassroots conservatives, to become part of the problem; they were “going along to get along.”

Is it any wonder then that many Republicans who were fed up with the “politics as usual” and who were disillusioned with their own party “establishment”, were attracted to a guy like Trump, who successfully branded himself as anything but a career politician and as someone who spoke for the grassroots?

What’s more, during the Republican primaries in 2016, Trump cleverly outflanked his adversaries on just about every key issue the Republican base had come to care about — on immigration, on trade, on confronting the elites, Trump consistently took the toughest most hard line positions.

Simply put, Trump took standard Republican rhetoric, super-charged it then took possession of it.

In a way, the moderates, by continually betraying their base, had made the emergence of a “Trump” almost inevitable.

As for the Democrats, well for the past four years, their moderates have been doing everything possible to demonize Trump as some sort of terrifying right wing monster.

Trump’s tax cuts would kill poor people; his immigration policies were fascistic and cruel; his stance on the environment would destroy the planet.

And yes, in the process, they certainly whipped up their base into a frenzy, but they also created a climate of fear and fear often breeds political extremism.

Basically, many anxious Americans on the left, believe the only way to stop Trump’s supposed lunge to the right is to make an equally large lunge to the left; the only way to stop the evil of fascism, they reason, is with a strong dose of socialism.

And despite what Carville and the NeverTrumpers might say, such reasoning will resonate with many left-wing Democrats.

Hence, Sander’s rise to front-runner status.

Is there a lesson for Canada in all this?


Canada’s Conservative Party, for instance, should never take its base for granted.  If it’s going to use conservative-style rhetoric to win elections, it should strive to live up to that rhetoric.

Recall how in the 1980s and 1990s, under then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada campaigned like conservatives but then governed like liberals.

This angered the base, fractured the party and ultimately led to the emergence of the conservative/populist Reform Party.

Something similar could happen again.

As for the Liberals, well on issues like climate change …. oops I mean “climate emergency” they’ve been fear-mongering like crazy to justify their carbon tax.

In fact, if you believe the Liberals and their media allies, Canada is on the brink of an environmental catastrophe.

So given this Liberal-induced terror about the future of our planet, should we be surprised that eco-activists are shutting down our railways and highways to stop the building of oil pipelines?

As noted earlier, fear doesn’t make a great environment for compromise.

At any rate, my point is, perhaps Trump battling Sanders for the US presidency is a bit of karma for the moderates in the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as a cautionary tale for Canada’s political leaders.

On the other hand, maybe both Trump and Sanders will lose out to Michael Bloomberg, who might show that it’s possible for a billionaire capitalist oligarch to buy the presidency.

I wonder how that would make the moderates feel?

Photo Credit: Snopes

More from Gerry Nicholls.     @GerryNic

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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