July 9, 2016

Of all the unpredictability in this election cycle, there has been of thing that has remained remarkably stable and predictable: Donald Trump’s biggest fan is Donald Trump.  The Donald has never been shy about singing his own praises, and why should he be?  After all, he has a very good brain.  Though I’m not sure how much of this arrogance is genuine and how much is simply reality show bravado deeply ingrained from the decades of self-promotion that made Donald Trump a household name, for now let’s take it at face value and assume he is as arrogant as he appears.  For purposes of this article, the question is irrelevant, because there is a candidate whose arrogance is even more troubling.  That candidate is Bernie Sanders.

On its surface, the proposition that Bernie Sanders is more arrogant than Donald Trump may appear preposterous.  Calling anyone more arrogant than Donald Trump may be a stretch.  For this reason, it is important to differentiate between Donald Trump’s arrogance and that of Bernie Sanders.  Though Sanders’ candidacy may appear to be over, the question is still worth considering, as there are still many in both parties who share this variety of arrogance.

Donald Trump is personally arrogant.  He thinks very highly of himself, and thinks of his movement of being focused on and revolving around him and his personality.  He seems to view himself as an almost messianic figure.  This seems to be the construct that most readily comes to mind when we refer to arrogance, and is a type of arrogance not readily apparent in Bernie Sanders.  In fact, in this regard, I think Bernie Sanders is quite humble.  For him, it’s the ideals and principles that drive his movement, and he just happens to be the person lucky enough to articulate these principles and serve as the movement’s representative.  If Trump views himself as a Jesus for the American people, Bernie Sanders is merely John the Baptist in his movement.

What Sanders and his kin seem to display in droves, and in my view is much more detrimental to the political process in this country, is ideological arrogance.  He views his positions as absolutely correct and his opinions as fact with no gray area or room to compromise.  Anyone who does not strictly adhere to his progressive platform is wrong, either because they are stupid or corrupt, and must be converted to his way of thinking or dismissed and drowned out of the debate if need be.  In this regard, Donald Trump is mostly innocent, though this is in large part because he doesn’t seem to actually have principles.  Given that Donald Trump has donated to both Republicans and Democrats in the past, he appears willing to at least listen to and work with people from of wide variety of ideological backgrounds.

Donald Trump’s brand of personal arrogance is not a particular problem, though the thin skin associated with it may be.  Though annoying, personal arrogance is not a hindrance to being able to govern, negotiate, and operate effectively in the political sphere.  On the contrary, it appears to be a pre-qualification to run for president.  It’s hard to imagine someone making the decision that they should become the most powerful human being in the world without having a pretty decent opinion of themselves.

Sanders’ ideological arrogance, in contrast, precludes any effective governance, particularly when having to deal with members of an opposition party controlling at least one house of Congress.  If you accept with absolute certainty that your side is absolutely correct, how can you compromise with people you view as corrupt?  How can you listen to their point of view if you don’t view your opponents’ point of view as legitimate, and dismiss it out of hand without consideration?  In a nation with as much ideological diversity and disagreement as we have, we should demand that our leaders respect and consider all views without condescension or dismissiveness, even as they steadfastly defend their own principles and positions.  If we are to return to civil discourse and bridge the divides that have increasingly polarized our nation in recent years, we must.

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