MARCH 13, 2016
One of the more head-scratching phenomena of this election is the independent voters in open primary states who tell journalists and pollsters that they are undecided between Trump and Sanders. To the conventional political mind this makes no sense. It suggests that a Trump-Sanders election this fall might be highly volatile and unpredictable.
The common attraction of these disparate men is chalked up to their “Jacksonian” appeal, that is, the fact that they represent the most authentic challenge to the establishment elites and rotten institutions in the country. This is true, but I think it doesn’t go deep enough. It is possible that underlying the present enthusiasm for Trump and Sanders is a longing in the soul for the good ends of the good life that are slipping away in our dysfunctional country. Sanders is offering the old fashioned true religion of socialism, which has a (defective) theory behind it as to how it heals the human soul, while Trump is offering something very different with his appeal to national greatness, which is why he probably would win over Sanders in the end.
I ran across a passage from Harry Jaffa’s critique of Martin Diamond (who had been a Trotskyite socialist as a young man) that sheds some light on the deeper currents here, and also, along the way, explains why the kids went nuts on college campuses in the 1960s and again in recent months—causes that are linked in the background of our current discontent:
Diamond argued that socialism’s profounder claim was not economic, but moral. And this claim was characteristic of all brands of socialism, Marxist and non-Marxist alike. It was the belief that the solution to the economic problem was at the same time the solution of the human problem, the problem of human well-being.