If you are a Bernie Sanders supporter, I’ve got some bad news for you: nothing significant will change if your guy gets elected.
Here is the simple reality of the American political system: it was designed to prevent significant change. We have three branches of government intended to check and balance each other. We have states intended to check and balance the federal government.
There are only three real areas where presidents can effect significant change: 1)foreign policy 2)judicial appointees and 3)the bully pulpit. Bernie is only likely to bring change in the latter two areas. So, if you are content to have a lot more left-wing judges and a lot more talk about inequality and social justice — but not much actual action — then by all means “Feel the Bern.” But don’t come complaining to me three years from now when nothing else has changed. I will just remind you of this post, and I will point out that Hillary Clinton probably would have given you the same judges.
If you want to claim that the Obama presidency brought change, I would point to two “accomplishments” of note: the disastrous Obamacare bill and the worthless Dodd-Frank bill. Yes, these were two significant pieces of legislation, but remember they took place when Obama had a Democratic House AND a filibuster-proof Senate. There are no scenarios where Bernie enjoys a Dem House and Senate.
So, let’s say Bernie wins in 2016. He will face a Republican House galvanized more than ever to stop his brand of Socialism. The Senate will probably be won by the Democrats, but probably with 51 to 53 Democrats at most. And then come the 2018 elections, which are likely to resemble, more than anything else, the shellacking that Obama suffered in 2010. This is simply a reality that nearly all presidents in recent U.S. history have faced: off-year elections are usually punishing for presidents, and this happened to Obama in 2010 and 2014, and it will almost certainly happen to Bernie.
Meanwhile, Republicans have made huge gains on the local level. I urge you to read this article if you still think the Obama presidency was all awesome and stuff for Democrats.
The shift in party affiliation over the past seven years is absolutely incredible. In 2008, there were 35(!) states that were either solidly or leaning Democratic, five solid or leaning Republican and 10 judged as competitive. The following year there were 33 Democratic states, 12 competitive states and, still, five Republican ones.
From 2008 to 2015, Democrats went from a 30-state lead to a six-state deficit when it comes to states solidly or leaning their way on party affiliation. That is simply stunning.
Gallup’s findings are in keeping with what I think is the most under-told story of the Obama years: Republicans have made massive gains at virtually every level of government other than, of course, the White House.
Republicans have their largest House majority since World War II, having retaken the majority in the 2010 election. They hold a four-seat majority in the Senate, having seized control of the world’s greatest deliberative body in the 2014 midterms.
At the state level, Republicans have 31 governorships — almost two-thirds of all the governor’s mansions in the country. Republicans are even more dominant at the state legislative level; the GOP holds total control over 30 of the 50 states’ legislatures and has partial control in another eight states — meaning that more than three-quarters of the country’s state legislatures are controlled by the GOP.
The reason for the Republican popularity on the local level — in contrast to the horrible image of the Republican Congress on a national level — is that Republicans on a local level are actually a small government party dedicated to lower taxes, lower spending and less regulation. During the Obama years, people have shown less and less trust in government to solve their problems. There is no reason to suspect this would change with a president even more left-wing than Obama.
The most significant thing the Obama years has done for the Democratic party on a local level is devastate its bench of future candidates. If you are wondering why the Democrats have two old, white candidates to offer for president — while Republicans are offering a lot more variety — it is symptomatic of a Democratic party in decline after seven years of Obama. This may also explain why the most popular current presidential candidate — Bernie — is an independent, not a Democrat.
On foreign policy, a Bernie Sanders presidency would be just as disappointing to noninterventionists as the Obama presidency has been. Bernie’s votes show he nearly as much of a hawk as Hillary, and he has shown little desire to actually decrease U.S. militarism. The Daily Beast article “Bernie Sanders Love This $1 Trillion War Machine” is one of its most popular recent articles. So, a wise observer would be very skeptical of any claims that the Bernie foreign policy would be very different than the Obama foreign policy. Maybe Bernie will paint peace signs on the drones before firing them at Yemeni wedding parties?
So, Bernie supporters, keep on going to your rallies and keep on Feeling the Bern. But the wiser amongst you will maintain a healthy skepticism. And for those of you who see a potential Bernie presidency as a disaster: don’t worry, be happy. The Obama years have been good on a local level for a true small government alternative to the establishment Democrats and Republicans. I predict this trend will accelerate during a disastrous Bernie presidency. There are reason to be optimistic in the long run.