LOS ANGELES, May 26th, 2016—Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders should debate one another. Ideally, it would happen before the June 7th primary in the state of California, a primary which is all but settled for Trump on the Republican side but which could breathe a last gasp of viability into Sanders campaign.
Such a debate would likely be good for both of them, and while it is unprecedented to have leading candidates for president from the different parties debate one another during the primaries, this is an unprecedented campaign.
Each might be willing to buck the party committees (which particularly Sanders would have to do) to have what Trump rightly predicts would be a ratings bonanza of a debate.
With Hillary having refused a debate with Sanders, the exposure it would bring Bernie and the positive contrast he might draw with her and Donald could well be enough to put him over the edge in the close race in California. Donald, for his part, is less desperate but would surely have to be intrigued by the possibility of not only courting disaffected Bernie voters by showing him a level of respect in debating him before California when Hillary Clinton wouldn’t, but also in damaging Hillary amongst these very Democrats while possibly finding common ground with Senator Sanders in their anti-establishment zeal.
It would be good for the candidates, and so it very well might happen. But it would also be good for America.
Whether Bernie Sanders wins or not, he and Donald Trump for all of their strident differences have already begun to forge a bipartisan consensus between the colliding anti-establishment movements which they represent.
Putting aside basic economics and immigration, the two together have rallied the left and the right against the forces of cronyism, special interests, the party committees and in effect (well explicitly in Trumps case) the very political legacies of the Bush and Clinton families themselves.
Between the two of them they represent not so much Republicans and Democrats, but Americans, on a range of issues. Whereas a Hillary Clinton and a Jeb Bush would have held in common a belief in corporate bailouts, in receiving massive donations from lobbyists and private sector interests, and support for the Iraq War (even as Hillary Clinton has long since renounced her decision to effectively vote for it) Trump and Sanders have rejected corporate backers and lobbyists, excoriated the electoral system of the national parties, and both have essentially said they will raise taxes on Wall Street (though Trump was a tepid supporter of the Wall St. bailout in 2008).
I believe in the sincerity of Donald Trump’s positions on policy about as much as I believe that Bernie Sander’s economic policies generally would actually work in America. I do however believe that the United States of America politically and economically has become more and more oligarchic over time, precisely because the line has been blurred between business and government.
If there is anything mutually redeemable about Sanders and Trumps candidacies, it’s that each has indicated he will restore that line.
It is hard to know what sort of a president Donald Trump would actually be. His commitment to policy lasts about as long as it takes for him to go from one audience to the next, but his past as a businessman makes it clear that he is well at home with the corporatist perversion of free market capitalism and Liberal Democracy that his supporters rail against. Yet, Donald Trump is truly his own man, and it is hard to imagine his independence of judgment being substantially swayed by the lobbying power of the moneyed interest class.
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is a man of his convictions. What he is not likely to be (aside from the Democratic presidential nominee) is a man who could cull together the bipartisan support necessary to enact the relatively radical (in conventional terms anyway) agenda he is seeking to advance. Ironically, Donald probably has the skill set and deal making instincts necessary to advance a bold agenda in a divided government, if he indeed has any particular agenda he wishes to advance.
There is plenty to worry about with either a Sanders or a Trump presidency. But the hopeful promise in their campaigns is in the American people’s rejection of the mediocrity and corruption of the status-quo. It would be nice, perhaps to see these elements of otherwise divergent philosophical forces standing on the stage together.
Nice, that is, for the American people; not so nice for the soulless bureaucratic corporatism of the Democratic Party Establishment, the Republican Party Establishment, Wall Street, and Hillary Clinton.