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The difference in our differences

3 min read

Primary season for the 2016 Presidential election is well under way. On the left, the Democratic field has narrowed to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, while the GOP field can best be described as a circus, with Donald Trump currently leading Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and a cadre of also-rans with no chance at the nomination.  The circus on the right has prompted a lot of discussion, and it's highlighted an important difference that I think needs to be discussed. Notably: how objectionable are our candidates, and for what reason?

Republicans commonly respond to Democrats with statements like "at least Trump isn't a socialist like Bernie Sanders," or "he can't be worse than Hillary, she is a corrupt politician!" Any response that elevates Trump over Bernie, Hillary, or even his GOP rivals is disingenuous at best, and dangerous at worst.

The arguments against Bernie Sanders relate to policy. He is unabashedly liberal, and his policies are aggressively left of center. The arguments against Hillary are that she represents the establishment: business as usual. These are fair arguments, and I respect those that make them.

The argument against Donald Trump, however, is completely different. While Trump's policies are easy to disagree with, when he actually discusses them, the reality is that most of those who dislike Trump aren't fearful of him for his policies. They are concerned because he is a narcissistic, bullying, racist sociopath who is entirely unfit to represent our nation. Arguments on policy and philosophy of the government are healthy, reasonable discussions that happen every election season. The argument against Trump is something new and unique. We're in uncharted territory, here!

A common refrain that I've heard repeated these last few weeks is that the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are a result of some common narrative – the rejection of the political establishment. Those who reject the political establishment on the left could certainly identify with Sanders. On the right, they can identify with Ted Cruz. But, those who identify with Donald Trump over Ted Cruz choose him because of his words and his actions, and the words and action of Donald Trump do not speak to anti-establishment. They speak to racism, xenophobia, and hate.

So, yes, disagree with Bernie's policies. Be concerned that Hillary is born of the political system. But, don't tell me that the concerns with Trump are equivalent. Don't tell me that the Sanders movement and the Trump movement spring from some common theme. They don't. While I wouldn't vote for Marco Rubio, at least my objections to him are rooted in policy. Trump, on the other hand is a cancerous tumor that must be excised from American politics.