Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sanders vs. Trump - Who Would Win?

Considering my last post about Bernie Sanders, it is no secret that I have nothing but contempt for the man and his ideas.

But what about Donald Trump? Personally, I despise Trump. When it comes to immigration, his proposals are cruel, lacking in evidence, prohibitively expensive, and would hurt the American economy. He has been consistently wrong about China, wrong about Korea, and he is stupendously wrong about trade. The man is a sexist, a racist, a bully, a cry baby, a blowhard, an Internet troll, and an idiot who doesn't know what the thirteen stripes on the American flag represent.

And he is currently the candidate to beat in the Republican primaries. It speaks volumes about the Republican base.

I considered his candidacy in 2012 to be a joke and I maintain the same opinion this time around. He will NOT be the Republican nominee. Last time, I correctly predicted that Mitt Romney was going to win the nomination and lose the election to President Obama. This year, I am not quite sure who would win the Republican nomination (I am hoping for a Marco Rubio/Carly Fiorina ticket).

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Neither Sanders nor Trump will win

So why do I think that Trump will not be the Republican nominee?

Firstly, it's a mathematical question. Considering the large number of Republican candidates who are vying to become their party's nominee, one does not require a significant portion of the voters' support to become the front runner. As the campaign drags on (there's still more than a year to go!), the number of candidates will inevitably whittle down. As the voters are left with fewer choices, their support for different candidates will merge and coalesce to form larger blocs.

I'm also relieved by the fact that, like track races, whoever starts out as the front runner does not always end up being the front runner – they have more to lose than to gain.

Secondly, as I said already, it's still early in the primaries season and this is when the most partisan supporters come out to play. When less excitable voters begin to pay attention to the election process, and the primaries are no longer dominated by the extreme elements of party politics, the candidates will inevitably become more moderate as they try to move to the middle. This is known as the median voter theorem. When this happens, Trump's ability to use bombast and rhetoric will no longer be as effective as they are now.

It is for those same reasons that I can say with near certainty that Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic nominee either. Sanders will (and already has) forced Hillary Clinton to move to the left and Trump has forced some Republican candidates (notably Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker) to become as stupid as he is. However, that will be the end of their role in this race.

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What if I'm wrong?

I doubt that I am, but I am not infallible. So, what if I'm wrong? What if things don't work out the way I think they will and both Sanders and Trump go all the way? What happens then?

Sanders has said repeatedly that he would not run as an independent and would instead support the Democratic nominee if he does not win. However, he does seem to be intent on becoming the nominee as he has just warned that the Democrats would not win the White House without him in 2016.

For his part, Trump has said that he would run as an independent if he did not win the nomination AND he has also said that he would not do so.

If Sanders is the Democratic nominee and Trump is not the Republican nominee, despite the crowds that Sanders is getting at his campaign rallies (which are not all that different from the crowds that Ralph Nader and Ron Paul were able to boast), it will guarantee a Republican victory. On the other hand, if Trump is the Republican nominee and the Sanders is not the Democratic nominee, that would ensure a Democratic victory.

So what would happen if they both become their respective parties' nominees?

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Demagogues of Different Stripes

Both Sanders and Trump are demagogues, but of different stripes. Sanders' demagoguery has almost always been tied to progressive economics (inequality, tax the rich, expand Medicare and Medicaid, support labor unions, etc.). For all intents and purposes, Sanders is an ideological demagogue. As such, there is very little support (if any) for Sanders among conservative voters.

Trump's views, however, are unprincipled and opportunist. Although he certainly commands more support from conservative voters, some of his views would gain him support from progressives. In other words, Trump is not so much an ideological demagogue, but rather a personality-driven demagogue.

For example, when you listen to Sanders, he will say things like how he would support raising taxes on top income earners up to about 90 per cent. His meaning is clear and concise. He has distinctly said what he hopes to do. As much as that pleases policy wonks, however, politically, it's not as savvy as what Trump has been doing.

Instead of going into details, Trump relies on rhetoric for mass hypnosis. His usual go-to battle cry is “take our country back” or “make America great again.” The fact of the matter is that if you leave out the details, it allows the listeners to fill in the blanks with their own imagination.

It's the same reason President Obama's mantra of “hope and change” was so effective in 2008.

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And as much as I despise Trump, credit should be given where it is due. He is a masterful salesman. One thing that you learn if you ever get a job in sales is to never talk after a customer says he or she wants to buy something. If you keep talking, for whatever reason, the buyer might change his or her mind. The rule is to persuade, stop talking, and move on to the next customer. And that's what Trump does with his battle cries.

When Trump says “take our country back,” who is he saying that Americans should take their country back from? Is it the immigrants who are not stealing Americans' jobs? Is it China despite the symbiotic relationship between Beijing and Washington? Is it the PC crowd that is supposedly destroying free speech? Or is it the Koch Brothers who are not exactly on friendly terms with Trump?

Trump never gives the answer himself. And it's brilliant. Why would he when it's so much more effective to not do so and let everyone else do it for him?

Then there's the phrase “make America great again.” Great again. What does that imply? Firstly, it implies that America is not great anymore. That is a powerful emotional tool that Trump is playing with. It instills a sense of loss in people. I imagine that it must have been the way the British felt when they started to liberate their long-held colonies. We know that this is a powerful tool because psychologists and economists have proven long ago that people are more affected by the prospect of losing something than the prospect of gaining something. But unlike the British who had no choice but to watch their once-great empire collapse, Trump dangles the word “again” like an angler fish lures its prey with a dull light in the abyss. Despite the sense of loss, the word “again” gives people a sense of hope.

Give people a faceless enemy to fear, a sense of loss to cry about, and then let them scratch their itch. It's manipulative and it's brilliant.

Mr. Burns would approve
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If the election does end up being a choice between Sanders and Trump, my guess is that, at least for the next four years, we are all going to have to get used to the idea of the White House getting plated in gold.

The one thing that gives me comfort, however, is that neither man will win their respective parties' nominations.


  1. Yes, I agree with all of the above. It's amazing how much people stick to a tribe mentality and really think Bernie Sanders or Trump will win. Also, it's amazing how happy either side are to believe Sanders and Trump are truly a personification of their opponents' views. We'd rather dismiss the other sides as "racists" or "socialists" than listen to their ideas. Trump is right in that illegal immigration and our trade deals are problems -- let me be clear I don't agree with his solutions. Sanders is also right when he addresses issues like wealth inequality and students loans -- although I don't 100% agree with his solutions either. Regardless, I think my point here is clear. This is an excellent write up, John. You are always fair.

    1. Thanks. That being said, I don't think even I have ever claimed that I am fair.