Bernie Sanders has won over the hearts of millions of Americans, and proven particularly popular with young, liberal Americans. He offers an unabashedly progressive approach, in contrast to the chaotic conservatism Republicans, and unexciting centrism of Hillary.
However, there are several reasons to be sceptical of the Senator from Vermont.
Where is his revolution?
Sanders is calling for widespread change in some policy areas. He says he will implement universal healthcare, break up the big banks, and fight back against the donor class. How does he do it? With a political revolution of course.
A President is not a king, and enacting most of Sanders’ big proposals would require Congressional support.
Back in 2008 Barack Obama excited similar levels of enthusiasm from young voters, bringing in impressive numbers of small-donations in a similar fashion to Sanders. Yet once in office Obama’s personal popularity did him few favours. His administration painstakingly struggled to pass the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that the policy was broadly similar to a Republican scheme applied in Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney.
Even after the law was passed, Republicans applied on multiple occasions for the Supreme Court strike down the ACA. Since then, the Republicans have seized control of the Senate and maintain their control over the gears of government at a state level.
Universal healthcare would immediately put Congressional Republicans on the defensive and Sanders’ self identification as a democratic socialist will likely make bipartisan compromise an impossibility.That’s fine under Sanders’ logic: when he comes to power, he will sweep to the Oval Office with such incredible support that he will win back both houses of Congress. Yet this will need an unprecedented level of popularity.
If Sanders is ever to be capable of pulling off such a gigantic feat, surely he should be able to win over his own party? It’s not that he hasn’t been heard: he has had ample opportunities in televised debates, public appearances, and media coverage to make his case.
Despite this, he remains significantly behind Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race. At what point exactly does his revolution kick in?
His promises rely on a scale of political support that is far ahead of anything he has already achieved, yet current signs do not indicate such a nationwide surge and without it Sanders’ promises will only translate into gridlock. Drastic political shifts are not a common occurrence in established democracies: they happen during periods of intense economic change or pressures from war.
Bernie cannot simply conjure a revolution from young liberals that will overcome the rest of the American population that is not sold on his vision.
Break up the big banks, then what?
The merits of Bernie’s progressivism are not in doubt, but the methods of his politics must undergo scrutiny.
Consider his argument that ‘if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist’. There is a reason this issue has very little detail outlining how Bernie’s Wall Street reforms would work, and what the financial sector would look like afterwards.
Wall Street executives should be brought to bear for the causes of the recession, and reforms implemented to prevent similar disasters in the future. Yet at the same time this is an enormously significant part of the American and global economy, and policymaking must be more constructive than punitive if progress is to be made.
For better or worse, markets across the globe will tumble if the American financial sector dips. When Sanders discusses cracking down on Wall Street, he must understand that this will likely have knock-on effects for everyday Americans and people around the world. The ramifications and risk involved deserve more than three paragraphs and snippets of his legislative record on his website.
Sanders certainly has a point when it comes to curtailing the excesses of Wall Street, but his inability to articulate what this future will look like is reckless.
The Risk of a Sanders – Trump Showdown
Should Sanders win, there is a considerable chance he will be facing Donald Trump in the general election. The polls that show Bernie beating Trump by around 10% in this hypothetical election must be treated with caution.
America is not a country that takes the word ‘socialist’ lightly, no matter the context or qualifier. Any student of American history will know that there is a strong chance that swing voters in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia will side with the all-American success-story businessman, over the radical left-winger.
Added to which, if there was a terrorist attack preceding this election you may as well hand the Oval Office to Trump. Sanders is not strong on national security with swing voters, and Trump’s ability to present himself as strong on national security could deliver him incremental gains in swing states that would ensure him a win.
The relative risk involved in a Trump presidency means that Democratic supporters should be very careful about who they choose to run.