A peek through the crystal ball into a Bernie Sanders White House

Photo via Visualhunt
A Bernie Sanders White House isn't realistically going to happen. Even if he wins the Democratic nomination, which is still unlikely, he would have to beat the Republicans after pledging to raise taxes and basically acknowledging that foreign policy isn't his strong suit.

To make matters worse, if the Republican nominee is Trump, Michael Bloomberg could jump into the race. If no candidate in the 3 way race wins a majority of electoral votes, it falls to the House of Representatives to choose a president. Because Democrats in congress don't care much for Sanders and Republicans don't like Trump, Bloomberg becomes an easy compromise. It allows both parties to effectively call a do-over, get a President they can both live with and start getting ready for 2020.

Let's put all of that aside for the moment though and pretend that Bernie Sanders ekes out a victory in November and heads to the White House.

Bernie will have big challenges early, even before laying out an agenda. The first thing that he needs to do is choose a cabinet. Given Sanders' history, I have to assume that he would select many 'progressive', 'outside the Beltway' types on his first pass and most of those choices would be rejected by the Senate. This could become a lengthy quagmire for Sanders.

Sanders has called for a "revolution" but it doesn't appear that the movement extends beyond the White House. It's impossible to predict accurately right now but a big shift in the House of Representatives and Senate does not seem to be in the making. Sanders can count on at least one and possibly both houses of Congress being controlled by Republicans. Those Republicans are likely to continue with the obstructionist strategy that they used with Obama. (Their constituents wouldn't stand for anything less.)

Sanders will need to get cabinet appointments through the Senate process and he may not even have all of the Democrats on side. Appointments that are too 'non-establishment' likely won't fly. The other problem that could arise however is that some 'establishment' figures, worried about their future careers, may not want to be part of Sanders' team. This has been offered as a partial explanation of Sanders current foreign policy problem.

On the other hand, some Republicans could be eager to allow Sanders to have inexperienced, anti-establishment cabinet members in the hope of using them to attack the administration and the Democrats. Democrats, of course, will try to block those nominations.

We have to assume that somehow, some way, Sanders will get some sort of cabinet cobbled together eventually - a group of people that the Senate will let him have and that Sanders doesn't hate but this process could consume a substantial part of his first 100 days.

So, with a cabinet in place, Sanders can move on to his priorities. Bernie said in the Feb. 4 New Hampshire debate that campaign finance reform was his top priority and meaningful campaign finance reform would require overturning Citizens United.

There are two different ways to do that. The first and surest way to do it is to introduce a Constitutional amendment. That would require a two-thirds vote of both the House of Representatives and Senate or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures. I

If Bernie can't get an amendment, then he needs to win it at the Supreme Court level with a new case. First he will need to replace one of the judges who voted for Citizens United. That judge will have to willingly step aside and then Sanders will have to get a more liberal judge through the Senate nomination process. Assuming he gets that done, he will then have to find a new case to aim at the court. In the case of Citizens United vs. FEC it took two years for the case to make its way through the lower courts and be heard by the Supreme Court.

Assuming that Sanders makes all of this happen and the Supreme Court feels the Bern, Sanders will then be in a position to introduce meaningful campaign finance reform to Congress. Of course that will have to wait because now it is time for him to run for re-election. The actual campaign finance law will have to wait until 2021.

While all of that is going on, Bernie could introduce some other things but according to the Senator, "so long as big money interests [by which he means Citizens United] control the United States Congress, it is gonna be very hard to do what has to be done for working families."

Whether it's "big money interests" or just Republicans and more conservative Democrats, he's not wrong. He will not be able to get substantial tax increases on the wealthy or corporations through anything like the current Congress. He will also not get them to pass single payer health care, or break up the big banks, or agree to the states being forced to pay for free college tuition, or pull out of trade agreements such as NAFTA.

While all of this is going on, Sanders will be tested by Russia and China, by ongoing and widespread violence in the Middle East and increased violence on America's southern border in Mexico.

Of course, without a substantial list of accomplishments, The GOP will be able to paint Sanders as ineffective and impotent in the 2020 election, which means that he may never get to introduce that campaign finance bill at all.

Viva la revolucion.


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