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Birds of a feather: Trump & Sanders

| Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders

Ira Stoll is the editor of the website FutureOfCapitalism.com and the author of “JFK, Conservative.” He spoke to the Trib regarding the similarities between Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the Democrat presidential candidate and U.S. senator from Vermont.

Q: Republicans have taken a lot of heat for having Trump leading in the polls. But do Democrats sort of have their own version of Trump in Sanders?

A: Yes, there actually are a lot of similarities between Trump and Sanders. They're both against the North American Free Trade Agreement. They're both against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

On immigration, Trump and Sanders have been talking about how immigrants hurt the wages of low-skilled American workers.

Trump's comments about how Mexico was sending rapists and criminals over here certainly attracted a lot of attention and certainly won him some support from critics of immigration.

But Sanders (recently) was asked whether he was supportive of open borders, and he started talking about youth unemployment and said that immigrants would depress the wages of blacks and Hispanics who were born here in America.

It's actually a very similar argument against immigration to what Trump is saying, and they make the same arguments about wages — that the wages of overseas workers are depressing the wages of American workers.

Q: Why do you think Trump is being consistently blasted in the media, but Sanders isn't generating quite the same level of controversy?

A: I think the media have complex relationships with both candidates.

I think the press loves Trump because it's exciting to have this very unpredictable reality-TV star mixing in with the more standard politicians. At the same time, the press probably doesn't have a lot of respect for him in certain ways. They don't agree with him on trade or immigration and they think he's sort of a coarse Sanders.

There's an element in the press that would like a real competition on the Democratic side. It's kind of boring to just watch Hillary coast her way to the nomination.

Q: Are you saying then that Trump and Sanders are candidates of convenience for the media, to be used primarily for entertainment purposes leading up to the caucuses and primaries?

A: Some of this is what the media create, and some of it is actual reaction of real voters that is reflected in the polls.

If the polls weren't showing Trump leading in the Republican primary field, he'd be taken a lot less seriously and getting a lot less attention.

There was just a new poll showing Sanders leading Hillary in New Hampshire, (although) New Hampshire is just across the border from Vermont, which is Sanders' home turf.

There are real voters out there responding to these candidates and their messages.

Q: To what do you attribute Trump's and Sanders' surprising standings in the polls?

A: I guess there's a little bit about the appearance of Trump and Sanders that I think resonates with everyday Americans. There are so many politicians out there who are polished and blow-dried.

Both (Trump and Sanders) have unconventional hair. Neither of these guys have the last name of Bush or Clinton. They're a little bit outsiders.

It says something about the dissatisfaction that Americans have with politics as usual that they're turning to these unconventional characters — a socialist and a billionaire real estate developer — as potential political leaders.

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer (412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com).

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