David Brooks once coined a wonderful term — “K Bump” — to describe the way that extremists of the right and left converge. They back up so far in either direction that eventually their “keisters” bump into one another.
This current presidential campaign is a perfect illustration of the phenomenon. As Byron York noted, Donald Trump is fast becoming the Bernie Sanders of the Republican Party: “In a nearly one-hour speech, Trump railed against pharmaceutical companies. He railed against oil companies. And insurance companies. And defense contractors. And he set himself against a political system that he said allows big-money corporate ‘bloodsuckers’ to control the government with campaign contributions.”
There is, of course, a big stylistic difference between the overweening, bombastic Trump and the wonky, super-sincere Sanders. But on the issues? Not much of a difference (although it’s a safe bet that Trump will not be bashing “gaming” companies the way he bashes other corporations).
Single payer health care? Both Sanders and Trump are for it (although Trump sometimes denies it). Raising defense spending? Both Sanders and Trump are against it. Free trade? Both Sanders and Trump are against it. The Iranian nuclear deal? Both Sanders and Trump are against ending it. An activist foreign policy? Both Sanders and Trump are against it. Foreign policy advisers? Neither man needs any.
It is no coincidence that both candidates are abysmally ignorant of foreign policy. Trump recently said that we should we using the $150 billion that we are giving to Iran to pay down the national debt instead. He didn’t seem to realize that the money is actually frozen Iranian funds, not U.S. taxpayers’ money. Sanders, for his part, suggested that Iran and Saudi Arabia combine to fight ISIS, apparently not realizing that those two countries are bitter enemies.
The chief areas of disagreement between Trump and Sanders appear to be on immigration policy–Sanders favors a mainstream approach of providing a road to legalization for 11 million undocumented immigrants; Trump wants a mass roundup of immigrants and wants to build a wall that Mexico will pay for while also banning all Muslims from entering the country. Sanders, sensibly, has not endorsed these extremist ideas.
Neither has Sanders followed Trump in making blood-curdling, if incoherent, threats against ISIS — the latest being Trump’s promise to “do things beyond waterboarding” hinting that he wants to chop off heads. This comes after his proposals to target the families of terrorists and to steal ISIS’s oil — or is it Iraq’s? It’s hard to tell, given how vague Trump’s “policy ideas” are.
So, hard as it may be to believe, Bernie Sanders actually comes across as marginally more rational than Trump — even though Sanders is the most left-wing presidential candidate American politics has seen since the heyday of Norman Thomas.