Still feeling the Bern? Then let us be perfectly clear: a President Trump would be disastrous for Senator Sanders.
I love Bernie Sanders. I think he’s the candidate of a lifetime. I co-founded Writers for Bernie, and wrote pieces supporting him throughout the primary. I desperately wish he were the Democratic nominee, and I believe he would have been, if not for the near-complete media bias against him and the documented favoritism of the DNC.
But he’s not. He is, however, poised to have tremendous power in the Senate, if Hillary Clinton becomes president.
Some people, even though they, too, love Bernie, or because they love Bernie, think they can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary. They’re voting third party, sitting the election out — or, amazingly, voting for Trump, enamored of the idea that he’s a disrupter. Many think that even if Trump is elected, Bernie will still be their champion.
I’m astonished at the number of people I’ve encountered who think progressive policies have any chance of being enacted under a President Trump. They don’t. This isn’t defeatist thinking.
It’s simply civics and math.
Here’s what would, and wouldn’t, happen in a Trump administration:
— Bernie would not be a committee chair. There’s much excitement about the prospect of Bernie heading either Budget or HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions), two powerful committees. (The right, in fact, is freaking out at the prospect.) But that’ll happen only if the Democrats win back the Senate. At present, most projections make it a 50–50 split — which means if we have a Democratic president, we have a Democratic Senate majority, since the Vice President is the tiebreaker vote.
And if we have a Republican president, we don’t.
Further, the Vice President is also the tiebreaker vote for chairmanships. So: if Mike Pence is VP, no chair for Bernie.
All the talk of Dems taking the Senate, and Bernie being a committee chair, is dependent on Clinton winning the White House.
— It will be virtually impossible for progressive legislation to reach the President’s desk for final approval. The House will be held by Republicans. The Senate will be held by Republicans (given the VP tiebreaker). There will be no Democratic committee chairs to push legislation through. There will be no Democratic president to do backroom deals or twist arms (legislation is won vote by agonizing vote: watch Lincoln).
— If, by some miracle, a progressive bill makes it to President Trump’s desk, he’ll veto it. Self-explanatory.
— Progressives would not have the votes to override a veto. You need 60 Senate votes to override a presidential veto. There won’t be 10 Republicans who’ll break ranks to vote with the Democrats.
A President Trump would torpedo Bernie’s chances of enacting any of the progressive policies we care about.
It’s also true that many voters are skeptical — with good reason — of Hillary Clinton. They’re convinced that once she’s in office, she’ll break her promises and turn her back on the DNC platform. But here’s Bernie on the subject: “I think that Hillary Clinton is sincere in a number of areas. In other areas I think she is gonna have to be pushed, and that’s fine. That’s called the democratic process.”
Here’s why he’ll get more done than some pessimists want to believe:
— Right now, Bernie is the most popular politician in the United States. It’s true. And Clinton, as we all know, is not. The minute she gets in office, she and the Democrats will begin thinking of 2018 and 2020. She will have won by a whisker. Which leads us to:
— Demographics. The Democratic Party desperately needs millennials, who’ll soon be the largest voting bloc, and are the most progressivegeneration ever. To maintain any power in Congress and to give any hopes to Democrats in the next two election cycles, the party will have to go left — or, as it’s well aware, progressives/millennials will abandon it in droves. And on a related note…
— Clinton has no ties to the grassroots, without which the Democratic party, if it survives at all, is sunk. Bernie does.
As Bernie has said, “The Democratic Party, if it is going to survive, is going to have to open its door to people who are a little bit louder, a little bit coarser than the fine men and women who go to the $10,000-a-plate fund-raising dinners. They are going to have to let other people in America in the door and start representing their interests. The only way you make change is by rallying large numbers of people to stand up and fight back. And the day after the election, that is exactly what I intend to do.”
— Hillary will owe him. He is working his heart out campaigning for her. After Hillary campaigned for Obama, he made her Secretary of State; who knows what kind of deal Hillary and Bernie have made? It’s clear that if she wins, it’ll be in large part because of him. She might be the devil incarnate (I don’t actually think that, although some people do ), but she’s far from stupid.
She won’t be able to get away with ignoring him, or progressives.
Besides, if she doesn’t hold up her part of the bargain, then he won’t have to, either. The gloves will come off. Bernie is seventy-five years old, has been fighting for justice his whole life, and has nothing to lose. Hillary, on the other hand, will be embattled from day one. She can’t afford an angry Bernie Sanders.
Early on, even I was willing to think that Trump wasn’t a “real Republican” or that he’d bring the revolution. In my worst moments, the idea of watching Hillary and her people lose even seemed sweet.
But that wish for vengeance is toxic for the individual and collective soul. More to the point, it’s become obvious that Trump has few strong ideological stances of his own, and is content to let the far-right wing of the disintegrating Republican party do his thinking for him. He’s said he wants to appoint Supreme Court justices in the Scalia mold, mainly to appeasenervous conservatives. His cabinet would be the polar opposite of progressive. His poisonous bigotry, on so many fronts, is well-documented.
So many people are so afraid and so angry and so disgusted, in fact, that we’ve forgotten we’re not just talking about two individuals, and the breadth and depth of their flaws or their evil or their brilliance or whatever attributes we want to believe they possess; we’re also talking about two parties, and two very different scenarios in the White House.
So, for just a moment, forget Clinton and Trump, and instead consider: we will get either a Democratic administration, supported by a party which is ripe for a leftward move. Or we will get a Republican one, with a party that is falling apart, can’t control its own extremists, and is moving farther and farther to the right into territory that’s overtly racist, misogynist, antisemitic and fascist. Yes, there are decent, principled Republicans; they’re not the ones on the Trump train.
We could go way, way backward, so far back it’s beyond where we started as a nation. Or we could inch forward.
Of course I’d rather leap. You probably would too. I’m heartsick we’re not taking the leap that we could have with a President Sanders. But we can’t; it’s not on the table. This is reality.
He’s not going to be president, but I’m still going to do everything I can to help Bernie Sanders help as many people as he can, as much as he can, as soon as he can.
On Tuesday, in the voting booth, we have to do what’s hard. We need to give him a president he can work with.