Only Sanders Defeats Trump the Old Fashioned Way: With Truth-telling, Character & Competence


Trump’s Steamroller Boosts Bernie’s Prowess

The only remaining primary suspense is whether Democrats will follow Republicans and nominate their least attractive candidate. And that presents this imperative conundrum: how to trash Trumpery, then ideally reduce it to a teachable, epic fiasco. Oddly enough, Trump’s steamroller against even more telling “losers” spotlights Bernie Sanders’ opportunity: here is the Democrats’ best moral, policy and Electoral College giant killer. Though preliminary polling also elevates Hillary over Trump, her campaign staggers, bogged down with a less than sterling campaigner still facing unresolved email legalities. Is that the killer app to stop a train wreck or impede Trump from adding the world’s most famous residence to his Vanity Fair palaces.

Countering Trump’s novelty entertainment hustle is daunting: his Star Wars tractor-beam and reality-show fixations with scene domination are so far immune to ordinary antidotes. You can’t out-blather or out-insult, out-badger or shout Trump down. Certainly the mild-mannered Sanders is not blessed with charismatic, star power “spontaneity.” Slick novelty often comes across as genuine until the veneer wears off, then the ungodly sordidness oozes up. Enter, Trump’s remarkable opposite.

All significant national polls favor Sanders, mirroring both DT’s astronomical negatives (the price for crude pandering to disgruntled yahoos) and Bernie’s valor: courage battling a political machine, high trustworthiness, and positive, collective goals informed by a humane vision. Trump instead dishes out theatrical, inflammatory fireworks, yet cheap shots that dominate primaries wither in general elections. Already for 2/3’s of the electorate, Sanders excels exactly where Trump is transparently fraudulent: honesty, coherence, knowledge and moral constancy.

Presidential Lottery?

This election comes down to whether key voters in ten states embrace a wannabe Demagogue-in-Chief (where anything goes and fabricated crises rule) vs. two known commodities, whether Clinton or Sanders. Few doubt how President Clinton reigns: more tepid Obama compromises, with accelerated militarism and ties to fossil fuel, Wall Street tycoons, and her rich and famous Foundation’s clients. Sanders’ presidential impact is less predictable, yet his steadfast career and campaign guarantee this focus: a war against inequality that reboots the economy, levels the playing field at home and curbs belligerence overseas.

If you love Obama, Clinton works; if you don’t, or are offended by the nastiest wheeler-dealer in town, there’s no other serious change option  except Sanders. Undeterred by farce or gestures, here’s the crisis-driven Trump Way: “who cares what some agreement says as long it give me bragging rights, a set-up to take credit for solving my next crisis.”

In fact, Trump’s ascension to presumptive GOP nominee dramatizes all of Bernie’s strengths, precisely why he’d outdo Clinton in blunting Trump’s faux populism. Let’s not minimize Trump’s leverage: to seize attention, focus on reductive sound bites with high (if limited) emotional appeal, and convince the gullible that talking loudly enough about winning and change equals walking the walk. Trump has elbowed aside knee-jerk rightwing campaigning, wiping out credentialed opponents. That’s his one great gain.

Bullying a ‘Populist’ Bully?

Direct screaming matches won’t bloody a pugnacious, agile hustler who knows TV manipulation to perfection. Moral indictments against an unprincipled opponent, whose fans bizarrely worship this “straight-shooter” for “telling the truth,” will flop. Anyone captured by a hustler’s con no longer hears outside the bubble. Contradicting insupportable lies and distortions with reason, logic, and evidence won’t shift those who long ago axed their thinking, if not skepticism genes.

Even clever ridicule and piercing satire of Trump’s carnival reality will not win over the uninvolved and under-informed, indeed could boomerang as seeming below-the-belt (!), contemptuous abuse. Entertainment does not answer to ordinary political agendas, that experience and policy matter, so few philosophic or intellectual levers will dispatch that vacuous war cry, “Make America great again.”

The best retort to an unqualified, unstable narcissist is dramatic contrast with a principled, grounded, selfless career professional like Sanders. Broadcast Trump’s vanity worldview, glorifying his almighty cash nexus, against Sanders’ steadfast life of public service — in which honor and persistence reinforce moral intentions, fleshing in Bernie’s idealistic pledges. Trumping Trumps demands a veto, a stable, moral choice opposite in every way to his surfeit of moneyed self-indulgence, life-long manias for fame, and incendiary fabrication. Absent any voting record, why not make the campaign about the Donald’s life as a greedy billionaire — without once filling a public office? Has he ever honored the highest Christian good: anonymous, unselfish giving, without ego or self-interested bias?

The most powerful lever, plus a great offset to enormous mass cynicism, is simply broadcast how Sanders has lived his life — and why — with measurable achievements.  Trump loses ground when transformed into the iconic, multi-multi-billionaire who exemplifies why and how crony capitalism has gone off the rails. Not only has the middle-class, scandal-free Senator Sanders dedicated his life to helping others: even now, he refuses the low road when his candidacy hunts up plausible options for victory.  Trump is the perfect foil for all Bernie stands against.

Bold Gambit: Will Morality Win Out?

Only the least vulnerable pragmatist, the only intact figure whose demeanor can heal divisions, best neutralizes the loudmouth, content-free braggadocio who bellows “just trust me.” Hillary is already a sitting duck for the Trumpster cannon barrage. If trust matters above all, then Trump’s 65% disapproval ranking already convicts him as the least trusted, political ne’er-do-well in our history. Or a ne’er-do-nothing, considering his zero elective resume. Trump’s pre-emptive nomination clarifies that Democrats risk losing a once-a-generation opportunity by not putting forwards their best player, the primed and vetted clean-up hitter.

That Sanders is already the most appealing national change-agent in a generation is why he’s still nipping at Hillary’s well-heeled heels. Both his character strengths and insurgent protest would be squandered were Democrats to reject what their own party spawned: a redemptive, growing, systemic change movement. Is there any question that nothing mortifies Trump’s electoral weaknesses like a moral mass movement run by a highly-trusted political professional?

Otherwise, if the top 1% continue to horde the nation’s productivity gains, then brace for aggressive, less rational pitchforkers whose violent responses could dwarf the Sanders’ forces. Like FDR, the Sanders’ movement ultimately offers the 1% a measure of stability, even partial redemption, just as our first Progressive Era saved capitalism from its greediest capitalists. Sharing the wealth is not just moral but restores our vaunted socio-economic mobility, at least for a generation or two. You can’t beat something (predatory) with nothing, they say, but savvy goodness in a reliable champion goes a long way to that end.


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.