Can Trump Win Over Sanders’ Supporters?

MJ Lee at CNN says that the Trump campaign is going to make a play for Sanders’ supporters.

Trump’s advisers say these comments are a preview of more explicit overtures the campaign is ready to make to Sanders’ supporters once the populist liberal exits the 2016 race. That strategy is based on the broad areas of overlap between voters attracted to Trump and those who have flocked to Sanders. Both have angrily denounced the political system as corrupt and expressed deep frustration that Washington is not helping ordinary people. They both oppose international trade deals, saying they hurt American jobs.

Throughout this primary season a lot of pundits have suggested that there is some overlap between Trump and Sanders supporters. What they see in common is that both politicians have tapped into white working class anger at government, fueling a populist uprising. But unless those who have “felt the bern” buy into the notion articulated by actress Susan Sarandon that a Trump presidency would ignite the revolution (an incredibly dangerous notion), it is difficult to see any overlap between what the two candidates have proposed.

Lee specifically mentioned that both Trump and Sanders oppose trade deals. But Trump is the only candidate who suggests this would be a good idea.

The Republican presidential front-runner’s campaign pledges to impose 45 percent tariffs on all imports from China and 35 percent on many goods from Mexico would spark financial market turmoil and possibly even a recession, former trade negotiators, trade lawyers, economists and business executives told Reuters.

The other issue both campaigns talk about a lot is how big money is corrupting our politics. Sanders proposes to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and publicly fund political campaigns. The only thing Trump says on that issue is that he himself isn’t beholden to big donors. Otherwise, he has no proposal to change things.

While Sanders has made the case for raising the minimum wage to $15, Trump thinks American wages are already too high.

Trump said he wouldn’t raise the minimum wage, and the reason is that America “is a country that is being beaten on every front.” The problem, he said: “Taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard, and they have to get into that upper stratum.”

When it comes to the 1%, Trump thinks they need a tax break.

Trump’s proposal would cut taxes for everyone, but especially the richest of the rich. If enacted, the top income tax rate would drop from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. It would also create an even lower 15 percent rate for pass-through income that economists predicted rich individuals would rejigger their finances to qualify for instead. The corporate tax rate would drop from 35 percent to 15 percent. And wealthy individuals like Trump would be able to leave their fortunes to their kids without paying any estate tax at all, which only affects inheritances greater than $5.45 million in 2016 and tops out at 40 percent.

Obviously Trump wouldn’t do anything to combat climate change.

When it comes to foreign policy, this weekend Maureen Dowd suggested that Trump would play dove to Clinton’s hawk. Her entire premise is that the Donald now suggests that he was against the Iraq War – which is not true. Beyond that, the one promise Trump has made on foreign policy is that he will be “unpredictable” and he wouldn’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons against ISIS.

Overall, if a Sanders supporter is merely basing their vote on anger, perhaps they are ripe for an appeal from Trump. But based on actual issues, it is hard to imagine how this strategy will accomplish anything.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.