Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump
John M. Crisp, Tribune News Service
A contest for the presidency between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Donald Trump seems highly improbable.
Trump will be running, of course, and unless he’s prevented by his health or a critical mass of indictments he will likely win his party’s nomination. But Sanders? While progressivism has progressed among Democrats, the party is unlikely to stake the nomination on an 82-year old senator. So why do Republicans keep bringing up the idea of a contest between Trump and Sanders?
I’ve seen several instances of this lately, from conservative friends and, more prominently, from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, but now, considering his own presidential run in 2024, Christie rejects Trump’s patently bogus claims about the 2020 election.
In fact, Christie is one of those few Republicans who have been willing to push back against Trump, but not too hard, for fear of alienating the significant segment of Americans who are still deeply committed to Trump.
And when pressed by George Stephanopoulos on April 11, Christie could not bring himself to say that he won’t vote for Trump in 2024. What if the Democrats run Bernie Sanders?
If he’s forced to vote for Trump, Christie implies, the Democrats are to blame for giving him such an undesirable alternative.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr is in this category as well. Blinded by his desire to be attorney general, Barr was able to overlook any misgivings about Trump and serve as one of his most loyal defenders. In his recently published memoir, however, Barr describes a White House meeting in which he claims that he confronted Trump about his unfounded assertions that the election was stolen from him, which Barr describes in terms newspapers don’t ordinarily print.
But elsewhere in the memoir, Barr says that he would vote for Trump again, because of the Democrats’ “progressive agenda.”
Then there’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Shortly after the Jan. 6 failed insurrection, McConnell condemned Trump in unequivocal terms, describing his actions as “a disgraceful dereliction of duty.” McConnell said that Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”
But in a recent interview with Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, McConnell made it clear that he will continue to support Trump, saying, “I think I have an obligation to support the nominee of my party, and I will.”
Christie, Barr and McConnell reject the so-called progressive agenda, but their equivocal positions on Trump reflect their desire for power more than their allegiance to particular theories of governance. Thus, it’s beneficial for them to conjure a straw man candidate such as Sanders, who is so bad — they claim — that they are forced to vote for Trump. It’s not because they — Republicans — think that a battle between Sanders and Trump or another committed progressive is likely; it’s because Sanders is the perfect foil in a hypothetical presidential matchup that gives them cover to vote for Donald Trump. Or to at least imply that they will.
In other words, they’re saying, if I have to vote for Trump, it’s your fault. Don’t be taken in. Sanders is a progressive, but hardly a radical European-style socialist, and certainly not — as the right often claims — a communist. He merely has a different view of the role of government. The difference between him and the most committed proponent of unfettered free enterprise is a matter of degree. Further, the Constitution doesn’t proscribe socialism, any more than it sanctions free enterprise. You have a right to be a socialist in our country. And you have a right to run for office.
More than a handful of Republicans are already sniffing around the 2024 presidential contest. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former
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