Only Bernie Sanders can stop Donald Trump

Abdallah Schleifer
Abdallah Schleifer
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There is a social rebellion going on in America - a white predominantly male working class revolt that has surfaced as the popular base of support for Donald Trump.

The white working class was once the most important element among the voters who supported the Democratic Party. From the 1930s onward the Democrats reciprocated with legislation that favored trade unions, established a minimum wage, organized a tax-funded pension - social security - for all working Americans, and later health insurance for retired Americans (Medicare) and other legislation that assisted many working class families move up into the middle class.

But over the past five decades an increasing number of white working class voters have shifted over to the Republicans. Unlike Western Europe the American working class is relatively religious, was strongly anti-Communist and is patriotic. On the moderate Left when it came to economic issues, American workers tended to be socially conservative - opposed to abortion and in more recent years to same-sex marriage.

And increasingly white workers became convinced that the Democratic Party, wasn’t just pushing a life-style liberalism detached from religion, but was also indifferent to their middle class aspirations, focusing instead on the needs of minorities be they the very poor or African Americans.
But over the past decade economic insecurity has returned to haunt the white working class. American manufacturers have closed down thousands of factories and relocated them abroad in low-wage countries as close as Mexico and as far away as China and Vietnam, thereby transferring a million or so jobs outside of America.

Because of free trade agreements, the country has also been flooded with cheap foreign manufactured products, leading to still more factory closures and loss of jobs.

Most media reports on Donald Trump’s popularity with Republican primary voters focus upon his character - boastful, pugnacious and crude speech; verbal abuse of anyone who disagrees with him. And racism - characterizing illegal Mexican immigrants to America as drug dealers and rapists, and promising to forbid Muslims visas to visit America until a secure vetting system can be set up.
Trump’s manners scandalize the Republican establishment, and since the white working class rebellion is against all Washington establishments Trump’s outrageous style delights his supporters.

But there is another dimension to Trump’s appeal that has to do with policy not bad character. Trump, denounces the free trade agreements that have led to the massive loss of jobs. Free trade is a Republican position He denounces the flooding of the American market with cheap manufactured goods from China and other low-wage countries and has pledged to impose high custom duties on these imports. He is opposed to any cuts in the social security system which the Republican establishment has quietly sought.

All of these positions which Trump alludes to in between his long bouts bullying his rivals for the Republican nomination, are expressed with far greater coherence and vigor by Bernie Sanders.

Trump’s bad character and bellicose approach to foreign affairs so offends most Democrats that there is no chance any pro-Hillary Democrat will cross party line and vote for Trump in November, if miraculously Sanders wins the Democratic party nomination this summer.

Abdallah Schleifer

Last Tuesday Sanders won the Michigan primary despite nearly every pundit predicting Hillary Clinton would win, given the support she had among the Democratic Party leadership there. But Sanders pressed his points over and over again - that Clinton supported the free trade agreement in the past that led to the closing of factories and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in Michigan. Nor does he hesitate to single out the financial support she has received in the past from Wall Street and continues to receive in this campaign.

Clinton has already acquired far more delegates to the nominating convention than Sanders, largely because she has swept the southern states, where the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly African American. The Clintons have intensely and successfully cultivated the African American community and its leadership on a social basis.

But all of these southern states are solid Republican - they will all go to Trump.

Trump’s bad character and bellicose approach to foreign affairs so offends most Democrats that there is no chance any pro-Hillary Democrat will cross party line and vote for Trump in November, if miraculously Sanders wins the Democratic party nomination this summer.

But the polls indicate that just as Trump is despised by nearly all committed Democrats so is Hillary despised by nearly all committed Republicans. So it is difficult to imagine widespread Republican defections to Clinton if, as expected, Trump secures the Republican nomination.

Bernie Sanders can be tough with Hillary Clinton but he presses home his disapproval of Hillary’s track record of support from Wall Street with irony, rather than outrage. Trump will tear her apart.

Abdallah Schleifer is a veteran American journalist covering the Middle East and distinguished visiting professor of political mass media at Future University in Egypt. He is also professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo where he founded as served as first director of the Kamal Adham Center for TV and Digital Journalism. He is chief editor of the annual publication The Muslim 500; a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (USA) and at the Royal Aal al Bayt Academy for Islamic Thought (Jordan.) Schleifer has served as Al Arabiya Washington D.C. bureau chief; NBC News Cairo bureau chief; Middle East correspondent for Jeune Afrique; as special correspondent (stringer), New York Times and managing editor of the Jerusalem Star/Palestine News in then Jordanian Arab Jerusalem.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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