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Hullabaloo


Monday, January 11, 2016

 

Had enough and then some

by Tom Sullivan


Photo by AFGE via Creative Commons

In a conversation over the weekend, a knowledgeable rural organizer raised the prospect that in a an election with Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket, conservative, white, working-class rural voters might be persuaded to back Sanders. It's not the first time the idea has been raised. Depending on whether or not Trump winds up the Republican nominee, it's not necessarily a wild idea.

Americans have a remarkable capacity for compartmentalizing. It is that capacity that might explain how it is possible that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders can appeal to some of the same white, working-class voters. Yet, the idea that some Trump supporters might be persuaded to vote for Sanders, the declared socialist, seems patently absurd. At Political Animal, D.R. Tucker addresses that forcefully:

Nix’s argument is why I find the contention that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders might be able to woo Trump’s supporters patently absurd. Let’s be blunt: the average Trump supporter shares (or at the very least tolerates) the Republican frontrunner’s reactionary views on gender and race, his loathing of outsiders, his malevolence towards Mexicans and Muslims. Does anyone in his or her right mind think these right-wing revanchists would ever vote for a self-professed democratic socialist? These voters view “democratic socialism” as a euphemism for “handouts to people in the ghetto.” It’s not happening.

Maybe and maybe not. Trump's malevolence and xenophobia may not be the sole or even principle attractor for all of his supporters. Charlie Pierce found a Canadian who came from Monteal to Trump's Burlington rally "for the show." It does have a certain WWE feel to it. Come for the Smackdown. Stay for the Trump. It's hard to say how many of Trump's fans come to be "a good audience" for the reality show.

The thing is too, neither the right nor the left is monolithic. Now, for many white, working-class voters, nuance is suspect and smacks of over-educated elitism and lack of principle. Yet some of the same people pray to Jesus and quote the inerrant scriptures and violate them in spirit and in fact without seeming to see any contradiction. Hypocrisy? Maybe. Or compartmentalization.

The common compartment both Trump and Sanders inhabit is that they are not perceived as establishment politicians. Trump, because he is Trump, and Sanders for all his years in Washington still presents as the same disheveled, cranky fly in the ointment. This year that's what supporters of both candidates wanted for Christmas – someone they can trust to give a middle finger to the elites. That's certainly the mood among T-party activists here. It's possible that for at least a fraction of Trump supporters that that drives them more than sticking it to Muslims and other minorities. In close races, shaving the spread at the margins can, if it doesn't win the election at the top of the ticket, at least help down-ticket candidates. That's the possibility my white, working-class advocate was getting at in wondering about attracting Trump supporters to Sanders. Some might set aside democratic socialist in one compartment in service to sticking it to Washington.

The anti-establishment, populist mood exists here on both the left and the right, a "plague on both your houses" mood. A lot of former Republicans as well as Democrats have re-registered UNAffiliated (that's how it's designated here). We have seen a few Republicans leave the GOP out of disgust, but that doesn't mean they will vote Democrat, especially for any "establishment" Democrat. Depending on their leanings and the November slate, they might vote for either Trump or Sanders (if they're disgusted with the GOP) or else stay home if neither is on the ballot as the clear anti-establishment choice.

A totally inexperienced independent won the second-most votes in our recent city council race, helping knock off a sitting Democratic councilman in a solid-blue town. The incumbent wasn't left enough for voters, perceived too business-friendly and too party-associated (correctly or incorrectly). The left is as pissed off at their establishment over feeling unheard as the righties are. Both want to stick a thumb in the eye of their respective leaders. A bumper sticker seen over the weekend put it succinctly: Bernie. Because f*ck this sh#t. It's a sentiment Trump supporters can find relatable.