They are not two of a kind.
Just being front-runners (for party nomination) on either side of the Atlantic is not enough. They are nothing like each other except that they embrace public life and signify the disgruntlement of voters about politics as usual. Donald Trump, who wants to win the Republican party’s nomination to run for president, appeals to angry conservatives. Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to lead Britain’s Labour Party, is being heard with rapture by idealists of any age.
Mr Corbyn wants to
- nationalize the railways
- eliminate nuclear weapons
- make university education free
- introduce rent controls
- and allow mass immigration
Mr Trump wants to
- revoke automatic citizenship for children born in the US to undocumented immigrant parents
- build a wall along the border with Mexico
- and deport undocumented immigrants before allowing “good ones” to re-enter the country.
How do those two lists match?
They don’t. But here’s Leonid Bershidsky, over on Bloomberg View, comparing the ascendancy of Mr Trump and Mr Corbyn and diagnosing what’s “wrong with modern democracy”.
Both The Daily Telegraph and Financial Times decide that the men are “two of a kind” even though the FT is on record to describe Mr Corbyn in a way that could certainly not be employed for the resident of Trump Towers:
“During his 32 years as an MP, he has adopted a host of causes: antimonarchist, trade unionist, vegetarian, revolutionary. Known for his beige outfits and ascetic tendencies, he likes to cycle and has no car. He loves making jam with fruit grown on his allotment, belongs to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cheese and is a train obsessive.”
The Telegraph is harsh about the supposed twinning of Mr Trump and Mr Corbyn. Both “deal in simplistic populism”, it writes. That said, it is honest enough to admit that “Donald Trump is probably the last person in the world that Jeremy Corbyn would want to be compared with.”
Even The Guardian’s Crossword Blog offers a roundup of “Corbynmania and Trump fever”.
Being a hack myself I know how easy it is for hacks to do a straight comparison, but it really is incredibly lazy. Especially when there is, right now, a real transatlantic twinning of would-be political leaders – Mr Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.
The 73-year-old Mr Sanders is defying expectations and attracting supporters who are disgruntled with politics as usual. He is an old-style socialist, who like Mr Corbyn, has always believed in redistributive justice and real progress that is rooted in fairplay.
Some journalists are, at least, honest enough to admit that it’s a bit of a stretch to compare Mr Trump and Mr Corbyn. In the FT, Philip Stephens urges stripping out the policy specifics. “… and they carry the same core message to the disenchanted and disgruntled: we can stop the world and get off.” And Peter Jones in The Scotsman agrees that Mr Corbyn’s politics “are the absolute antithesis of Mr. Trump’s. But he advocates his beliefs and principles with the same passion and sincerity and seems to be speaking for a section of the electorate which is angry about the burdens recession has imposed on them.”
Matching passion. Is that enough to link two politicians at two different ends of the spectrum? Why not use Mr Sanders instead?
Well, he is not the front-runner for the Democratic Party’s nomination (Hillary is) so any comparison would have jagged edges. But it would be a whole lot more accurate.