In these anxiety-filled days of Trump and the rise to power of the GOP right-wing, it is easy to fantasize that everything would be great if only Bernie Sanders had been elected in 2016 instead.
I daresay it would be much better on a number of issues, immigration included. But as far as getting through a true Progressive platform, aside from executive orders, it is my guess that Bernie would be having a hard time indeed.
If he had both senate and house under GOP control, we could expect nothing more than GOP gridlock. And you can bet that Bernie would not be permitted to choose a Supreme Court Justice by the GOP. That’s how the GOP rolls when it is in power.
Even if Bernie had say, Congress under Democratic Party control, and only a narrow minority in the senate, gridlock would still be likely on most issues. Resistance to any Progressive program would be high, and could come from BOTH parties.
Bernie would need BOTH senate and house with a Democratic majority to get anything substantial done. At least for part of his term. But even then, Bernie would have a problem -The all-powerful economic establishment which holds sway over Democrats almost as much as Republicans. This establishment consists of Wall Street, corporations, big banks, and investor-groups. Also, inescapably, their army of lobbyists, checkbook$ in hand.
Let’s Get This Straight -Trump Is Not “Against” the Establishment
The truth is that Donald Trump, although he is often portrayed as an “enemy” or “opponent” of the establishment, is actually nothing of the sort on most economic issues. Not by a long-shot.
Anybody who gives huge tax-cuts to corporations and the wealthiest class, strips regulations from vast interests like the oil, gas and coal industries, as well as Wall street, is no opponent of the corporate establishment.
Trump is actually very much the corporate establishment’s friend and ally. A few corporate news outlets like CNN and MSNBC continue a steady drumbeat of seemingly anti-Trump news stories. But don’t be fooled. The wealthy corporate owners of CNN and MSNBC also got big tax-cuts from Trump, and are making pretty nice bucks covering his every tweet and distraction.
No. Despite the rhetoric of some of the cable news hosts, The Ownership behind-the-scenes thinks Trump is just fine on most big issues.
Bernie Sanders Is Truly Anti-Establishment
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is authentically anti-establishment. Why? Because he wants to INCREASE taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pay for a far better social safety net. This was done with the New Deal policies of President Roosevelt in the 1930s. It worked, although many wealthy elites hated paying the taxes for it.
It’s not complicated at all.
OK, one more time: CUTTING taxes on corporations and the wealthy is pro-establishment. RAISING taxes on the corporations and/or the wealthiest Americans is anti-establishment. It’s that simple.
Bernie’s policies of Single-Payer healthcare, free community college tuition, and job-creation would be largely based on the the principle of taxing the wealthy. So it is natural to expect resistance from the establishment.
Bernie Would Have Few Friends in Corporate America
If Bernie had been elected in 2016, we would likely be witnessing Rachel Maddow, and other MSNBC and CNN personalities, rolling their eyes and wondering about the practicality of Bernie’s ideas. Those on-air personalities do their work for the establishment owners who sign their large paychecks. Never forget that.
Still, Bernie would be attacked less viciously from the more liberal-leaning side of the media than from the vast Conservative corporate media. There would be constant hammering from Fox, OAN and NewsMax, as well as the legions of rightwing talk-radio hosts all over the country.
But ALL of our cable and network news are owned by huge corporations, and all could be expected to resist Bernie on some level.
The Usual Enemies
Of course, politically, the GOP and the right-wing would attack Bernie relentlessly, from every possible angle -“commie,” “wants to make the US like Castro’s Cuba,” “He’s so old,” etc., etc., ad nauseam. That’s to be expected.
‘Allies’ Who Are Really Not Allies
In addition, a group of “centrist” Democrats, under the influence of corporate donor$, could be expected to resist many areas of Bernie’s policies. They would criticize them as being “too left” or “impractical.”
Some might even join Republicans in this effort, possibly forming a block to Bernie’s policies.
Something Different Is Needed
In order for a President like Bernie Sanders to actually pass a set of Progressive policies like the ones named above, what would be needed is a mass-movement of regular people.
These would be volunteers working on what would be, basically, a continuous, UN-ending political campaign on every single issue, AFTER the election, for every single senate and congressional vote.
This is not politics-as-usual. This has to be relentless to succeed. Nobody Progressive gets to leave and forget about politics after the election.
Learning From the Past
In 2008, Obama had a huge group of active, mobilized supporters, about 5-million strong. They walked precincts, talked to voters, passed out materials, phone-banked, signed petitions and launched mass-emails on Obama’s behalf.
But right after he was elected, Obama basically let that already-mobilized, ready-to-go force dissolve and dissipate into powerlessness. This huge resource was never used after the election. Its power to push policy was wasted.
For any Bernie Sanders-type, Progressive President to succeed, he/she would have to keep a force like Obama’s (or even larger) together, AFTER THE ELECTION. Permanently.
They would work to actively support every policy-push by the President. They would do so in the form of emails, phone calls, petitions, walking precincts to talk to people, and mass-demonstrations, especially in front of Congressional and senate offices.
Progressives Will Have to go the Extra Mile
Just for 1 example of the tough reality we face, a policy like Single-Payer healthcare, even though it is now desired by at least 3 out of 5 Americans, will never pass without a special effort by The People.
What is needed would be millions of people marching on Washington, DC, in full Vietnam-era style. That might do the trick.
But even a mass-march would need to be a LAST, dramatic step to a long, tough process of forcing The People’s will OVER the awesome powers of the wealthy economic establishment.
Failure or Success?
I have to conclude that if Bernie had won in 2016, and decided NOT to employ a vast people-powered campaign AFTER being elected, he would fail in getting his best policies through.
This would likely happen to some degree even with Democrats in control of both senate and congress, since part of the Democratic Party (the “centrists”) would resist his policies.
However, if Bernie had been elected in 2016 and he maintained the kind of ongoing PEOPLE-DRIVEN campaign described above, on a continuous basis, to push the political system, he could be wildly successful.
But only then.
If we ever get a truly Progressive President, we are going to have to back him or her up, bigtime, in ways we never have before.