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Sweet: Trump, Sanders tapped into middle-class anger

President-elect Donald Trump gives his acceptance speech during an election rally early Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. | John Locher/AP

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s victory was fueled by voters eager for change and unhappy with government, and their frustrations with the status quo were shared by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ backers.

Sanders, the Vermont Independent, mounted a strong Democratic primary challenge against Hillary Clinton, who was crushed Tuesday by Trump’s stunning, shocking and surprising victory.

As with Trump, the media writ large did not give Sanders much of a chance — and did not pick up on the anger that voters were directing toward Washington and the “establishment.”

Trump praised Sanders on the campaign trail, but it really seemed designed to throw a wedge between Democratic Clinton and Sanders’ supporters.

Might they find an issue to work together on?


Trump “tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media,” Sanders said in a statement.

“People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids — all while the very rich become much richer.

“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him,” Sanders said.

A byproduct of Trump’s decisive defeat of Clinton was, it turned out, that he was not a drag on the GOP ticket. Trump may have even helped some contenders get over the finish line.

Barack Obama won the White House in 2008 and 2012, but in-between — and on Tuesday — Republicans made gains. The GOP took the House in 2010; the Senate in 2014; the White House in 2016, and with Trump as president, will likely dominate the Supreme Court.

There never was any question lingering about Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., staying in power with a President Trump. “I do not expect any shake-up in the leadership. I think Sen. McConnell and the leadership team will be re-elected,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said at a press conference to talk about Tuesday’s congressional GOP seat pick-ups.

Trump’s upset win over Clinton is likely the antidote to cure any friction — real or perceived — between himself and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Even though they disagree on a lot — and Ryan kept his distance during the campaign — it’s to Trump’s advantage to leave Ryan in charge of the House.

Under a President Trump, it’s hard to see how the House Tea Party movement and Freedom Caucus members will be able to maintain the power they have now to try to toss out Speakers they think don’t follow their intransigent conservative agenda.

They may have chased former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, out of town, but this Tea and Freedom crowd, who came to power under Democrat Obama, are playing in a different league with a Republican president. Trump hasn’t commented publicly on whether he plans to push for Ryan’s ouster.

“I think we’re going to hit the ground running,” Ryan said Wednesday in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal reported. “We had great conversations about how we work together.”

Jeff Weaver, who was Sanders’ campaign manager, told me that Sanders and Trump are so far apart on issues, it’s hard to see where they could work together. Still what they have in common is a belief that “the Washington, D.C., elite is so out of touch with what is going on, what’s happening out there.”

“This was not a victory for Trump,” Weaver said. “This was a victory for change. The losers last night were the Democratic establishment, the Republican establishment, the economic elite in this country. People feel left behind, and truth of it is they have been left behind and they want somebody who is going to shake things up.”