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How Sanders would "get things done"

It may not seem like it, but i've been fighting my own inclination to turn this blog into an "All Sanders, All The Time" site. But i do want to make an exception for these two articles since they aren't focused on the horse race stuff. These show how Sanders fights for his policies in a practical way, and both are interesting because they show how he's navigated the difficult legislative environment.

Sometimes it's asked how Sanders would get laws through Congress if he were president. Considering the obstruction that President Obama has faced, and the fact that Hillary Clinton is just as hated by the Republicans, i don't think that she has a greater claim than Sanders on being able to get things done. And as Min pointed out, Sanders sees keeping an active base of supporters engaged beyond election day is a big part of his strategy.

Sanders has also shown more willingness to do things through executive orders. Obama has done some great things through executive action recently (EPA regulation of carbon, the Dreamer exemption, overtime pay) but he could have done those things six years ago. I would anticipate a lot of Day One action from Sanders.

But we also have the examples below showing how he's made practical compromises while still working towards a progressive agenda. The fact that he's been in Congress (House, then Senate) since 1990 means he knows the process and has a lot of relationships. That in itself is not a panacea in a polarized environment. But coupled with his plan to use engaged supporters to pressure Congress and support primary challenges when necessary, i see it as being a more practical argument than vague promises to end the partisan divide in Washington.

Here are the articles:

Bernie Sanders' community health clinics.

Veterans Affairs.

There's also the fact that it's not helpful to "get things done" if the things you are trying to get done are terrible. Some of the things Bill Clinton got done were: welfare "reform" (i.e. cutting it), NAFTA, the Three Strikes Rule, DOMA, DMCA, and financial deregulation. The Democrats were obviously in a different place in the 1990s, and Hillary isn't Bill. But we are in a different place now, and i think we need someone not associated with all of that. Not to mention the fact that Hillary has only come around on some of those issues recently, and some not at all.

Ok, i meant for this to be a positive Bernie post and it devolved into an anti-Clinton rant. Sorry. Bernie wouldn't like me for that; he's staying positive. But i almost never see a policy objection to Bernie (among people that would vote in the Dem primary, obviously). I either see "electability" or "how would he get things done". And i think rank and file Democrats that are concerning themselves with these types of issues are outsmarting themselves, or they're cowed by conventional wisdom from pundits which is often wrong. You should vote for who you believe in.

By fnord12 | July 6, 2015, 10:52 AM | Liberal Outrage


I always thought Obama was woefully under-qualified for the presidency, and think that's probably behind a lot of his missteps, (not that I hold it against him for going for his [rare] window of opportunity when the Republicans were weak enough to lose to a black man with that middle name).

So tell me - has Sanders ever been governor of a state, or anything like that? I really like 25 years of paying his dues gaining experience in the national legislature, but I'd like a hitch as executive somewhere, in addition, a lot better - it's not an entirely identical skill-set.

Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, from 1981-1989 (he became a Congressman in 1990). He implemented a number of progressive policies, but the most relevant story is that when he was first elected, the local business interests and their allies in the city council thought that they could just wait him out and obstructed him all they could. But Sanders rallied his base in the next election and got a council more friendly to his policies. That basic model is what he's saying he would do as president. Obviously Burlington isn't the same as all of the US, but it does show he has experience as an executive dealing with a hostile legislature. And of course since then he's learned to navigate the legislative side at the federal level. So from a pure "experience" point of view, it's not a bad combination. Nothing is the same as being president, of course.

One thing to note is that a lot of governors have a lot more power, proportionally speaking, than a president. For example, in New Jersey, Chris Christie has a line item veto. So negotiating with the legislature is a lot easier. Pass whatever you want and i'll cross off what i don't like. So i'd argue that having experience on the legislative side is at least as important for a president.

My view of Obama is more that he did not intend to be a fighter. A lot of people didn't seem to notice, or just wanted an alternative to Hillary Clinton, but he ran as a moderate and with platitudes about ending the partisan divisions in Washington. Even his cabinet choices were inspired by Lincoln's "Team of Rivals". And once in office it took him way too long to accept that he was facing 100% obstruction. So i don't know if i'd agree that his problem was lack of experience as much as a philosophy of being a uniter (admirable in the abstract). I suppose you could argue that it was lack of experience dealing with hostile opposition that led him to that philosophy, though.

The article Min links to (here) suggests that he actually wanted to be slowed down.

Well, that gets into an entirely off-topic thing about Obama - I agree that his shortcomings stem less from lack of experience than his mellow Hawaiian let's-make-a-deal attitude. That, unfortunately, makes him Neville Chamberlain when we needed Winston Churchill fighting the Nazis to the death.

Further off-topic would be getting into how Obama stirs people's imagination - the 'Invisible Obama that only Republicans can see' that Jon Stewart joked about is NOT the only invisible Obama, given the fervor of his initial supporters. I can't fathom why people on both ends of the spectrum read such outlandish qualities into the man (thought I think Jimmy Carter was pretty much correct about the inspiration on the right, if fear of otherness need not be overtly racist).


I'll take nine years as Mayor of Burlington. You've sold me on Sanders, (subject to possibly changing my mind later as I learn more).

Hey - I just blocked my first rude stranger on Facebook last night because of this conversation.

A 'friend' had 'liked' a Gizmodo article about Sanders and Elizabeth Warren doing something to do with internet access, and the comments had gotten into talking about Sanders' chances, and I said that 25-years-and-nine-exective-as-mayor-experience thing, concluding that I wished we'd had anyone nearly so qualified to pick from the last two times. It got thanked right away, but some dork posted a picture of Stephen Hawking captioned "Drifting away from your bull[crap]" -and now I know how to block people...