In this post, I addressed claims by Bernie Sanders’s campaign and other leftists that the “establishment,” worried sick about the Vermont socialist’s early successes, is conspiring to deny him the nomination. Finding no evidence of conspiracy, I concluded that if Sanders doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, it won’t be because he was conspired against, but because not enough Democrats want to nominate a socialist, especially an old male socialist who yells a lot.
That seemed to be the majority sentiment among those who voted on Super Tuesday.
In the same post, I also noted that Team Trump has seconded claims that Sanders is the victim of an establishment conspiracy. Indeed, the Trump campaign has said that Sanders is the victim of a coup, an absurd claim given that Sanders hasn’t been installed in any position from which he could be removed by a coup.
Do President Trump and his team really think that there’s a conspiracy to stop Sanders? I don’t know. I do know that it serves Trump’s purposes to say so, and I assume that’s why he’s saying it.
Trump wants Sanders’s supporters to be fighting mad if the Democrats nominate someone else. Indeed, he would like them to be fighting mad during the Democratic convention at even the possibility of someone else being nominated.
A combative convention would serve the president’s interests. If the combat spills into the streets, that would serve them even better.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Trump and his team to portray Sanders as the victim of an establishment conspiracy, as opposed to the victim of voters who don’t want him to be the Democratic standard bearer.
I think it’s also true, however, that many Trump supporters, and maybe Trump himself, see something familiar in Sanders’s run for the nomination. They see Trump’s 2016 bid.
And not without cause. In both instances, the establishment favored other candidates and hoped to see one of their candidates win the nomination at the expense of the outsider.
But, as with Sanders, the establishment’s desire to see someone other than Trump nominated does not equal a conspiracy to deny him the nomination. There was no conspiracy against Trump.
The establishment favored Jeb Bush and later Marco Rubio. It disfavored Trump and Ted Cruz (who ended up running 1-2 in the race). But as far as we know, it did nothing improper to promote its favored candidates.
There did seem to be a “combination” (I don’t say a conspiracy) among two candidates to take down a third. But that combination involved Chris Christie and Trump taking down Marco Rubio. Rubio was an establishment favorite and Christie was not disfavored by the establishment.
Trump won the nomination because most Republicans wanted him to. If he hadn’t won, it would have been because most Republicans didn’t want that outcome, not because of any conspiracy.
The presidential bids of Trump and Sanders are similar in that both ran as outsiders to the dismay of many in the party establishment. However, they differ materially in that Sanders’s appeal is exclusively to one wing of his party, whereas Trump’s cut across traditional ideological lines.
Sanders’s ideology, socialism, is old and familiar. It appeals only to socialists and near-socialists.
Trump concocted his own ideology. It appealed to many conservatives, but deviated in some important respects from traditional conservatism. It therefore turned off some conservatives, but appealed to many who aren’t particularly conservative in the traditional sense.
In addition, Trump’s angry attack on political correctness and the mainstream media had wide appeal among Republicans. Sanders’s angry attacks on capitalism resonate mostly with the far left.
Accordingly, Sanders is less difficult for the establishment to defeat than Trump was. But neither Sanders’s 2020 campaign nor Trump’s 2016 campaign is/was the object of a conspiracy.