Colson: Bernie Sanders — the anti-Trump candidate

with John Colson

Is it just me, or is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders kind of the flip-side of the Donald Trump political coin?

Bernie, like The Donald, has been standing outside the nation’s traditional political and economic architecture for so long it’s almost as if he’s a visitor from another planet.

But in Bernie’s case, due to his long public service in the halls of government and his absolute identification with the needs and problems of the working class, the planet happens to be a version of the United States that the founding fathers might actually have recognized, had they lived to see how things are today.

And that would be a nation built on the backs of the laboring classes, but with guarantees of a decent share in the proceeds of the labor that keeps this country going.

In Trump’s case, I’m not exactly sure what his vision for the nation looks like, but I’m pretty certain it involves small knots of very wealthy people living high off the hog while the vast majority of the population lives on the dregs and leavings of the national pig roast.

Trump undoubtedly believes that what’s good for the wealthy is good for the nation as a whole, just as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s with his “trickle-down economics” theory.

The trouble comes when this theory runs smack dab into the reality of the über-wealthy class and its tendency to accumulate and horde its wealth, often in the form of hidden bank accounts, multiple mansions, cars, planes and other high-priced baubles. The only things that truly trickle downward these days are the economic viability of the middle class and the general standard of living of anyone not lucky enough or aggressive enough to be counted among the über-wealthy.

Sanders, a self-described socialist and critic of the status quo, has built his underdog campaign on blunt talk about the nation’s economy, health-care and the selling of our political system to the highest bidders.

In addition to advocating a $15-dollar-an-hour national minimum wage and raising taxes on the rich and on Wall Street, Sanders supports a government-led jobs program to fix the nation’s infrastructure (mainly roads and bridges), a single-payer health care system, an expansion of Social Security benefits and debt-free college (not universal free education, as some critics have tried to maintain, just education at a cost that realistically can be borne by the students).

Again, he is the flip-side of Trump, because Sanders is an outsider with a real message, where Trump is an outsider with nothing but an anti-message.

Trump has no political program beyond his disdain for the rest of the Republican field of candidates and his certitude that the voters were all addicted viewers of his pathetic television series, “The Apprentice,” and will vote for him or they’ll all be fired.

Another Trump-like aspect of Bernie is that he can draw huge crowds of people to see and hear him deliver his message. Last July in Madison, Wisconsin, at a rally that pulled in more than 100,000, Sanders incredulously announced that it was the biggest such event of its kind in the 2016 presidential race up until then. Which it was.

Trump also draws huge numbers, but only because he is so outrageous that people hang on his every word in the hopes he will do something wild and wicked. They don’t come to learn from Trump, they come to see his act, sort of like crowds at a circus hoping to see the lion eat the head of the lion-tamer.

At that rally in July, held at what once was known as the Dane County Coliseum but now is called the Alliant Energy Center (can you say, corporate hegemony over all we see and do?), Sanders openly declared, “This campaign is about creating a political revolution in America.”

And if he were to win the election and follow through on his rhetoric, it could be exactly that, offering the first step in a campaign to give this country back to the people as a whole, rather than continue to cede control to a lying class of political hacks and self-interested hucksters from both parties.

Of course, we’ve been here before.

When Barack Obama burst onto the political scene in 2007, he was a one-term U.S. Senator from Illinois, kind of like Abraham Lincoln was about 150 years earlier. Obama mostly was known for having given a rousing keynote address at the Democratic National Convention three years earlier.

He made all the right social-welfare noises, pushed all the right progressive buttons, and he’s black — all of which made him the instant darling of the left and gradually won over the middle (in political slide-rule terms).

But he failed to live up to the promise of his candidacy, for some reasons of his own and for many, many reasons outside his control.

Would Bernie Sanders be able to do any better, given the corrupt political realities of our times?

I don’t know, but it sure couldn’t hurt to find out.

Aspen Times Weekly

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