Bad news for Bernie Sanders supporters

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.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

25 thoughts on “Bad news for Bernie Sanders supporters

  1. If Bernie sticks to his viewpoints on war and gets nothing else accomplished, he’ll be a far sight better than Hillary Clinton or any of the right-wing warmongers out there.

  2. I find it a bit unusual to find a posting like this on this blog! Maybe I’m dense, but what’s the connection to Mormonism in this topic? Or do I misunderstand the purview of the blog? (I admit that I’m not fully familiar with the archival content.)

  3. Bruce, there are plenty of Mormons feelin’ the Bern. And occasionally, M* delves into starkly political issues. Most of the folks here are conservative, with a few libertarians and at least one bona fide, authentic moderate.

  4. Judicial appointees means:
    Single payer transformation of Obamacare through regulation ok’d by judges.
    “Campaign finance” laws (aka revocation of the first amendment) the same.
    Second Amendment gutted or virtually suspended for all cases including hunting.
    EPA a back door implantation of carbon taxes.
    More growth in public unions holding the taxpayers hostage.
    Increasing food prices with more twisting of regulation laws in place.
    Taxation on churches.
    Even more marginalization and discrimination of religious believers and institutions.
    More erosion of our safety and national character through unwise immigration policy (For the record I’m in favor of immigration with either intent to someday repatriate or permanently assimilate)
    Legal drug use and Prostitution

    In nearly all cases that matter for respect of the rule of law rather than Machiavellian preference for outcomes, the justices vote 5 to 4.

    When that scale tips it will get ugly. Fast.

    If I’m wrong, show me where the liberal 4 justices have voted based on principle of the rule of law rather than an expansive legal reasoning that reads their policy preferences into the statute. Even Roberts voted against his policy preferences in Obamacare through a mistaken analysis of the rule of law. Would that the liberal justices could be so honest to their responsibilities.

    If the secret combinations (establishment is just too euphemistic) are behind Bernie as well, these things will come to pass regardless of who controls Congress. If Bernie is really independent he will use the unconstitutional levers of power to effect his preferred changes through existing regulations anyway and the secret combinations that influence the civil service will pull their levers as they will as well.

    Of course, you’d be absolutely right if we have a constitutional government that’s not hanging by a thread.

  5. Oh and that says nothing of the foreign policy disaster and unrest that will continue to spread the world – Middle East, Russia, China… spilling over into real problems for Europe, Africa, South America, and obviously us.

  6. Why waste time and energy on Bernie? He will never be the Democrat nominee to say nothing of president. It is obvious to all Hillary will be the nominee and, unfortunately, probably the next president. Make a remotely compelling case she will lose enough states that voted for Obama in 2012 to be denied the electoral college victory. I can barely tolerate the idea of a Hillary presidency but the realist in me says once she gets the Dem nomination it will be smooth sailing to the Presidency. That’s why it is important the Repubs nominate someone who will staunch the inevitable Senate losses so they keep the Senate. (The House is a lock to stay R, so that is some comfort.)

    Bernie is a complete sideshow; a distraction from the inevitable Hillary coronation. There is even less chance of her being indicted than there is Bernie becomes President. Rule of law under this president is for other people, not the person picked to carry his torch. As painful as it is, the earlier you get used to President Clinton the easier election night in November will be and the next four years.

  7. This election cycle has been the most disturbing and confusing to me yet. I guess the overwhelming support for crazy candidates from both parties speaks to the distaste on both sides for our government. Unfortunately those choices seem to bode for even worse problems, in my opinion. I have always thought I should vote – even when the candidates differ from my opinion in some important issues. But, if those who are ahead now continue to the general election, it will be a difficult choice of voting for the least distasteful. I am really trying not to become apathetic.

  8. Mark N, if Bernie Sanders really were a peace candidate in the tradition of Ron Paul, for example, I might even vote for him (and I am an avowed anti-socialist, but it would be worth it to end the empire). Unfortunately, all of the evidence is that Bernie would still get us into ridiculous and unnecessary foreign wars. He might be slightly better than Hillary, but not much.

  9. So, Geoff B., I have a sincere question. I really don’t have a political “tribe.” So when it comes to most issues, I am pretty open to well-reasoned arguments. A lot of what you write in the OP and Bernie Sanders rings true. What doesn’t match my experience is the idea that Republican control on the State and Local levels is a good thing. I live in Idaho where the legislature is about as Republican as they come and has been for a long time. The problem is that we really aren’t doing that well as a state. Poverty is much more prevalent than politicians want to admit. I regularly work with people (adult parents) who are working full-time jobs and often a 2nd, who are still not able to make enough money to pay rent and utilities, let alone food or medical care without assistance. I see public educators, law enforcement, and mental health providers not make enough to support a family. Our roads and highways are very poorly maintained, with no plan to be able to continue maintenance. County and City governments are not held accountable for misuse of funds, ethical violations, or blatantly criminal activity because State officials claim to believe in more local control. I guess my experience with conservative politics on the state and local level just doesn’t match up with the promises of freedom and prosperity that comes with Conservative Ideology.

    At the same time, I served my mission in Finland where all working members made enough to live comfortable lifestyles, roads and public facilities were well maintained, homelessness and hunger were practically non-existent, crime was minimal, education was superb, and innovation and industry thrived. I loved that welfare was available in the form of basic governmental jobs like maintenance and sanitation which were seen not as an expense to reduce but as a way to help people who were motivated to work for and earn their benefits. And healthcare was actually pretty awesome because everyone had access to basic medical services and top-level emergency care, while those who chose to pay more had the freedom to seek private medical services. That personal experience of socialism was nothing like the bleak doom and gloom I hear comparing socialism to Communist Russia or Nazi Germany.

    So my question is simply, can you help me understand how my lived experience can be so vastly different from the rhetoric I hear and read from most conservative or libertarian news/commentators?

  10. And, lest you think that I am just a closet Progressive, I see the same sort of discrepancy with many of the ideologies and real-world outcomes of more Liberal/Progressive sources. The sexual liberation movement is a disaster wreaking havoc and pain in people’s lives. More women have to deal with the real psychological and emotional trauma of an abortion than any pro-choice activist would like to admit (and not just from stigma). Undermining the importance of the family and respect for faith hurts real people as they search for lasting happiness and meaning in their lives. Environmental Activists protesting the use of land for agriculture and human development not only misunderstand ideas of stewardship, but also basic science about the earth’s capacity to sustain life. Anthropogenic global warming is an embarrassing farce. So please believe that I am serious about wanting to understand.

  11. -Finland has mandatory military service
    -More homogeneous population that’s been that way for a couple thousand years (the case can be made socialism is burning through its generational capital)
    -Much smaller population and population density
    -Not nearly as the same level of military expenditures (the world has thrived under US security umbrella)
    -Socialism at the margins (these countries are marginal to the US economy) only works when it can freeload off free enterprise — if the USA wasn’t churning out innovations, capital, etc Finland wouldn’t have customers
    – There is a lot of ruin in a nation- just because you think it works for 75 years doesn’t mean it won’t collapse spectacularly in the future. In essence robbing future generations of stability and safety to pay for comfortable consumption and growth now

    Incidentally, that also applies to the US as we are increasingly tending socialist in housing loans, banks, insurance, etc.

    Now with regards to Idaho or anywhere else:
    -It’s completely boxed in by the federal government in a lot of ways. There’s only so much a state can do or even not do, thanks to regulation at the top.
    – Your state may very well just suffer from poor leadership, so what makes you think putting the poor leaders in charge of noncompetitive vital services is a better alternative?
    – Idaho is still pretty rural and new. 30 years ago many beach areas of So. California that weren’t really valuable is now worth hundreds of millions. And that was with CA being on the coast, movie stars, big population and industry etc. Idaho will take more time.

    Ask yourself this question when thinking of socialism to solve our woes. 100+ years ago, nearly all of the home budget went to food and real hunger was more common in this country. What changed that, the food redistribution act of 1900 that promised a livable food wage or advances in food production and distribution by capitalist actors?

    If we decided back then to divide up the food, tax the rich and make sure everyone had their square meal, would we have witnessed the successes we see in the “food industry” to the point where production is so good the government pays farmers to throw it away?

    The parallels to Obamacare are troubling…

  12. “30 years ago many beach areas of So. California that weren’t really valuable is now worth hundreds of millions.”

    Um, WHAT??? Nope, not true. I am a 4th generation Californian, and owner (with the rest of my extended family) of a misbegotten piece of California coastline, thanks to my grandfather who won it in a poker game back in 1927. It is sandwiched between the railroad tracks and the sea, and every spring we breathe a sigh of relief that it hasn’t fallen into the surf. It is about 5 acres, has a very small house on it (disposable–it will succumb to the waves eventually) and it is impossible to build anything else on that land (or add onto that house) because of the regulations of Santa Barbara county where it is located. Yet it was worth well over a million 30 years ago–an unstable, unbuildable piece of southern California coastline. Maybe 50 or 60 years ago, but 30 years ago? Not a chance.

  13. 30 years ago Huntington Beach and the surrounding area was a shadow of what it is today.

    Sorry you feel differently, but my family had a house surrounded by empty areas that was modest in price for a single earner and now would sell in the millions with all the surrounding areas developed.

  14. Kevin L., our political structures are expressions of collective values. The independent and aspirant culture of the American people is entirely different than the collectivist spirit of the Finnish people. That kind of socialism could never exist here, even if you could argue rationally that it might be good for us. It’s simply not in our national character.

    We have the government we deserve. We elect intelligent, capable leaders every election cycle, and every four years, we cry “throw the bums out.” Anti-establishment candidates like Sanders, Trump and Cruz get people excited. But as soon as they are elected, they will immediately become “establishment,” and four years later, everyone will be crying “throw the bums out.” Those establishment candidates who manage to hang on, will be the only ones imperfectly trying to hold things together, while a volatile and miserable electorate is cursed and coddled.

    You cannot govern a complicated state like the US by being “anti-establishment.” The only governing that EVER happens in America is from the center. Governing from the fringe is not governing. It is merely obstructing. If obstruction is what you want, then maybe Cruz or Sanders will give it to you, but most likely, they will actually try to govern once they get into office, which means joining the establishment.

  15. Kevin L, if you are truly interested in dialogue, I would encourage you to read carefully the two links Michael Towns links above. One of my experiences in life, and I am sorry if I am unfairly applying this to you, is that most people who say they want to discuss things really don’t have much of an open mind.

    So, let me summarize a few points.

    1)You can’t magically turn Idaho into Finland. The US has different conditions and responsibilities. So, what you could do is turn Idaho into, say, California. And what would the result be? Widespread poverty and unemployment, much worse than what you are seeing today. California has been the U.S. model of socialism over the last 30 years, and in my opinion as a former Californian it has been an absolute disaster. You have a lot of rich and upper middle class people concentrated in the Bay Area and the West Side of LA and then you have a shrinking and suffering middle class, and then you have massive areas of inland California with unemployment rates above 15 percent. Take a look at unemployment statistics by county in California:

    Given the demographics and geography of Idaho, you might want to compare Idaho to, say, Merced county in California, which has unemployment over 15 percent and massive poverty and despair. Idaho’s unemployment rate of 3.8 percent looks like paradise compared to that. (Again, go drive through inland California sometime to see what I mean. It is truly depressing).

    2)When most people think of Scandinavian success, they think of universal health care. Everybody complains, rightly, about our health care system. But here is the thing: nobody really complained about U.S. health care, which was the model for the world, in the 1950s. That was the last decade when we had truly free market health care. Health care was cheap compared to incomes, doctors would come to your home if you were sick, hospitals were plentiful, doctors would work in charity hospitals. Yes, if you were really, really poor, health care was a problem, but there were charity hospitals for the truly poor, and for 90 percent of the population health care was the best in the world. What happened? Medicare and Medicaid and constant government involvement in health care. So, our model now is absolutely a mess. And we cannot turn back time and turn to a universal model. We need to go from our current mess to something better. Universal single-payer, which is Bernie Sanders’ solution, is simply too expensive. The state of Vermont tried to adopt it and ended up turning it down because it was WAAAY too expensive. So, given our realities, the solution is turning to the free market to adopt true patient-driven health care. This includes a lot of solutions that I will someday discuss in a post on this blog, but for now suffice to say that there are market-based solutions for health care that would be better than our current mess (which is NOT the free market).

    Other than that, please re-read the comments by Gerry and Michael Towns. No reason to repeat the points they made.

  16. What Gman said. The most lasting difference the next President will make, whoever he or she is, is to the makeup of SCOTUS. And that’s really very important.

  17. Geoff B.,

    I accept the apology. 🙂 Seriously, I understand from following this blog for a long time that a lot of people pose their critiques as questions. I not only read the news article, but also the book. And a different book from IEA. Honestly, I find libertarian/conservative explanations generally more convincing, but struggle with how they play out in real life. I guess what I was really looking for was an explanation that allowed me to continue to hold onto more right-of-center personal views in light of these experiences.

    What I understand from the responses already given are that 1) What I saw in Finland was really an illusion. What appeared to be a good system was merely successful because of cultural and coincidental factors that are being destroyed by the current system. and 2) What we have in Idaho is actually a good thing compared to what is happening elsewhere so it is unrealistic to think of things improving here.

    Is that an accurate summary of the argument?

  18. Kevin L wrote:

    “What I understand from the responses already given are that 1) What I saw in Finland was really an illusion. What appeared to be a good system was merely successful because of cultural and coincidental factors that are being destroyed by the current system. and 2) What we have in Idaho is actually a good thing compared to what is happening elsewhere so it is unrealistic to think of things improving here.”

    I would put it slightly differently:

    1)What you saw in Finland was the result of a homogeneous culture with a small population with people less likely (for cultural reasons) to “game the system” through fraud and general laziness. In addition, Finland spends relatively little on the military. In addition, the Nordics were actually quite free market oriented until the 1960s and 1970s, when they began a socialist experiment that took things too far the wrong direction. In the last decade or so all of the Nordic countries have adopted free market reforms, and they are, in many ways except health care, less socialist than the United States. When it comes to health care, the U.S. has created a mess of a system that cannot be easily fixed with single payer because the cost would literally bankrupt the country in just a few years. So, it is not realistic to compare the U.S. to Finland in any meaningful way.

    2)We have actually adopted many socialist policies in some states like California. This has created a very divided state with some very rich and many, many desperately poor. I would not say it is unrealistic to think of things improving in Idaho because things always improve over time, and Idaho will probably get better. But my understanding of Idaho as somebody who drives through there pretty often but does not know the state well is that housing prices are pretty cheap but there are not that many jobs, especially outside of the Boise area. Ketchum is prosperous because of Sun Valley, but there are a lot of poor small towns throughout the state. It seems to me that Idaho has many of the same problems as other mostly rural states like Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Kansas, etc. I can tell you that Colorado, where I live, has been more prosperous lately because 1)high tech in the Denver/Boulder area 2)ski areas are doing well 3)oil in northern Colorado. And I can tell you that a “socialist” system like Bernie wants to adopt would make things about 1,000 times worse in Idaho by driving away the few jobs that you have and destroying the tax base. So I guess things could be a lot worse.

  19. Kevin L, one last point that bears thinking about:

    I have never been to Finland, but I have spent a lot of time in Europe, and I know a lot of Nordics and other Europeans through my job. Most Americans would not like to live in Europe full-time for the following reasons:

    –Super small houses and apartments. Middle class people make do with 800 sq ft apartments at most.
    –High taxes on electricity and gas and many other essentials. This means people don’t drive as much, and there is better public transportation, but the reality is that most Americans have one or two cars at least, whereas this is less common in the Nordics.
    –The education systems generally pigeonhole you to a certain kind of position at a relatively young age, and there are fewer chances to move up or change careers. Very good students at a younger age get to go to college, while people who are not good students usually go to trade schools and have problems getting out of the “trade school” rut later in life.
    –There is generally fewer entrepreneurs in the Nordics. People are less likely to start their own businesses.

    Don’t get me wrong: there are advantages to the European way of life, and we wasteful Americans could definitely learn a thing or two. But I think most Americans don’t realize how good they have it in many ways until they actually go to Europe and see how Europeans live. The first thing the Europeans I work with do when they come to the U.S. is buy a car and a big house. They feel incredibly free doing so. Just sayin.’

  20. What’s interesting is Romney got more votes (95k) in the primary in 2012 than either Trump (34k) or Bernie (70k) and his prct share of the Republican vote was greater than Trumps, yet no one was saying what a great juggernaut he was.

    And he still lost New Hampshire in the general.

    So this all goes to show we are once again being manipulated by the media in an ever-necessary news inflation hype to sell viewers and readers.

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