The Coming and Welcome Clash of Bernie and Trump

Ever since the populist wave of 2016 that brought us Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, various “experts” and members of the political elite desperately have been trying to regain the power they lost. If the current state of the 2020 presidential election is any indication, however, they have not retaken anything. Instead they have lost more ground than populists in 2016 ever thought it would be possible to see them lose.

Feeling the Bern

It might be wise to start conducting an autopsy report right away, because the Democratic National Committee is already dead. It’s not so much that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) killed it, but rather, that the DNC died by an entirely avoidable misadventure in their desperate attempts to stop him.

First there was the extremely questionable Iowa caucuses, where it is likely that voter fraud occurred and stole what could have been a clear-cut Bernie victory. Sanders’ supporters translated this into even more energy, allowing him to win New Hampshire. Then there were the breaking “reports” that the Sanders campaign, allegedly, is being “assisted by Russians.” Sanders pulled no punches in his very Trumpian response, calling out the Washington Post and the media in general for deliberately timing the release of such a politically convenient story.

The shark officially jumped—and comparisons between what the Democratic machine was doing to Bernie and what they did to Trump becoming not only accurate, but required—Chris Matthews of MSNBC rounded things out nicely by reacting to Bernie’s landslide win in the Nevada caucuses by comparing Bernie’s political rise to the Nazis taking over France. As President Trump has demonstrated, when they start calling you a Nazi and falsely accusing you of Russian collusion, then you know you have won and they have absolutely nothing left.

Just as the establishment GOP tried to run as many candidates as possible to stop then-candidate Trump, but only succeeded in dividing the field so much that he ran away with the early contests due to mere pluralities, so too is history now repeating itself with the DNC in Bernie Sanders’ long march to the nomination.

In the end, as Breitbart’s John Nolte put it best, they could not stop Bernie for the same reasons they could not stop Trump: For all of Bernie’s radical positions, at the end of the day, he is still a sincere and authentic individual who believes everything he says. He has his core base of passionate supporters not because he pretends to believe in universal healthcare (like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren does), but because he has actually believed in it his whole life. As Michael Bloomberg has demonstrated, money, media, and institutional power cannot defeat authenticity.

Berning Down the Establishment

Yes, there are plenty of reasons to be fearful of a Bernie Sanders nomination. He is, after all, an unapologetic and self-described socialist who wants to take away all private healthcare and push fraudulent, fascist schemes like the “Green New Deal.” His nomination would indeed signal a terrifying shift to the far-left by the Democratic Party as it has no choice but to embrace a man who aligns more closely with Karl Marx than with Bill Clinton or John Kennedy.

But in the event that Sanders officially accepts the Democratic nomination, there will be a few victories to be claimed for all of us. That moment, if it happens, will be the end of the Democratic establishment. After four years, and after numerous attempts to stop him electorally, legally, and in the media, the DNC still will have failed. Anything that is bad for the political establishment, on both sides, is good for the rest of us.

When Donald Trump did this to the Republican Party, it pulled back the curtain and exposed a GOP elite that was complacent in the eroding of our culture, comfortable in ceding ground on social issues, lazy in a foreign policy that had become little more than forever war, and directly responsible for mass, unfettered immigration into our country just to please the donor class with an endless supply of cheap labor. 

With Bernie Sanders, the mask has been torn right off the DNC. It has exposed them as the oligarchical, un-democratic machine that they always have been—a power structure providing mere lip-service, and nothing more, to their increasingly far-left base. Yet as much as the GOP desperately tried to stop Donald Trump with rhetoric and in forming temporary alliances between the various ideological factions, they never tried actually rigging the primaries or the delegates against him. The same cannot be said for the Democrats, and Bernie has just proven this to the entire world for a second time.

A Populist is a Populist is a Populist

When one thinks of political debates, chances are he is thinking of some historic presidential debate, such as Reagan vs. Carter or Trump vs. Clinton, or perhaps one of the more entertaining primary debates, like the first two Republican debates of 2016, or the bloodbath that was the most recent Democratic debate in Las Vegas.

But perhaps one of the most significant political debates of all time was one held over a year and a half ago by two non-politicians. In November of 2018, right before the midterm elections, former Breitbart CEO and chief strategist to President Trump Steve Bannon took on the notorious NeverTrumper David Frum of The Atlantic, in an installment of the televised “Munk Debates,” in Toronto, Ontario. In addition to arguing over the merits of President Trump’s policies and his long list of successes in office, the main idea of the debate, as argued by Bannon, was that the future of Western politics is no longer the “liberal” world order of previous decades, but a new frontier dominated by populist movements.

This, Bannon argued, was not in dispute. The only question to be asked, then, is this: Will it be a right-wing, nationalist, conservative form of populism, as represented by Donald Trump, or will it be a left-wing, socialist, progressive populism like what Sanders has to offer? Bannon’s words are even more prescient today, as the showdown between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders increasingly seems likely. But the truth is it was always inevitable.

It has been said that as goes the United Kingdom, so goes America. If Brexit had never happened, there most likely would not be a President Trump. It was true in 2016, and once again it appears that our nation’s ancestor across the pond has set the stage for what is to unfold politically this year.

Last year, the United Kingdom held its third general election in four years. Although the primary issue in play was the carrying out of Brexit in the official withdrawal from the European Union, there was even more on the line in that election. The incumbent prime minister, an unapologetic nationalist with a unique head of blonde hair as wells as a knack for being politically incorrect and breaking many political norms, faced off against an aging, angry socialist who had driven the country’s major left-wing party even further to the Left.

The result was that Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won an even greater landslide than the most generous polling projections anticipated—taking its biggest majorities since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party suffered its worst defeat since a man named Adolf was in power in Germany. Johnson, having already made swift work of a successful Brexit, has since wasted no time in addressing other crucial issues such as cracking down on immigration.

Of course it is still too early to know for sure how the 2020 election will go. If the U.K. is any indication, however, then “the Bern” will be extinguished by the Donald’s hurricane in the fall. But as Bannon would agree, this is an election that needed to happen regardless of how clear the outcome now seems. Even more important than one outsider being pitted against the establishment, like in 2016, is two outsiders with polar opposite opinions, both having defeated their respective establishments, now vying for the power vacuum that has been left behind.

Rather than facing more decades of political false dichotomies, like Romney vs. Obama or Bush vs. Kerry, where the same establishment class holds all the cards regardless of who wins, a Trump vs. Bernie election truly will mark a revolutionary choice, the likes of which America has never before seen. It will truly be the first free and actual choice that Americans have had in a presidential election in a very, very long time. That alone is worth celebrating and embracing as a win for our republic.

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

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