Career politician Bernie Sanders and real-estate mogul Donald Trump, or water and oil, respectively, have more in common than their New York City roots and signature hair styles. Though they have walked opposite paths — Trump grew up Catholic and privileged, while Sanders is Jewish and was middle class — they have arrived at a similar place this election: appealing to a voter base that has lost trust in politicians and hope in the American dream.
Both candidates have cultivated support through candid speeches at rallies of hundreds, capitalizing on criticisms of the current political and economic state of the country, and publicizing their alternative route to campaign funding (though Politico’s investigation into Trump’s funding revealed that he receives the majority from donors). This has led voters from both sides to believe that their candidate is the alternative to “bought and sold” disingenuous politicians.
It’s this sentiment that brought voters like DePaul students Robert Beattie and Nicole Been (for Trump) and Lincoln Berget (for Sanders) to each candidate’s respective camp.
Those for Trump say that his brash nature, which has caused controversy, is what works for him.
“He just doesn’t care what people think about him — he’s brash, he’s crude, but that works. His devil-may-care attitude is appealing,” DePaul College Republican Beattie said. “Because of that he seems a lot more honest than a lot of other politicians in the Republican party.”
Those who support Sanders say that his genuine nature appeals to his supporters.
“While you may not agree with his message, I think he’s undeniably genuine. He’s not receiving millions of dollars through super PACs from large corporations,” Berget said.
Sanders and Trump coincide at points beyond similarities in their anti-establishment appeal, though. The two share ideals on various policy issues such as trade and Social Security, and were both opposed to the war in Iraq and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Throughout their campaigns, both candidates have called for investment in infrastructure, free trade policies and the preservation of Social Security benefits, according to a report by NPR, oftentimes in a similar manner, using the exact same keywords.
“What we must do is say, of course we’re not going to cut Social Security but we are going to expand Social Security benefits,” Sanders said in a meeting with Iowa Steelworkers in Des Moines, Iowa Jan. 26.
“We’re not going to cut your Social Security and we’re not cutting your Medicare. We’re going to take jobs back from all these countries that are ripping us off. We’re going to become a wealthy country again we’re going to be able to save your Social Security,” Trump said in a rally in Des Moines, Iowa Dec. 11.
But if there’s one glaring difference between the two, it’s the message they’re spreading, DePaul geopolitics professor Maureen Sioh said. She explained the concept of a “double movement,” coined by economic historian Karl Polanyi, where instability in the economy leads to a reactionary countermovement, which then often leads to two, often opposing, perceived solutions.
The shared, angry sentiment between Trump and Sanders supporters is clear: there’s an increasing income gap, a shrinking middle class and disproportionate inequality, which leads to the feeling that radical change to the economy is needed.
But where the movement divides is at the onset of the age old question: by what route should change be enacted? Or in this election: why Trump, or why Sanders?
“Even if you look at this in terms of the ‘double movement,’ why people are reacting to the dislocations in our economy and the instability and flocking to Trump as the solution, the question is why Trump rather than Sanders,” Sioh said.
The answer is rooted in each candidate’s residing message, representing the largest difference in their campaigns thus far.
“I think (Trump’s) message is simpler,” Sioh said. “I think if you are angry, it is easier to try and find a straw figure to blame, like this very shadowy, illegal immigrant.
“What Sanders is saying —’let’s take down Wall Street’ — that requires a lot of energy, that requires a lot of organization, it’s obviously going to be a really uphill task. You’re talking about taking on power. What Trump is saying — let’s take on the weakest in society — that’s a much easier message to absorb.”