From almost the very beginning of their two campaigns, Donald Trump has shown an unusual fascination with Bernie Sanders and his base of far-left progressive voters. His manufactured sympathy for the Vermont senator and his campaign began in earnest before he even had the nomination, as Trump would frequently lament that “poor Bernie” never had a shot with the Democratic establishment, encouraging him to run as an independent. Trump even told MSNBC in April that Sanders “has a message that’s interesting” and that he would “take a lot of things Bernie said and use them.”
Following Sanders’s official endorsement of Clinton on July 12, Trump made his outreach to the Sanders crowd blatant, tweeting that he would welcome with open arms all of the senator’s supporters who “want to stop bad trade deals and global special interests.” That same day, the Trump campaign released this statement:
“Today, Bernie Sanders will be endorsing one of the most pro-war, pro-wall street, and pro-off shoring candidates in the history of the Democratic Party. The candidate who ran against special interests is endorsing the candidate who embodies special interests. The candidate who ran against TPP is endorsing the candidate who helped draft the TPP. The candidate who ran in opposition to globalization is running against the candidate who has led the push for globalization. The candidate who warned that open borders destroy the working class is endorsing the candidate with the most open borders policy in our history. The candidate who wants to reform H1-B visas is endorsing the candidate who supported lifting the caps on H1-B visas. The candidate who wants less war is endorsing the candidate who launched wars in Iraq and Libya and would lead us to a new war in Syria. The candidate who wants to get money out of politics is voting for the candidate who has made a career out of making money from politics.
Bernie’s endorsement becomes Exhibit A in our rigged system – the Democrat Party is disenfranchising its voters to benefit the select and privileged few.”
Trump’s derision of Sanders was only amplified by the release of the DNC emails last week, with Trump proclaiming that it would now be impossible for Sanders to support Clinton and once again pretending to empathize with the wasted “BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS” of Bernie’s supporters. When Sanders went ahead with his endorsement of Clinton on Monday, Trump again took to Twitter to excoriate Sanders, declaring that the senator had had “sold out to Crooked Hillary” and that he “welcomed all voters who want a better future for our workers.”
Trump’s courtship of Bernie supporters is laughably misguided and silly. Sanders’s “political revolution” is one made by college students, for college students. And it’s on these college campuses that invoking Donald Trump’s very name on a sidewalk in chalk can lead to convulsions, weeping, temper tantrums, and the expansion of safe spaces. To the Sanders supporters, Trump will always be a racist, xenophobic, wall-building meanie and no amount of faux sympathy will ever change that.
But while Trump’s pitch to the Sanders crowd is silly, is it not disturbing that he actually believes the two are similar enough that he could make such a pitch? Last I checked, Bernie Sanders was still a socialist and he was still quite proud of it. Yet Trump believes his neo-protectionist trade proposals that advocate for holding private businesses hostage in their own country, coupled with his constant badgering of “special interests” and his frequent reminders that his campaign is self-funded, will be enough to convince fans of a socialist to cast their votes for him instead. And while Sanders took the stage in Philadelphia to brag on the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party, Trump has continually been there to remind Bernie’s voters that the Republicans have unveiled a shiny, new progressive platform of their own.
Trump always promised that he would reach out to Democratic voters. It’s a little disconcerting to see just how far left he’s willing to extend his hand.