Election 2020

Why Was Bernie Sanders Campaigning for Donald Trump at the Democratic Convention?

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Remember when the entire Democratic primary field consolidated around Joe Biden to ensure Bernie Sanders did not get the nomination? The conventional wisdom was that the party knew an open socialist would be problematic in the general election. Someone at the DNC should have previewed Sanders’ convention speech, because he reinforced Donald Trump’s fundamental campaign pitch on the DNC’s first night.

While Sanders stayed mostly on-message, one sound bite is already making the rounds in support of President Trump’s message that the Democrats and Joe Biden’s campaign have been taken over by the radical left:

“Our campaign ended several months ago, but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for that just a few years ago were considered “radical”, are now mainstream.”

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Later in the speech, Sanders offered examples of what Joe Biden would do to implement portions of what many Americans still considered to be a radical agenda:

“Joe supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This will give 40 million workers a pay raise and push the wage scale up for everyone else. Joe will also make it easier for workers to join unions, create 12 weeks of paid family leave, fund universal pre-K for three and four-year-olds, and make childcare affordable for millions of families. Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100% clean electricity over the next 15 years.”

All of this is like giving a junkyard dog a bone to gnaw on. It gives President Trump additional ammunition to use in his claim that Biden is a tool of the radical left. Sanders admitted that the Democrat platform is embracing the ideas of the Democratic Socialists in the caucus. It doesn’t help that Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) confirmed a leftward drift in an interview with late-night host Trevor Noah:

“We were able to push Joe Biden to do things that he hadn’t signed on to before,” Jayapal said on a Comedy Central episode of “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah. “He is movable.”

As a reference, Representative Jayapal is the member of the House who formally proposed Medicare for All legislation. A cut of Sanders saying radical ideas have moved into the mainstream of the Democrat party and Jayapal from her late-night appearance is the beginning of a great Trump campaign ad.

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The second primary reason these snippets are a gift is that voter’s top concern in a recent CNN poll is the economy. This result generally means they are worried about their personal financial situation. Every progressive pet project Bernie named costs money. The federal government has just spent trillions to ride out the pandemic. Democrats are seeking to spend significantly more. So how is Biden going to pay for his programs? Vice President Mike Pence knows:

Except for our progressive billionaires, who always say they should pay higher taxes, but never do voluntarily, how many Americans are going to be in the mood for a tax hike? Are some majority really ready to see their take-home pay shrink to what it was before the Tax Cut and Jobs Act? In the wake of the pandemic, a solid guess is no. Same for businesses. How do you attract manufacturers to return to the U.S. or invest in innovation if you raise their taxes? You don’t.

This election is a debate about solutions, not outcomes. No one is for people having stagnant wages or allowing families to struggle. Everyone wants innovation in the energy sector, but we also need to maintain adequate supply and global competitiveness. How we do things, not whether we do them, is the appropriate discussion.

President Trump has a proven record of pushing unemployment to historically low levels through deregulation and lowering tax rates. Further, in the first three years of his administration, Americans saw the first real wage gains for the lower 50% of wage earners in decades. This gain was accomplished by tightening the labor market, not mandating pay rates.

So, while Sanders promises Biden’s plans will increase pay through government mandates and create jobs through government programs, Trump can offer the option of merely unleashing the American economy. He’s already done it. President Trump can remind voters about the lie of “shovel ready jobs” and how Obama asked if he had a magic wand that would bring manufacturing back. No magic wand needed, just a little less government.

Likewise, through energy independence and increasing production of natural gas, greenhouse emissions in the U.S. have dropped. Even climate activist Michael Shellenberger says that carbon emissions have peaked in much of the industrialized world. Being energy independent also gives the United States more foreign policy flexibility by not being dependent on other nations for our energy needs.

Biden’s plan, based on the radical Green New Deal, calls for massive increases in solar and wind power to feed the grid. It does not address land use issues that come up often because these technologies require so much acreage. Further, it almost guarantees an increase in energy prices for everyone. This increase impacts low and middle-income families the most.

California is a case study in these miserable policies. Energy prices have gone consistently upward, and rolling blackouts during high use periods have become the norm. In the high-tech capital of the world, the state is experiencing the most significant power outages in its history during a heatwave. This failure is directly tied to a time-bound mandate to provide 60% of their energy from renewables by 2030. Shellenberger is clear on these sources. Wind and solar are for low energy density societies and need to be part of a much larger energy policy that includes nuclear. California is learning that lesson the hard way.

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President Trump also takes an entirely different approach to educating our children. He has explicitly said that school choice is the civil rights issue of our time. Biden’s plan for universal pre-K simply places children in the public school system two years earlier and does nothing to improve education quality. We know throwing money at the system does not work. The pandemic has increased interest in homeschooling significantly, making school choice an even more pressing issue.

President Trump wants to create competition through vouchers and options. Biden wants to maintain and expand the one institution we have that could be accused of systemic racism. Tying children to failing schools based on their address is far more detrimental to black and brown children. It also impacts them for life. Dr. Thomas Sowell outlines this in his new book Charter Schools and Their Enemies.

President Trump Calls School Choice the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time

Daycare costs and family leave can be addressed through creative market-based solutions as well as tax policy. Broader use of flexible spending programs to cover a family leave period and pay for daycare are possibilities. Allowing families to save pre-tax dollars to pay for these items is a significant help. Additional tax credits for children under the age of 12 who attend daycare are also an option.

If the Democrats were on board with the Bernie Sanders platform, they should have allowed him to become the nominee. Instead, they are trying to knit a coalition together by inviting squishy former Republicans, trotting out old school Democrats, and giving the radicals input into the platform. Hard to see this as a winning strategy, and the pitch is one the Trump campaign can answer with historic results and message discipline.