Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump might disagree on nearly every policy issue, but some say the two rogue, unapologetically anti-establishment politicians aren’t necessarily polar opposites.
So, can they work together?
“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him,” Senator Sanders said in a statement Wednesday. “To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”
While Sanders called for equality among people of all races and genders and pushed progressive economic reforms meant to close the growing income gap, President-elect Trump soared to success by promising to decrease regulations and making comments about women and minorities many deemed inappropriate and insensitive. Still, both candidates were able to find favor among silenced segments of the electorate, appealing to voters on the fringes of the political system who were tired of politics as usual and harnessing their enthusiasm to call for change.
Upon first hearing of Trump’s victory, Sanders’s team told CNN that they had “nothing polite to say right now.” But later Wednesday, Sanders released a statement that seemed to applaud Trump’s ability to understand and give voice to voters jaded and disenchanted Americans.
“Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media,” Sanders said. “People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids – all while the very rich become much richer.”
Establishment Democrats questioned Sanders’s ability to win a general election, arguing that Clinton’s wealth of experience and name recognition could prove more effective than the independent Vermont senator’s outsider appeal. But polls showing a hypothetical matchup between Trump and Sanders in May and early June suggested Sanders could pull a significant lead over Trump in a general election.
Trump himself has touted policy plans and qualities about his candidacy that could appeal to former Sanders’s supporters.
“But a lot of the Bernie Sanders people are gonna come to me you know why, because I’m the best there is on trade and I’m gonna make new trade deals and we’re gonna bring our jobs back to our country,” the Republican nominee said after the Democratic National Convention drew to a close. At the time, many Sanders supporters felt betrayed by the senator’s pledged allegiance to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump also has vowed to allot six weeks of paid family leave to working mothers. While the policy isn’t as extensive as what Sanders supported, the move on the part of a Republican to consider such an initiative shows a step toward more progressive ideals.
“The fact that [Trump] dipped his toe in the water with a plan that is incomplete and not an ideal policy design does open the door to conversation and to talking about a way forward,” Vicki Shabo, the vice president of National Partnership for Women & Families, told The Boston Globe.