Two stories in the past 48 hours cement my view that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the vanquished Democratic candidate for president, and Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, share the same DNA. These two stubborn outsiders believe they are their campaign’s best political mind. And the damage that outsized and misplaced view of their capabilities has done on their respective quests for the White House is plainly apparent.
The lead of the Politico story on the “bitter last days of Bernie’s revolution” says it all.
There’s no strategist pulling the strings, and no collection of burn-it-all-down aides egging him on. At the heart of the rage against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, the campaign aides closest to him say, is Bernie Sanders.
Every ill-considered move made by the Sanders campaign was driven by the self-described Democratic socialist who ran for the presidential nomination of a party he holds in contempt. “Every time Sanders got into a knife fight, aides say, they ended up losing,” Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel DeBenedetti write in Politico. “But they could never stop Sanders when he got his back up.” And ever since his Michigan win last March convinced him that he could win, the reporters note, “Sanders has been on email and the phone, directing elements of the campaign right down to his city-by-city schedule in California.” Sanders lost the Golden State by 13 points to Hillary Clinton, who officially clinched the Democratic presidential nomination.
Reading about Sanders’s maladroit micromanagement of his campaign immediately brought to mind that of Trump’s, which has been on full display the past two days.
On June 6, Trump held a call with surrogates in the wake of justified blowback against his racist comments that a Hispanic American federal judge could not impartially oversee a civil lawsuit against him because the GOP candidate wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Trump demanded that his supporters continue to hammer the judge’s credibility. And reporters asking questions about Trump’s unconscionable actions were to be branded “the racists.”
When former Arizona governor Jan Brewer informed the candidate that his campaign emailed surrogates to stop talking about the judge and the case, Trump reportedly said, “Take that order and throw it the hell out,” adding, “Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?”
Trump said, “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”
The Bloomberg News story on the call came just hours after MSNBC.com reported “Donald Trump does not have a campaign.” And the same knock against Sanders is delivered against Trump. “Bottom line,” said a source close to the campaign to MSNBC, “you can hire all the top people in the world, but to what end? Trump does what he wants.”
Panic has gripped the Republican Party ever since these stories broke.
Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) rescinded his endorsement on Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal editorial board warned that if Trump didn’t start to act presidential between now and the Cleveland convention next month, “he may start to hear rumblings that delegates are looking for someone else to nominate.” On Wednesday, influential conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who has interviewed Trump many, many times, argued, “I think the party ought to change the nominee. Because we’re going to get killed with this nominee.”
Trump and Sanders ran populist presidential campaigns from opposite ends of the political spectrum. That’s why it was no surprise to me early in the primary season to hear that voters were trying to decide between wanting to “feel the Bern” and “make America great again.” That’s why it was no surprise that Trump started using Sanders’s arguments against Clinton to bolster his “Crooked Hillary” nickname for her once he cleared the field en route to becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.
In the battle of the outsider egos storming the political establishment, Trump succeeded where Sanders failed. But the chaos unleashed by Trump’s victory could spell doom for the GOP all over the ballot in November. Pardon me while I dab that single tear trickling down my cheek.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj