Sanders battles Trump, the king of crony capitalists
© Getty

As 2016 ends and 2017 begins, America enters round two of the epic battle between Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders won't vote for bipartisan infrastructure deal Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Politics of discontent: Who will move to the center and win back Americans' trust? MORE (I-Vt.), the purest expression of the progressive vision, and President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE, the ultimate practitioner of crony capitalism.

Contrary to the fake news from those who falsely claim that the mainstream media is liberal, it was the mainstream media that virtually ignored Sanders throughout 2015, treating Sanders the way the Vladimir Putin-dominated Russian media ignores democracy advocates in Russia.

It was the mainstream media that spent much of 2015 and all of 2016 giving Trump so much free coverage that it should have been filed with the Federal Elections Commission as a multibillion dollar campaign donation to the Trump campaign.


Only a conservative could describe this as liberal media!

Progressives such as myself are faced with a Republican president, Republican House, Republican Senate and the many Republican governors and state legislatures that were elected during the tenure of President Obama, an inconvenient truth that progressives must and shall overcome.

The very presence of Sanders on the national stage reveals, every day, many great truths about American politics at the end of 2016.

The first great truth is that there is a progressive majority in America waiting to find the next Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy to lead the nation. This is why I repeatedly noted throughout 2016 that to clearly understand the political state of the union, we must remember that Sanders repeatedly defeated Trump in match-up polling by landslide margins throughout the campaign, and leads Trump in favorable/unfavorable polling today by similar or greater landslide margins.

Another great truth as 2016 ends is that Trump, even with assists from FBI Director James Comey and Russian dictator Putin, was defeated in the popular vote by Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNSA leaker Reality Winner released from federal prison Monica Lewinsky signs production deal with 20th TV Police investigating death of TV anchor who uncovered Clinton tarmac meeting as suicide MORE by almost 3 million votes. If there is any true popular mandate, it belongs to Sanders, who swamped Trump in polls, or Clinton, who beat Trump handily in a one person, one vote election.

The greatest truth as 2016 ends is that Trump's claims to be a populist could be deemed a fraud by the federal consumer protection agency created by the brilliance of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAdams, Garcia lead in NYC mayor's race: poll Exclusive: Democrat exploring 'patriot tax' on multimillionaires' wealth McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (D-Mass.) which is now under attack by Republicans who pretend to be populist.

The fraud of Trump as populist will be revealed every time Sanders rises to give a speech in the Senate, or addresses a large and enthusiastic audience in favor of healthcare as a right for all, higher wages for workers, equal pay for women and an end to the corruption caused by special interests buying influence in Washington with money.

Sanders and Warren are in good company. In 2017, watch for the further emergence of progressive leaders such as Democratic senators Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' MORE of Minnesota, Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE of Ohio and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Austin and Milley talk budget, Afghanistan, sexual assault and more at wide-ranging Senate hearing Top general: Military justice overhaul proposed by Gillibrand 'requires some detailed study' Cher apologizes for confusing Sinema, Gillibrand MORE of New York, among others, and progressive groups such as the Sanders-inspired Our Revolution.

The mother of all truths in American politics is that in 2016, the crony capitalists won again, even though crony capitalism is the opposite of what the voters want.

Trump is the king of crony capitalists.

Of course, the king of crony capitalists will never divest his business interests, for the same reasons he will never disclose his tax returns, which will ultimately result in scandal stories that will lift the progressive movement to new heights of popular support.

The most staggering fake news story in 2016 was that Trump was a populist of any kind, and the most stunning real news story for 2017 will be the degree that Sanders, Warren and other leading progressives will make this evident to a huge majority of voters after Trump is inaugurated.

Trump, the king of crony capitalists, wants a secretary of Labor who opposes the interests of workers at every turn. He wants an administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency who champions big polluters and places the future of the earth in jeopardy by opposing efforts to stop climate change. Trump even denies climate change is happening.

While I do not like singling out any individual Wall Street firm, Trump the phony populist candidate repeatedly attacked Clinton for her relationship with Goldman Sachs, while Trump the king of crony capitalists is putting so many Goldman Sachs alumni in high posts that he makes Clinton look almost socialist by comparison.

Trump, the king of crony capitalists, chooses a Cabinet of fellow crony capitalists who want huge tax cuts for the most wealthy and will continue attacks against those who battle for the interests of labor.

Trump the phony populist attacked Clinton for the outstanding work of the Clinton Foundation, while Trump the king of crony capitalists will soon close his own foundation — which has not been widely applauded for good works — once investigations are concluded and resolved.

Trump, the king of crony capitalists, wants a "tax holiday" to bring trillions of dollars back to America from the foreign accounts of multinational giants, and he wants it in a way that will reward past exporting of American jobs and financial mergers and acquisitions that would destroy many current American jobs.

One of the biggest stories of 2017 will be Sanders, Warren and other progressives battling Trump the king of crony capitalists, and battling Republicans in Congress, who are the Washington handmaidens of crony capitalism.

We progressives are on the defensive today, but the American people are with us. Before this battle is done, the true progressives will win one of the great comebacks in political history against the king of crony capitalist and all he represents.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.