A funny thing happened in last week's Democratic debate when Hillary Clinton accused Vermont senator Bernie Sanders of espousing views similar to the Koch Brothers, the arch-conservative billionaires and political king-makers.
Sanders agreed with her.
The former secretary of state was referring to Sanders's long-held opinion that the Export-Import Bank of the United States--the 81-year-old institution that serves as a financing prop to businesses involved in exports--is actually an example of "crony capitalism." Sanders did not deny the charge, saying the bank is really "The Bank of Boeing," for its support of very large businesses at the expense of smaller ones and taxpayers. That, of course, has been the exact position of Tea Party members including Texas senator Ted Cruz, who successfully engineered the bank's shutdown last summer. (It reopened after intense partisan fighting in December.)
The 2016 presidential race has been notable for its unpredictability, crudeness, and unfortunately in recent days, violence. But as Sanders's comments demonstrate, there may be more ground for agreement between the opposing parties than you might suppose, especially on business issues.
"We've become so accustomed to the idea you are a Democrat or Republican or conservative or liberal, and that the sides can't agree, but there are issues I would say that is not true of," says John Hudak, a fellow in government studies at Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank.
Long before Republicans made the Ex-Im Bank their bête noire, Sanders had been an ardent opponent of it, largely for its support of foreign companies that, in his view, took away U.S. jobs. He even crafted legislation in 2002, killed at the last minute, which would have reformed the bank to protect jobs in the U.S. And he wasn't alone among Democrats. As Salon points out, when Barack Obama was campaigning in 2008, he called the bank "little more than corporate welfare." That's a far cry from the overwhelming support for the bank that the president and many other Democrats have shown over the past year.
Two other policy issues where the candidates' views often mesh have been justice reform and trade deals. Kentucky senator Rand Paul, a libertarian, made reform of the justice system with regard to nonviolent drug offenses a cornerstone of his short-lived run for the Republican nomination. Sanders has put forth similar views on the campaign trail, in debates, and on his website. "Millions of lives have been destroyed because people are in jail for nonviolent crimes," he says on the site. "For decades, we have been engaged in a failed 'War on Drugs' with racially-biased mandatory minimums that punish people of color unfairly."
Sanders also has unequivocally opposed free trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which he says result in lower wages in manufacturing, job losses, and ultimately the shrinking of the American middle class. And while Republicans tend to favor such agreements, that has not been the case across the board among the presidential candidates: Real estate mogul Donald Trump has voiced loud opposition to the TPP, and Florida senator Marco Rubio has swerved from strong support to a more lukewarm, wait-and-see approach.
Agreement is limited
Of course, there's a key difference between the parties, no matter how similar they may sound, says Phillip Wallach, a senior fellow at Brookings. Most on the Right, believe that corruption stems from any government involvement in business. For the Left, the idea, simply put, is that corporate money prevents government from operating efficiently.
So while members on different ends of the political spectrum may sound alike on things like Ex-Im Bank, they eventually head off in different directions. Cruz favors killing the bank, while Sanders likely would enact reforms to make it more responsive to smaller businesses. On health care, Republicans would all do away with the Affordable Care Act entirely. Sanders would prefer to replace it with a system resembling Medicare, but if he were unable to do so as president he wouldn't be likely to gut the ACA.
So, despite the similarities on these issues, there are, of course, important implications for your business resulting from how the candidates' views diverge.
"The more libertarian solution, for candidates like Ted Cruz, would be getting government out of the way," Wallach says. " For people on the Left like Bernie Sanders, the solution is if we could get [big] money out the government, it can work like it should for regular people, and that would be great for society."