To wrap up observations of my trip south, I added one more event to my South Carolina journey. Just when I thought my “storm-chasing” had come to an end following the completion of the Republican presidential primary, Bernie Sanders literally came into town. While watching Meet the Press on Sunday morning I saw that Sanders was in Columbia, less than 10 miles from where I was staying. A little investigation determined that he would be having an event in Greenville, about an hour and a half away. So with some time available before my evening flight back home, off my daughter Gen and I went to Greenville. A great opportunity to “feel the Bern.”
On the way to Greenville we passed the Jeb! bus which was heading south, to Florida I assume.
It was not exactly clear when Sanders would start to speak at a very large arena in Greenville. The doors opened at 2 pm. Press filtered in along with the crowd, which eventually grew to more than 5,000. After introductory speeches, including one by actor Danny Glover, Bernie got to the podium after 5 o’clock.
His speech, much like the formula used by the Republican candidates that I had seen last week (except for Kasich), pretty much followed the issues that he highlights in the debates and town halls. Sanders spoke about income inequality, a higher minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, free tuition and free medical coverage. There was not much said about how new expenses would be paid for. The crowd loved it all.
My daughter and I had the unique opportunity of attending both a Donald Trump event and a Bernie Sanders event within a forty-eight hour period. I can write without fear of successful contradiction that we were the only two Americans out of 300-plus million who can claim that. That being said, here are my observations about the things that are similar between Sanders and Trump, and the things that are different.
- Both Trump and Sanders are being politically correct to their respective bases. Republican candidates are politically correct too, only to different segments of the population than the Democrats.
- Both Sanders and Trump have railed against SuperPACs and other large campaign contributions, albeit for different reasons. Sanders has hit the motherlode of small contributors who have not reached their contribution limits and can keep on giving. Whether Trump has $4 billion or more than that, he does not need to ask anyone for money. Regardless, opposing PACs and large contributions plays very well with many people this year.
- Both Sanders and Trump operate in alternative universes where you can say or propose anything you choose and just leave the details on how you would ever accomplish your objectives to, basically, “trust me, it will work out.”
- Both Trump and Sanders thrive on big, yuge! events that attract thousands of people. The two Trump rallies and the Sanders one that I attended both had 4-5,000-plus attendees. The one that came closest among the other Republican candidates was a Rubio event that attracted maybe 1,000-1,200 people. Cruz, Kasich and Bush events were all considerably smaller.
- Sanders and Trump are both leading movements which attract people who are looking for an easy way out of whatever life dilemmas they are experiencing. Vote for Bernie/Donald and your life will be magically better – like buying a winning lottery ticket.
- They both rail against the big bad institutions, like banks.
- Sanders is a gentleman. Trump is a loud mouth bully who plays things politically correct to his crowd by attacking or making fun of women, war heroes, Muslims, the disabled, people exercising their right of free speech, etc.
- Sanders grew up in a modest household. Trump grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, and who knows where else. Trump, in fact, may suffer from the same condition as that kid who killed several people while drunk driving and then claimed to be afflicted with “affluenza,” which has been described as “a lack of personal responsibility and awareness of consequences resulting from his privileged upbringing.”
- A Bernie Sanders event looks a bit like a hippie love-fest. The event is ultra-relaxed and the staff is very friendly. A Trump event looks mostly like a bunch of field trips from senior citizen residences. The staff can be gruff and intimidating. I saw two people in wheelchairs being given a hard time about being admitted because they didn’t have tickets for the event (most of the Republican events were ticketed). About ten feet away from those wheelchairs everyone going through the door was being screened by the Secret Service, but nobody was asked for a ticket.
- The Trump event demographics were nearly completely white and older-aged, while the Sanders event included many African-Americans and the average age was probably not much more than 35.
- Trump events have an announcement before they start telling people that if protesters begin acting up, the Trump supporters should chant “Trump, Trump, Trump” and security would handle the problem. Attendees at his events are advised not to harm the protesters. I saw two incidents of people being removed. At a Las Vegas event this past Monday Trump said he would like to punch a protester in the face, and he prefers that protesters be “carried out on a stretcher.” Sanders’ event was generally a happy event and I saw no problems with protesters. Given the manner of operating, if a protester did appear, they probably would be handled much differently.
- Sanders is fairly specific about his proposals, except as to how he would pay for them. Trump really has no proposals, just bumper-sticker slogans.
- Trump as president would rule as an authoritarian. Sanders, however, wants a revolution.
So what’s next?
Trump won the muddled Nevada caucus yesterday, no big deal except that it was his third win in a row. The Democratic South Carolina primary is on Saturday, the 27th.
The big day is Super Tuesday, March 1, when a total of 11 primaries and caucuses will occur. About a third of all the convention delegates for both parties will be selected that day. After next Tuesday there will be another twenty states and territories voting by March 22nd.
Ted Cruz was expected to excel on Super Tuesday, which includes seven southern or border states – the so-called “SEC primary.” That expectation has been predicated on Cruz’s appeal to evangelical voters, his campaign organization and lots of money. The problem with that expectation, however, is that it was based on Cruz winning the South Carolina primary. That did not turn out too well.
Trump is supposedly ahead in most of the eleven Republican events on March 1, although polling is a lot more meager in the Super Tuesday states than what we saw in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. If he does do very well next Tuesday, it will become very difficult for anyone to catch him in the delegate chase.
The Republican establishment is moving to coalesce around Marco Rubio. Marco’s problem, however, is when and where will he ever win a primary or caucus; finishing second or third just pushes him further and further behind in the delegate chase, a race whose pace will pick up considerably in the next 4 weeks.
The delegate math strongly works in favor of the candidate who can pile up actual wins. Second or third place finishers quickly fall further and further behind. John Kasich, who is looking to hang in until at least his native state of Ohio holds its winner-take-all primary on March 15, will draw votes that might otherwise go to Rubio.
Here is the Republican schedule of primaries and caucuses as distributed by Rubio to potential donors:
As the Bills’ announcer Van Miller used to say, fasten your seat belts.