Let’s get one thing clear: I’m never going to vote for Bernie Sanders. I view his policies as inherently destructive for the United States. His fiscal policy is full of ridiculously expensive programs with no method to pay for them which will stand even the slightest scrutiny. His domestic policy is predicated solely on forcing some people to accept drastic changes to their lives simply because his supporters want them, a recipe for division and hate. His foreign policy will harm our allies and embolden our enemies, and his history strongly suggests he is a puppet of Putin although he swears he’s fighting the Russian President (and his supporters swear he’s telling the truth this time.) Even setting policy aside for a moment – which is a foolish thing to consider when discussing a President – he is personally reprehensible, as a man who made millions by conning people into thinking he was going to work for them while consistently failing to deliver on his promises and as a father who handed off all parenting duties to the mother after leaving her.
These are also the reasons I’m never going to vote for Donald Trump, for whom the above paragraph could also have been written.
The Trump-era Republicans are playing a dangerous game. Recognizing that Trump is a weak candidate, but having put all of their political chips on the table in his favor, they are now attempting to push the Democrats into nominating the candidate least likely to win against him. To anyone who watched the 2016 election cycle, this should seem familiar.
In 2016, then-candidate Trump was the beneficiary of more than a billion dollars in what amounted to free advertising from the media. Later revelations indicated that his constant promotion on Republican-friendly sources were in part due to arrangements Trump and his campaign donors had made with key personnel like Roger Ailes at Fox. This was mirrored at the time by a near-constant focus by sources like CNN and MSNBC; Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski exemplified this, treating Trump with a mixture of appreciation and amusement until he had fully secured the general nomination. Trump, at the time, thought this was because he had conned them into promoting him. The truth was that they, and other pro-Democrat media sources, had used him for ratings and to get a Republican nominee Hillary could beat. They reportedly did so at the urging of Hillary campaign staffers.
The people behind this strategy underestimated the disgust many Americans felt toward Hillary, and relied upon national polling instead of electoral numbers. The result was the reverse of what they expected: President Trump. They had directly aided in securing as President a person so incompetent, so disassociated from reality, and so monomaniacal they believed he could never win a campaign.
Now the Republicans are attempting the same strategy. They are being less circumspect about it; rather than fluff Bernie in their opinion forums, they are directly suggesting that Trump voters go to the polls and vote for Bernie in the primary.
This is being likened to “Operation Chaos”, a Rush Limbaugh-fronted effort in 2008 to keep Hillary alive in the primaries long enough to drain resources from Obama and aid McCain’s Presidential run against him. Obama had far more campaign money and it was a strategy that gave McCain time to assert himself.
This is dramatically different. This is attempting to assert control over the Democrat primary process, subverting the will of their voters. That, on its face, runs counter to the goals of the American experiment. The Democrats have left them open to such efforts by maintaining open primaries, but honor and respect for the founders should preclude people taking advantage of such an opening.
Trump followers have taken up their orders, and are proudly voting for Bernie Sanders either because they don’t believe the founders valued things like honor and respect or because they have had it drilled into their mind that their actions are no longer politics, but war against their fellow citizens. Either view is deeply flawed.
Thankfully, their efforts may come to nothing. The Democratic race is far from over, and a first place showing from Biden in South Carolina could shake things up further, making him the frontrunner again. If Biden falters badly, Pete or Amy could still take up the banner.
If Bernie wins the nomination, though, it will be the culmination of all that the Republicans have worked toward… and they would be well advised to be cautious.
Their assumption is that people who cannot bring themselves to vote for Bernie will need to vote for Trump. That is wrong. It was demonstrated to be wrong in 2016, when many people voted for third parties or kept the top of the ticket blank. Trump isn’t merely disliked; he’s despised, whether they can see it or not. And he is despised not because of “TDS” or any such fictional construction, but because he has wounded our country economically and militarily while strengthening those who wish us harm and is consolidating power like a despot as he does so.
There is nothing which will induce me to shift my vote for Trump. Nothing. And I am far from alone. I am not a “NeverTrumper who is moving back to Trump”, nor is anyone else with whom I am familiar. I’ve heard the binary arguments, I’ve been told that any vote for a third party is a vote for the opposition, and I’ve recognized the inherent stupidity and poor math skills that such arguments represent.
For the sake of argument, let’s address those who are able to be influenced in this way. They are not, nor have they ever been, “Never Trump”. They are more accurately described as “Please, dear Lord, don’t make me have to pick between Trump and the Democrat.” Most of them, in the privacy of the voting booth in 2016, pulled the lever for Trump. These are the people who have bought fully into the binary argument. They didn’t vote for Trump because they liked him or trusted him, they simply thought he might be the less damaging option.
This is the group that the Republicans are targeting, thinking that if they’re stuck between Sanders and Trump, they’ll go Trump again. But human nature doesn’t work that way. Feeling like they have a gun to their head and having to pick one, they will likely go with Sanders for the same reason they went with Trump… there’s at least a chance he won’t be as terrible as the other one.
If we wake up in November with a President Bernie Sanders, it will be due in large part to the efforts of Trump and the Republicans. They should never be allowed to forget it.