Conduct a thought experiment. If Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush were the nominee, how would they be dealing with the relationship between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders? My answer: they would be trying to tar Clinton by her association with Sanders and his radical followers. Think about the way Republicans dealt with Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008. Now pivot to how Donald Trump is dealing with Clinton-Kaine and Sanders.
I’m on the Trump campaign’s press list and during last night’s convention, I was getting bombarded with emails warning that Clinton and Kaine were betraying Sanders’ position on banks, trade, and immigration. Tim Kaine “supports looser bank regulations” and Sanders “wants to strengthen Wall Street regulation and break up the Big Banks,” one email noted. “Kaine Has Attacked Opponents Of Free Trade Agreements As Losers,” another noted, and “Sanders Is A Vocal Opponent Of Free Trade.” Still another cited Kaine’s support for a bill doubling “the number of H-1B visas” that Sanders opposed as “a massive effort to attract cheap labor, a great disservice to American workers.”
The Trump campaign is trying to sow discord among the Democrats. And they are also trying to attract support from Sanders’ supporters. I doubt whether they will succeed. Trump’s nativist and anti-Muslim appeals, and his own shady business background, will probably overshadow the fact that on some economic issues, he is closer to Sanders than Sanders is to Clinton or Kaine. But whatever the result in November, Trump’s appeals bear out a shift in the American electorate toward economic nationalism and populism. There is no way that in the past a Republican, seeking to assemble a majority in November, would try to outflank his Democratic opponent on the left, but that’s what Trump was trying to do with these press releases.