Sanders' Revolution Can't Compare to Trump's Revolt - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Sanders' Revolution Can't Compare to Trump's Revolt

Sanders' Revolution Can't Compare to Trump's Revolt

By Susan Del Percio

Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at Houston University in Houston, Texas on February 23, 2020.
SourceMark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP via Getty


Because primaries have consequences.

Susan Del Percio

Susan Del Percio

Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist and senior advisor to the Lincoln Project.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders has surged to become the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, many are comparing his ability to appeal to blue-collar workers to what Donald Trump was able to do in 2016. This is a false equivalence.

2020 is not 2016. When Trump and Sanders were running in the 2016 primaries, they were both anti-establishment candidates. Trump was appealing to voters who were still struggling from factory closings by promising to bring back manufacturing jobs and to get tough on trade — while blaming the establishment for their troubles. Sanders was running against the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton. As she boasted about economic recovery, Sanders appealed to the factory workers who felt they’d been left behind, with bad trade deals leading to low wages.

Then-candidate Trump was leading a revolt against the political class, claiming he could make better deals and drain the swamp. On the other hand, Sanders was trying to start a political revolution — proposing a complete reordering of American society.

Suburban voters do not want to fundamentally change our economic system.

Since winning the presidency, Trump has continued to fight those in his own government, delivering on the promised revolt against the government establishment. He attacked numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials and the judiciary, and lately he has taken things to an entirely new level by creating a “Deep State” hit list.

In 2018, the voters had a different idea of the government they wanted. A revolt against the political insiders was one thing, but a dismantling of how government should function was another. They didn’t want a vindictive, paranoid and malevolent president. They wanted elected officials who delivered on better health care and a promise that they would work across the aisle to get things done on their behalf. As a result, Democrats won 31 moderate “swing” congressional districts that Trump had won in 2016, providing them with the House majority.

On Feb. 19, 2019, Sanders sent this email to his supporters announcing his candidacy: “Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.”

It is the crux of the Sanders message: Complete the revolution. The question is, four years after they backed an anti-establishment revolt, do Americans really want a political revolution? 

A revolution is about creating a new government or new system and getting rid of the current one. For example, trading capitalism for democratic socialism, or eliminating private health care for a government-run system. For those who believe this is a false equivalence, take note of what Sanders said in a 2019 interview with The Nation: “We have to talk about democratic socialism as an alternative to unfettered capitalism.”

Should Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, they will be forced to embrace his call for a political revolution. So far, none of those moderate Democrats elected to the House from swing districts have signed on, and it is unlikely that they ever will.

Back in November, I wrote a column entitled “How Long Will the Blue Wave Roll? Watch the Suburbs,” and the takeaway still holds true. “A few things suburban voters are not fond of: losing their private health insurance, open borders, free college education and health care for immigrants who are in the country illegally — and, of course, higher taxes.”

Suburban voters outside cities like Milwaukee and Phoenix, who will be critical to deciding the presidential election, want better service, and if that means electing new people, they will. Suburban voters do not want to fundamentally change our economic system to where government is responsible for providing and dictating what services you may have. 

While many turned their back on Trump’s revolt against the establishment in 2018 and are ready to do it in 2020, they have not enlisted for a revolution, nor will they embrace one. In stump speeches and on the debate stage, Sanders loves to cite all the polls showing him beating Trump in key states. But that’s before an onslaught of attacks from Republicans, and voters learning more about his proposals. Don’t forget: Clinton had a healthy polling lead on Trump for most of 2016.

If you think you have seen the ugliest side of Trump, you are mistaken. His campaign team is in full swing and will aim to destroy whomever they face. The Democrats should not make it easy for them by serving up a democratic socialist seeking a revolution. A Bernie Sanders nomination may very well mean that the most incompetent, destructive and vile president in our history is reelected.

Susan Del Percio

Susan Del Percio

Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist and senior advisor to the Lincoln Project.

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