Obama’s words about not being able to make politicians get along, quite apart from being startlingly naive, drove home for me how much I do not believe electing Sanders would fix anything.
A fun game to play during an 8th State of the Union address is to imagine different candidates giving it. Trump would have something amazing to say. Clinton would hit all the right notes, but lack that deeper charisma that has always alluded her. (She is a better official than figurehead, I endlessly maintain.) And Sanders would be greeted with cold, cold silence.
Sanders is not a Democrat. This fact is easy to forget while he is running on the ticket. While I have transparently supported Clinton, I am not thrilled with the way the DNC has treated Sanders*. That said, Sanders is crashing the party, pun intended. He has been a vocal critic of the party and its platform for decades and is pulling people who are not Democrats towards voting in the primary. If someone as right of Clinton as Sanders is left were doing this, a Republican would have a third of the Democratic vote. Before you justify this, I agree: Sanders has nowhere else to go. Does not make him a Democrat.
But the thing Sanders has failed to do is create down-ballot candidates. So you want to invade the Democratic Party and move it left? Where is Congress in this vision? One problem is that a good number of Sander’s supporters simply overestimate the Presidency. A good way to imagine the President is as someone who can only say “yes” or “no”. (The rule-making process matters a good deal, as the recent kerfuffle about executive orders reminds us, so this is very simplified.) A good question to ask when you hear a presidential candidate make a promise is whether or not Congress will pass something close.
And so I picture Bernie Sanders, probably the most principled person who attended the State of Union, up in front of it. Would that Congress pass single-payer? Pass super-high tax rates on the rich? Increase the safety net significantly? The answer is very decidedly no. And getting a Democratic House and Senate, no small feat, won’t be enough for exactly the reason Sanders has gotten a raw deal from the DNC. These are not Democratic proposals.
This is not a revolution. It is a quixotic run that if successful will jam up American politics hopelessly for 4 years. Unless Sanders is planning on suspending the Constitution, he needs Congress to back him up. You think Obama had problems with one party against him? You have not seen anything yet!
Until he gets a Congressional movement, you have to put the relative merits of Sanders’ proposals on ice.
*The data breach notwithstanding. Stealing data, even if it is a lieutenant, is a terrible offense in electoral politics. I’ve said that the reversal was also correct and that Sanders handled the fallout exceptionally, but the DNC was well within their rights to protect the integrity of the primary.