An old white guy, with crazy hair steps up to a podium. He starts by talking about what a dismal place the U.S. is. He's angry. He moves on and makes some inaccurate statements about NATO and mentions (again) that he was against the Iraq war. He calls his opponents liars. He calls for a revolution. White people, especially those lower on the income scale and less educated, love him. People use words like dangerous and ridiculous to describe his policies. His supporters often say vile things.
He's Bernie Sanders. No, wait, Donald Trump. No wait, Donald Sanders. Bernie Trump.
I'm not a pundit. I don't hang around in the bully pulpit. I'm not actively involved in politics beyond watching the spectacle of this primary season from the sidelines. But as a casual political observer, there is a nagging feeling I just can't shake: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, while maintaining very different political platforms, seem like oddly similar characters dancing on opposite ends of the same dance floor. (And by dancing I mean, yelling, fist pumping and fear-mongering.)
I agree with all the criticism hurled at Donald Trump (and all of the Republican candidates). I think his demeanor, his words and his actions are deplorable. I'm hanging onto to stories like this one which details how unpopular he actually is (despite his frontrunner status).
I also happen to reside outside of the United States and feel a sense of responsibility to voice alarm at his rise. Most non-Americans I speak to are incredulous. How is Donald Trump so popular? Do people really think like he does? I don't but others clearly do. "And he is in the Republican party?" a British friend asked. Yes, but he has a Democratic character foil.
At the start of this political shit show, while I liked Hillary Clinton and never felt the Bern, I thought I could get behind either candidate as a definitively better choice than any of the clowns the Republicans put up.
As the circus continues however, I find myself more and more unsettled by Bernie Sanders. I'm not entirely turned off by socialism. I agree we live in a country where too few have too much and the opportunities to become one of the few are becoming harder and harder to find. Many of his pie-in-the-sky ideas (like free college tuition, equal pay and breaking up the big banks) sound great. Even if I believed he had any clue how to effectively implement any of his plans, there is still something troubling: the eerie similarities between Sanders and Trump.
I know, I know. There are plenty of differences. But the angry, old, white man fighting on behalf of millions non-white, non-elderly, and non-males, routine is hard to miss. They both flip flop on issues. (Trump: everything he's ever said about anything, he's also held the opposite to be true. See here, here, here and Google. Sanders: liability of gun makers and health care.) They both seem to be pushing an agenda of radicalization (albeit of different shades). (Trump: a giant wall to keep out our neighbors, shunning an entire religious group, among others. Sanders: taking all the money out of Wall Street, a 90 percent tax rate among others) They're both ill-informed about the international order. (Trump: his suggestion that Japan and South Korea should manufacture their own nuclear weapons and his dangerous comments about NATO. Sanders: "uh, well, what I do know" is that he gave some really un-informed answers during a recent Daily News interview. Read all about how frighteningly little he knows here. They have outdated, old-man views on women. (Trump: where to begin? Sanders: this quote (about women being "really loud" that recently made the rounds on Twitter.) And there seems to be an inherent hypocrisy I can't believe they're getting away with. Sanders is part of the establishment he so often condemns. As a career politician, how much more "establishment" can you get? Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire, is positioning himself as a champion of the middle class. Even if he's not as rich as he says, he's never been "middle class."
I also know, this is politics. All the candidates are unpopular. Hillary is not perfect and can be equally criticized. But the problems we face are complicated, nuanced and numerous. People are clearly angry and ready for change. People are tired of superfluous political correctness. But if you lead with grace and decency, people will follow with grace and decency. The old, angry, negative white guys both seem to be missing this.