Trump Courts the ‘Bernie Sanders Supporters for Cutting Taxes on the One Percent’ Vote

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at Trump Soho Hotel in New York on June 22, 2016.
Feel the Don. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Are you a democratic socialist who wants to cut taxes on the one percent, abolish the EPA, and kick all of these Mexican rapists and Muslim murderers out of our once-great nation? If so, you’ll find much to like in the anti-Clinton jeremiad Donald Trump delivered Wednesday morning.

The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money,” Trump told supporters in New York City. “That’s why we’re asking Bernie Sanders’s voters to join our movement, so together we can fix the system for all Americans.”

The Republican nominee went on to savage the decades-old bipartisan consensus on “free” trade, or, as Trump calls it, “the trade policies of Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

Hillary Clinton supported Bill Clinton’s disastrous NAFTA, just like she supported China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization,” Trump said. “We’ve lost nearly one-third of our manufacturing jobs since these two Hillary-backed agreements were signed.”

This is one of the rare Trump attack lines that appears to be, essentially, true. Recent studies examining the impact of China’s entry to the WTO have suggested the U.S. lost between 1 and 2 million factory jobs as a result of an increase in competition from low-cost Chinese imports.

However, it’s worth noting that the underemployed breadwinners of America’s Rust Belt aren’t nostalgic for manufacturing work, per se — they’re nostalgic for higher wages. In certain ways, service employment is preferable to factory work. For example, you have a much lower chance of losing a finger working retail than you do on an assembly line. Thus, as FiveThirtyEight has argued, American workers don’t really miss manufacturing jobs — they miss union jobs. And, unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump includes no measures for increasing union density in his economic platform. The Republican nominee’s populism is a con. But, whatever else you want to say about Donald Trump, he’s a pretty good con man.

Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and theft. She ran the State Department like a personal hedge fund,” Trump said. “Then, when she left, she made $21.6 million giving speeches to Wall Street banks and other special interests — in less than two years — secret speeches that she does not want to reveal to the public.”

Here, Trump recycled some of Sanders’s lines of attack, freshening them up with some signature dollops of nastiness, hyperbole, and, of course, hypocrisy — “the politics of personal profit” would be a decent subtitle for a future book on Trump 2016. But the attacks do speak to legitimate concerns. Foreign government really did give millions of dollars to Clinton’s family foundation while she served as secretary of State. And Clinton really did make millions of dollars giving speeches to Wall Street banks that she does not wish to publicly release.

Trump’s attacks on Clinton’s foreign policy functioned in a similar fashion. The GOP nominee savaged the bipartisan consensus on interventionist foreign policy by criticizing Clinton’s Iraq War vote, support for the intervention in Libya, and desire for regime change in Syria. As you’d expect, Trump’s critique was both mendacious and incoherent. The mogul claimed to have opposed the military actions in Iraq and Libya despite recorded proof of the contrary. He criticized Clinton for favoring war over diplomacy and for her involvement in the Iran deal; for wasting precious resources on foreign interventions and for supporting a premature troop withdrawal from Iraq. Still, his remarks spoke to a fundamental truth — America’s post-9/11 foreign-policy consensus has failed on its own terms, while costing the nation trillions of dollars and thousands of lives. There are benefits to being the “change candidate” at a time when faith in our governing institutions is historically low. If Trump finds a way to put out the garbage fire that’s consuming his campaign, perhaps he’ll be able to take advantage of those benefits.

It’s hard to imagine Sanders’s diehards voting for the man the Vermont senator has vowed to do everything in his power to defeat. And by the end of his speech, Trump had advertised his massive tax cut, called for deregulating the energy sector, and portrayed undocumented immigrants as murderers and Muslim refugees as lovers of female slavery — not popular sentiments at most Sanders rallies.

Yet, a Bloomberg poll released Wednesday found 22 percent of Sanders’s sympathizers plan to vote for Trump in November. If that number isn’t wildly inaccurate, the mogul’s attacks on Clinton as an embodiment of a corrupt and discredited political Establishment could secure him a sliver of the socialist senator’s support.

Trump Asks Sanders’s Supporters to Feel the Don