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The Santa Claus Primary

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Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump take the election year tradition of promising the sun, moon, and stars to voters to a whole new level. They will promise their voters just about anything they want in order to win the presidency.

It’s almost as if they’re both running in the Santa Claus Primary rather than fighting for the nominations of the two major political parties. Perhaps that should come as no surprise since neither has strong ties to the party they each seek to represent.

Presidential candidates always make far-fetched projections. To listen to a typical stump speech, you’d think they plan to have a magic wand that will completely transform our government, economy, and society in the first 100 days.

Yet this year, Sanders and Trump seem to have taken this art to a whole new level that might cause Kris Kringle’s cheeks to grow just a bid redder.

Want a free college education? Bernie will promise that. Think Mexico should pay billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S. border? The Donald says it will happen.

Feel like great health care and not paying a penny for it? Sanders has you covered. Think we should keep spending like drunken sailors to fund Social Security and other entitlements without cutting benefits? Trump has the nation’s checkbook out for you.

Voters today may be angrier than at any point since Watergate gave birth to a whole new generation of Congressional Democrats. Partisans on both sides relish a fight and feel as if their elected representatives aren’t listening. Democrats believe Obama needs to be more assertive with Congress, while conservatives want the legislative branch to drive the agenda in Washington.

This grassroots frustration makes many more susceptible to the gift-giving instincts of Trump and Sanders. The candidates tell voters exactly what they want to hear – no matter how implausible the outcome or how unsustainable the cost.

Most Trump and Sanders supporters can’t see the truth – or don’t want to. Their irritation with business as usual has become too great and the emotion has begun to overcome reason.

If Sanders voters knew that the gifts came with a credit card slip, they might not be willing to trade higher taxes for gold-plated public benefits. Extravagant Christmas gifts are always more appealing as a kid when you don’t understand that they cost real money.

On the Republican side, Trump seems to be handing out rhetorical gifts that amount to little more than cheap counterfeits. His TV persona may be all about reality, but his proposals aren’t. They’re no better than those sloppily-made remote control cars that don’t survive through Christmas night.

Trump has succeeded in subverting conservative voters by listening to their anger and promising to provide relief faster than a powerful antacid. In the process, a carnival barker may end up usurping the ability to develop, share, and implement conservative policies.

Meanwhile, Democrats must deal with a proud socialist hell-bent on taking away economic freedom, adopting a government-centric view of the world, and taxing the Middle Class into oblivion. That party’s primary voters must decide between Sanders and Hillary Clinton – and all the baggage she brings along with her candidacy.

Here’s the real problem that both Trump and Sanders have with playing Santa Claus to an angry electorate. If you think they’re angry now, just imagine how they’ll feel if one of these men manages to make it to the Oval Office. It’s only then that the voters will learn that no president can truly go it alone and that policies have costs and consequences.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Nobody ever wants to take on Santa Claus, and that has given Trump and Sanders more of a free pass than other candidates. Their opponents nibble around the edges without going so far as to risk the ire of the angry electorate.

Voters should ask “how?” after every promise they hear from the New York real estate mogul and Vermont socialist. Donald, you think Mexico is going to pay for a border wall? Great, let’s hear how. Bernie, you think all higher education can be paid for by the taxpayers? OK, how is that going to work and how much will it cost?

If Trump or Sanders have their way, we’ll be left with a pile of broken toys and giant credit card bills. And an even angrier electorate once voters realize that.

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