Bernie Sanders saw his election chances slip away at the Democratic National Convention, but not before Sanders had built a following with a loyalty akin to Ron Paul supporters on the other side of the aisle in 2012. It is also important to note that while Paul’s supporters were loyal, Bernie Sanders received over four times the number of votes Paul received in 2012. Along the way to his ultimate loss Bernie Sanders built a movement, and it is one that will likely remain politically viable as an influence outside of the Democratic mainstream unless it overtakes the party altogether, which is plausible given the 2016 primary election result.
Now the news cycle has turned its attention to Donald Trump, and the initial decisions he is making as President-elect. What would have happened if Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic primary and then the general election? To answer that question one need not speculate. Both candidates provided clearly different visions for America in many ways, and their campaigns spelled out those policy differences in specific policy statements. As it is purely speculative to compare appointments to the cabinet, those potential differences will be ignored in favor of policy positions.
What are the differences on national defense and foreign policy between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?
According to Donald Trump, the U. S. military is depleted. Most of the branches of service are under-equipped and understaffed, and he wants to rebuild them to levels he believes will protect Americans and American interests abroad. Trump also places high emphasis on cyberwarfare, not only pointing to the national defense aspect of cybersecurity, but also outlining in his campaign the idea that he believes cyberwarfare should be used against terrorists to reduce their propaganda and recruiting efforts. His core position is “peace through strength,” which harkens back to the Ronald Reagan approach to the Cold War.
If Bernie Sanders had won, an almost exactly opposite position would have been preferred. The Bernie Sanders campaign website specifically discusses peace through diplomacy. Sanders is clear that his duty to protect American citizens is non-negotiable, but how one accomplishes that security should be a matter of negotiation. His stance is clarified with his position that war should be the last available option that is taken, and he prefers to build coalitions to address threats to security.
According to the National Priorities Project, a non-partisan nonprofit organization that studies the federal budget and publishes its findings for the public, the current military budget accounts for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending at present. For comparison, social security, unemployment insurance, spending on energy and the environment, and Medicare and healthcare combined make up only 12 percent of the spending combined. Trump states that he can provide the expansion he proposes through audits to tighten the spending from the Department of Defense, and will make cuts elsewhere to generate the necessary funds to complete his overhaul. If Bernie Sanders had been elected, no such overhaul would likely have been requested.
What are the differences with healthcare policy between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?
According to Donald Trump, his goal with healthcare is to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with health savings accounts. He proposes block grants to states to fund Medicare programs for the poor. He also proposes to open up insurance purchases across state lines, which would require a good deal of legal and regulatory alterations. He does not fully outline the financial impacts of his plan on his website, but he does state, through a comparison with Hillary Clinton, that his goal is to provide choice on healthcare and to avoid a single payer system.
If Bernie Sanders had won, it would be difficult to imagine how the two outcomes could have been much different. Sanders has a long held and publicly stated position that healthcare is a human right. Holding to that position would require a significant investment in healthcare infrastructure, in education for healthcare workers, and in safeguards for the poor. How high that budget number would have been is a matter of speculation, but Sanders proposed to pay for his healthcare ideal through the elimination of waste in the healthcare budget, and by raising taxes for those people earning more than a quarter of a million dollars per year.
What are the economic policy differences between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?
The differences on economic policy between the two candidates could not be much more contrasting. While Trump’s position on the Trans Pacific Partnership brought him kudos from many in the working class, this position is an outgrowth of his “America first” position that emphasizes American prosperity above all else in any deal. He proposes a “pro-growth” tax plan, which should mean significant tax cuts for some. He also emphasizes job creation as a major need for his presidency, and states that changes in taxes and regulation will boost job creation.
Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, provided a stark contrast between the two in discussing trade on his website. Sanders was comparing his position against Hillary Clinton, and how he would not have fought against wage increases for Haitian garment workers. The Bernie Sanders position was that the world is engaged in a “race to the bottom” with a growing economic divide between the wealthiest and poorest citizens in the world. Sanders argued for fair trade, and tax policies that made people earning more pay more to narrow that divide. The Bernie Sanders plan was, in many ways, the exact opposite of Trump’s, in spite of some superficial similarities on trade.
What’s next for Bernie Sanders?
Some are already asking if Bernie Sanders is a viable candidate for 2020. Sanders himself, as demonstrated in the video below, is less concerned with the 2020 election than he is about the issues he brought to light during the campaign. Sanders intends to stay focused on those issues at present, though the speculation about him continues, and Sanders himself has not ruled it out. One thing is certain.
Bernie Sanders became a voice for a significant number of people dissatisfied with the status quo in politics. 2020 is a short way off in politics, but four years is a long time to try to hold together a diverse coalition, and many political twists and turns will happen between now and then. Whether or not Bernie Sanders remains a powerful voice is entirely dependent on those people in that coalition staying active.
[Featured image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]