One of the most fascinating aspects of the 2016 presidential campaign is the rise of two outsider candidates: Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican billionaire Donald Trump. They're eliciting support because Americans are fed up with typical Washington politicians.
Other than being born in New York City, the two men have little in common. During the sixties, Sanders attended the University of Chicago and soon became involved in the civil-rights movement. Trump, who is five years younger, went to Fordham, majored in real estate, and joined the family real estate business.
After graduation, Sanders, who is Jewish, spent some time on an Israeli Kibbutz and then moved to Vermont. He's been in Vermont politics since 1971 and identified as a Democratic Socialist. (In the Senate he's an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.)
Since 1971, Trump has been involved in Manhattan real estate development. In 2001 he completed the 72-story Trump World Tower and now owns several million feet of Manhattan real estate. Since 2003, Trump has been a TV personality starting with the reality show, "The Apprentice."
It was somewhat of a surprise when Bernie Sanders announced his campaign for president. "A political revolution is coming." On several occasions Donald Trump had threatened to run for president and it came as a surprise when he actually did. His slogan, "Make America great again," resonates with a significant segment of the Republican base.
Sanders focuses on two related issues: getting big money out of the political process and economic justice. He has an extensive track record on both issues. Trump is running as the outsider, suggesting the other (sixteen) Republican candidates are wimps. At the conclusion of the August 6th Republican debate Trump said:
Our country is in serious trouble. We don't win anymore. We don't beat China in trade. We don't beat Japan, with their millions and millions of cars coming into this country, in trade. We can't beat Mexico, at the border or in trade. We can't do anything right... we have to make our country great again, and I will do that.
He provided few specifics.
Not surprisingly, on the major issues - jobs, healthcare, immigration, Iran, etcetera - Sanders and Trump have diametrically opposed notions. Sanders has several job creation proposals that emphasize increased federal investment in the infrastructure. Trump promises to be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created." Trump subscribes to his own form of Reaganomics, a 5-point tax plan that includes repealing estate and corporate taxes, as well as lowering individual, capital gains, and dividend taxes.
Recently, Sanders said that he wants to replace Obamacare with a Medicare-for-all plan. In the Republican debate, Donald Trump called Obamacare "a complete disaster" and proposed, "a private [health insurance] system without the artificial lines around every state."
Sanders and Trump diverge on immigration. Sanders supports the "pathway-to-citizenship" plan. Recently he said if elected President, "he would push for immigration reform and go even further than President Barack Obama in expanding deportation relief." Trump has made immigration his signature issue. He promises to deport all undocumented immigrants and "build a wall... to keep illegals out."
They dramatically differ on global climate change. Bernie Sanders is the leading liberal Senator on this issue, calling climate change "the greatest threat facing the planet." On the other hand, Donald Trump said "global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese so that the United States would not be competitive in manufacturing."
These stark differences serve to underscore a significant disparity: Bernie Sanders gets little media coverage while Donald Trump dominates the news. Even though, when they appear in the same venue, Sanders draws bigger crowds than Trump.
The election polls show Trump leading all Republican candidates with 22 percent of the vote. The latest Democratic polls show Sanders in second plus among all Democratic candidates, with 27 percent of the vote. In New Hampshire Trump leads other Republicans with 24.5 percent of the vote. In New Hampshire Sanders leads other Democrats with 44 percent of the vote.
In the latest head to head polls Sanders leads Trump by 13 percent.
On August 15th, Bernie Sanders appeared at the Iowa State Fair and drew larger crowds than either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The latest CNN poll shows that Sanders has a +7 favorability rating among registered voters; 25 percent don't know who he is. The same poll shows Trump has a -20 favorability rating among registered voters; only one percent has never heard of him.
At the start of the campaign season, the conventional wisdom was that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton would emerge as the Republican and Democratic candidates. Now it appears that Donald Trump, an insurgent, will be Republican nominee. Hillary continues to lead all Democrats but, so far, Bernie Sander has run a better campaign with almost no notice from the press.
If a miracle happens and Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, he could beat Trump.