- - Thursday, April 21, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now, hear me out.

I know one is a socialist and the other a capitalist billionaire.

But Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders‘ followers and Donald Trump’s have a lot in common — and it’s not about traditional Republican or Democratic political ideology.

Both men are their own party’s outsiders, challenging the status quo on everything from the big banks’ and businesses’ influence on the political structure, to America’s role in NATO, questioning why other countries aren’t paying their fair share. Mr. Sanders‘ and Mr. Trump have both stressed the United States’ need to be neutral when negotiating with Israel and Palestine, and the perils of favoring one too much in order to strike a deal.

Each man rails about “unfair” U.S. trade deals that have depleted the Rust Belt of jobs, and both pledge to bring back employment to American workers. Mr. Trump has promised to protect Social Security, and Medicare, and has stood by his support for universal health-care — many of the entitlements Mr. Sanders would like to expand.

Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump have both complained of a “rigged” political system, where Party insiders control how many debates will be held, and the process of which states award delegates, or in Mr. Sanders‘ case, superdelegates. The Party rules don’t favor either man, simply because Mr. Sanders‘ hasn’t spent his career as a Democrat, and Mr. Trump has never spent a year in office.

Yes, their solutions are different — but the problems they’re highlighting are the same, and the way in which each man speaks about them, both honestly and fearlessly, has struck a chord with the American populace. Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders have both pulled from a disenfranchised, new, and more Independent-minded group of voters.

Hillary Clinton chastised Mr. Sanders at their last debate saying: “Describing the problem is a lot easier than trying to solve it.”

It was meant to hit Mr. Sanders‘ inexperience and lack of in-depth policy knowledge. Much like Mr. Trump‘s.

But it also highlighted an area of tension in both political races this year: Do Americans trust that an experienced technocrat — who has profited off the political system — can actually reform it from within?

Or is the federal bureaucratic sludge so deep and suffocating, that social and economic change can’t happen until it’s cleaned away by an outsider? Who do you trust more? The politician or the outsider?

Even in New York, after Mr. Sanders suffered a double-digit defeat to Mrs. Clinton, more than eight in 10 voters found Mr. Sanders honest and trustworthy and far fewer — 57 percent — said the same of Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Sanders commonly scores higher in Democratic exit polls on the question of which candidate inspires them more.

And on the Republican side, ABC News exit polls show that record levels of demand for an outsider, a straight-talker, and change agent, helped lift Mr. Trump to a resounding victory in the Empire State and beyond.

But, according to a Pew Research Center poll taken in January, the overlap between Mr. Sanders‘ supporters and Mr. Trump’s supporters is slim.

Seventy-seven percent of those who thought Mr. Sanders would be a good or great president, thought Mr. Trump would be poor or terrible, and 60 percent of those who thought Mr. Trump would be good or great thought Mr. Sanders would be poor or terrible.

But now, only one man has the path to the presidential nomination.

Mr. Sanders — although putting up a good fight and attracting legions of fans on Twitter and Facebook and holding rallies with thousands of people — simply cannot win the Democratic nomination without switching over hundreds of superdelegates, a near impossible task.

Even Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama tweeted on Wednesday: “The Sanders strategy to get super delegates to overturn the popular vote winner has exactly zero chance of success.”

So it’s time for Mr. Sanders‘ supporters to ask themselves — would they rather have the White House go to Mrs. Clinton, who takes Wall Street money and will most likely fall to the center if elected (because that’s what politicians do), or Mr. Trump, who although unproven would definitely rattle the political system?

Do you truly believe Democratic socialism — building layers and layers government on top of an already corrupt system — will really bring the change you want? And if so, can that vision be carried out by Mrs. Clinton, who has been corrupted by the system herself?

Sanders‘ supporters: If you’re against corporate influence in government, want better trade deals and oppose foreign-policy interventionism and dishonest politicians, then perhaps you should be taking a look at Mr. Trump.

Kelly Riddell is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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