In life, it's often difficult to see the forest through the trees.
The same can be said in politics. We are prone to seeing a current political situation and immediately setting a course of action to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. The American public often times demands action and views any sort of inaction as a sign of weakness, which has the potential to embolden our enemies abroad. In times of crisis the American people expect that our leaders make thorough decisions by synthesizing the information available and quickly implementing a policy or procedure to fix the problem as quickly as possible. With the American news media also subversively pushing our government to act, it can be no surprise that a large number of these decisions that end up being made are often wrong, and in some cases, dangerous to our country as a whole.
After 9/11 the American people were hungry for action. They wanted justice for the 2,977 Americans that died on that fateful day and they wanted it fast. This yearning for action led to the October 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq War. George W. Bush and his cabinet falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the region. Just four months later, Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations and claimed Iraq was also harboring terrorists, including some that were linked to the 9/11 attack. By 2005 it was revealed that Iraq, in fact, did not have weapons of mass destruction and in 2008 it was concluded that al Qaeda did not have ties to Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign. Yet the damage had been done. Nearly 4,500 American soldiers killed, an entire region destabilized, and a power vacuum in the region that gave birth to ISIS were all unanticipated outcomes of the most disastrous foreign policy decision in thirty years.
Compare that decision with the decision of President Barack Obama to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the Stimulus Bill. This occurred in February, at a time when the country was experiencing its biggest 3-month drop in job losses since the end of World War II and the country was on the brink of a second great depression. Knowing this, President Obama worked with his team of financial advisors using the principles of Keynesian macroeconomic theory, which stated that during a recession the government should offset the decrease in private spending with an increase in public spending in an effort to save jobs and stop the economic hemorrhaging. The administration passed this $832 billion bill, despite the fact that many, including Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, felt this amount was not enough. However, compromise was needed to ensure the passage of the bill and Obama and his team realized this. The results of the stimulus speak for themselves: Over 14 million private sector jobs added, a steady boost of the country's economic output, the prevention of over 5 million people from slipping into poverty, a doubling of the stock market, and, most importantly, a restored collective consumer confidence in our country.
This last example shows that governing, when done methodically and judiciously, can be extremely effective.
But it also shows the kind of temperament needed to be effective in the Oval Office. Whereas George W. Bush was led astray by faulty intelligence, Barack Obama brought in a team of experts steeped in both knowledge and policy. He knew the American people were hurting but did not give in to making a rash decision. Even though there those pleading for an even greater stimulus package, President Obama and his team ended up compromising on the bill for an amount they felt comfortable with. Truth be told, the slow recovery was seen as a sign of President Obama's "weak" leadership and was a contributing factor in the 2010 midterm elections, where the emerging Tea Party peddled the argument that big government can't solve problems. This, combined with an apathetic political left who saw President Obama as not being "progressive" enough and stayed home rather than vote, caused a Republican takeover of the House, and thwarted the President's ability to pass meaningful legislation through a Republican-controlled governing body. But despite all this, President Obama knew that passing the stimulus was the right thing to do for the American people.
Bernie Sanders simply doesn't have this kind of foresight.
Because Sanders sees the world through the lens of economics. It is his end-all-be-all issue and is the one thing he sees as supremely impacting the world in which we live. He views the world through this economic prism and is unable to expand beyond this simple line of sight. This worldview is what Sanders claims makes him a "Democratic socialist" but the truth is that his views put him more along the lines of a Marxist. There's a reason that Sanders always pivots back to economic issues during debates; sure they're in his wheelhouse, but they also are central to his understanding of the world. For Bernie Sanders, should our country be able to solve its own economic imbalance, then everything else will simply fall into place.
The problem with this worldview is not only is it naive, but it also ignores prominent issues that a president can and should be aware of. For instance, there's a reason why Sanders' message is not resonating with people of color: it doesn't speak to their experiences. More specifically, that message refuses to acknowledge the situation that many people of color find themselves in. Michael Brown was not killed because he couldn't afford a college education. Sandra Bland was not killed because she didn't have universal health care. Eric Garner was not killed because he wasn't making $15 an hour. And Freddy Gray was not killed because millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street weren't paying their fair share in taxes.
But that is how Bernie Sanders sees the world. All problems would be solved if these kids in the "ghetto" could simply have access to a good paying job. Never mind the issues of systemic racism that exist in schools, employment hiring, housing and loan applications, and our criminal justice system. The Sanders Marxist view sees class struggle as the only struggle that people are a part of. Sanders honestly believes that if people of color rose up along with millions of other people and overthrew the rich, ruling class then all their problems would disappear overnight. There's a reason why Sanders left multi-ethnic Brooklyn to move to homogenous Vermont: it was there where he could focus squarely on issues of economics rather than having to worry about other issues related to social justice. The black-to-white incarceration rate is second highest in the country, trailing only Iowa. Vermont's own black leaders have said they were 'invisible' to Bernie Sanders despite the fact he has resided in the state for nearly half a century. This was no accident; this was done in a way for Sanders to focus on economic issues which believed would magically make the Vermont incarceration problem go away overnight.
This prism through which Sanders views the world also causes him to focus solely on the economic impact of a policy before voting on it. He opposed the auto bailout that was included in the second part of the TARP bill because it bailed out the big banks. He voted against Ted Kennedy's comprehensive 2007 immigration bill for the sole reason that he believed a guest worker program would drive down wages for low-income workers. He has voted against the Brady Bill five times because he considers it to be federal overreach. He was against marriage equality through 2006 because he felt it was a states' rights issue. He even is in agreement with Ted Cruz and is against the Export-Import Bank on the grounds that a large portions of the funds go to Boeing, even though the funds actually go to over 180 businesses in Washington state alone.
And so because of all this, Bernie Sanders has proven himself throughout his time in politics as being unable to compromise. There's a reason he has only co-sponsored three bills during his entire career in Washington; he simply cannot see the world beyond the simple prism of economics. Just look at the world he is willing to promote because his own personal version of economic fairness isn't being implemented: a world with more guns and more discrimination and at the same time a world without jobs for small businesses, the American auto worker, and Latino immigrants. This is worse than simply being a single-issue candidate; it's being so rigid in your ideology that you cannot see the greater good if that greater good doesn't immediately align with your worldview. It's shutting out progressive legislation because you don't agree with a single part of it. It's refusing to compromise in a political climate where that very sentiment already runs rampant. And it's ignoring systemic societal problems affecting some of our most vulnerable people because these problems can't be solved by the panacea that you have lived your entire life believing in.
If Bernie Sanders can't see all that, then he simply doesn't have the vision to be president.
Like what you read? Chip in, keep us going.