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Why President Bernie could do more than President Hillary – Part 2 of my election series

February 15, 2016


My first post on Bernie Vs. Hillary made a case for Bernie being the more electable of the two.  This post takes on the 2nd most common argument for Hillary: given Republican obstructionism, ether Bernie or Hillary would get about the same amount done. Many Hillary supporters suggest that her smaller bore demands and greater executive experience mean that she could get *more* done.  Here is why that is wrong.

  1. Dealing with a recalcitrant Congress means a Democratic President will constantly be in negotiating mode. Starting out with small bore demands puts Hillary in a worse negotiating position, not a better one – assuming policy differences between her and Bernie are of degree, not of kind*.
  2. Getting something done in spite of a recalcitrant Congress requires popular pressure to impose political costs on the Republicans. Small bore demands arouse small bore passions. A president who starts by aiming for major changes can stir up  more popular support than one who  puts forward wonky tinkering.   Keeping that popular support does not require winning those battles – just being seen to unabashedly fight them. An important mistake mainstream politicians make: taking triumphant victory laps for every crumb extracted. A President can celebrate the fact that even a crumb was more than the other side wanted to give, while still emphasizing that the other side is to blame for blocking a whole picnic and forcing people to settle for crumbs.
  3. Mid-terms. A fighting President who puts forward big bold proposals is the Democrats’ best chance of not suffering the usual mid-term losses to Republicans. It even provides a small shot at mid-term gains, something rare for the party holding the Presidency.
  4. Executive power. Some of what Hillary says in debate seems to imply that there are win-win deals. Her expressed view is that it will be necessary to *work* with Republicans rather than merely negotiate with them. It as though all her experience still has not taught her that necessary negotiation with Republican lawmakers is a battle against vicious opponents, not a settlement of honest disagreements between people acting in good faith.  This view, which she has expressed in debate, would would imply that she would repeat the Obama mistake of not making maximal use of domestic executive power until the end of her Presidency.
  5. Hillary supporters still insist she has the most realistic view of how to govern in the current political environment. Just remember her advisers are the same geniuses who managed to lose the House, the Senate and a majority of State Legislatures in spite of a Presidency held by a popular, brilliant and charismatic President. These are the same “political realists” who thought that discouraging every mainstream competitor in the primary would result in a Hillary cakewalk to the nomination.

* A future post will show that policy differences between Hillary and Bernie are fundamental not just a matter of how far to go.





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