PITTSFIELD >> I am a bumper-sticker wielding Bernie Sanders supporter. But, I ask, "What do Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common?" More than you may think.
One commonality between the two presidential candidates is crowd size. Crowd size is a useful metric of "organic energy," and likelihood of on-the-ground support, although some claim Trump does not have enough of a ground organization.
I attended a packed Bernie Sanders rally at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield and was amazed by the crowd size. By contrast, Hillary Clinton fills only hotel ballrooms or school auditoriums. But because Clinton is the media's choice, there is scarcely any commentary about the dramatic difference in audience size.
Particularly of interest are the demographics of the Sanders supporters. This septuagenarian has a vast army of youthful followers. This lionization of Sanders by legions of young adults, people that often do not ordinarily vote, has no other parallel on today's political left or right.
Both Sanders and Trump are "non-establishment outsiders," a highly coveted asset. This is an extraordinary development in politics when party insiders almost always rule. According to TheSmokingGun.com, Trump changed parties five times since the late '80s, and was a Democrat from 2001 until 2009. It has been done before — Ronald Reagan started as a Democrat. But Reagan had long abandoned the Democratic Party (1962) by the time he was elected as a Republican president in 1980.
Sanders is the longest-serving independent in congressional history. He was an independent in 1979 while serving as mayor of Burlington, Vt., and only recently, in 2015, officially became a Democrat (although he had previously caucused with them). 2016 is not the year of political insiders, never mind inside-the-beltway political insiders, like Clinton.
I have watched my generation become the first generation whose standard of living is not as good as that of the preceding generation. Everywhere, I see young people with degrees they cannot use, and with costly college loans they cannot possibly repay. I have seen an engineering degree nearly lose all value as industry moved to southern states, then south of the border, and then to China.
People in their 60s and 70s are "too poor to retire, and too young to die." Forty years ago, a college degree was a surefire way into the middle class. In fact, at General Electric in Pittsfield, there were many who went far with just a high school diploma. The story of Pittsfield, a once great industrial city, is the story of the American rust belt.
Both Sanders and Trump speak to this dystopian reality of a disappearing middle class in a way that Clinton and the other Republican candidates do not. Both Sanders and Trump brandish a type of populism absent in their same-party counterparts. Many hear "the big sucking sound" that Ross Perot warned us about regarding NAFTA and our other trade deals. They see Sanders or Trump as the answer. When Sanders says we cannot allow banks that are too big to fail, he has a credibility that the Glass-Steagall-eschewing Hillary Clinton does not.
But the most important commonality between Sanders and Trump regards big corporate and Wall Street donations. Trust-busting former President Teddy Roosevelt understood that large corporations can take over a country, apart from causing monopolist prices. Americans believe that government belongs to lobbyists that contribute large campaign donations to politicians.
Can't be bought
Clinton took $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman-Sacks in one year. Ted Cruz, whose wife works for Goldman-Sachs, has a political loan from them. How can you regulate a bank, financial institution, or corporation to which you are beholden for being elected? Because Sanders and Trump do not accept PAC money, they are not bought and paid for.
America once stood apart because of our large middle class, while the rest of the world had the very rich and the very poor. This is no longer the case. The top .1 percent of U.S. families have as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of families. The rich are rigging the system with their campaign contributions.
Americans distrust establishment politicians and the corrupting power of PACs. Until Sanders, no major party presidential candidate has tried to get elected through the use of small, individual donations. This is revolutionary, and people want it. Sanders is the more electable candidate than Clinton.