THE STUNNINGLY handy wins by two anti-establishment candidates in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday are prompting conversation about similarities between New York businessman Donald Trump, the Republican victor, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the socialist victor on the Democratic side. The similarities are important — but the differences are more so.
Both have positioned themselves as outsiders appealing to voters who believe the system, and the leaders of the two major parties, have failed them. The grievances they speak to are real: a sense that the economy has left too many people behind, that globalization and technological change are helping the few while stranding the many.
Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders offer convenient scapegoats and simple-sounding solutions. For Mr. Sanders, the “greed” of the “billionaire class” has rigged the system against working people. Tax the 1 percent, and everyone else can have free college and free health care. Political obstacles can be swept away by a “political revolution.” America’s enemies will be fought by a mythical Sunni Muslim coalition. The villains for Mr. Trump are “stupid” people running the government who allow foreigners to take advantage of the United States. The solution — well, his solution — is to elect Mr. Trump.
We think both men are dangerously if seductively wrong in their facile diagnoses and prescriptions. But Mr. Sanders’s platform is at least well-meaning. We think forcing working people to subsidize, through their taxes, the college tuition of wealthier Americans is not a progressive policy; we believe Mr. Sanders has not leveled with Americans about the true costs of single-payer health care. But few would object in theory to more widely available education and health care.
By contrast, Mr. Trump’s proposals are pernicious as well as preposterous. There is no way to round up 11 million illegal immigrants and deport them — but no one should want to live in a nation that would attempt such a thing. Nor would most Americans want a government that deliberately kills the innocent relatives of terrorists.
Mr. Trump is mocking the democratic process, not engaging in it. He feels no obligation to explain how he would implement his ideas, and he does not care whether his statements are true. Thousands of Muslims in New Jersey did not publicly celebrate the downing of the World Trade Center towers in 2001, but Mr. Trump is content simply to repeat the lie. And lies come easily to Mr. Trump because, unlike Mr. Sanders, he does not believe in anything other than his own brilliance. Mr. Trump is a hard-liner on immigration today because, when he called Mexicans rapists , he struck a chord.
Some may take comfort in his malleability. Once he is in office, they say, Mr. Trump will become a dealmaker, susceptible to establishment whisperings and blandishments.
In this they deceive themselves, and the evidence lies in the most essential difference between these two outsider campaigns: the utter ugliness of Mr. Trump’s. To further his ambition, he has gleefully demeaned Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, people with disabilities, blacks and anyone else he can present as the “other” as he proceeds to exploit the nation’s divisions. As president he would not be able to deliver on his promises, and it is fearful to contemplate the scapegoats he might find to distract from his failures.
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