Assume Bernie Sanders is president; what then?

It’s been kind of fun watching Bernie Sanders fans talk about all the things he’s going to do as president. Look, I get that kind of enthusiasm. I was a Ron Paul supporter in 2008 and 2012 AND I’m a Cubs fan, so I know all about believing despite the odds. But seriously, is there any way Bernie can do even a fraction of what he’s proposing? Not really, no.

By Jesse Harris
By Jesse Harris

The most insurmountable problem in front of a potential President Sanders is Congress. Even in an optimistic scenario, Republicans are still going to control the Senate without much trouble with 51 safe or likely seats this year. A partisan wave in the House in a presidential election year is also pretty unlikely, leaving the other house of Congress also in control of the opposition party. In a post-sorting world where conservatives have picked the GOP and liberals have picked the Democratic Party, is seems very unlikely that someone so far to the left of President Obama (himself just left of center) is going to see any greater legislative success with an opposition party to contend with.

At that point, a president is left in the position of trying to do what they can via executive action. That won’t go very far either. While he can set policy for the way in which the executive branch operates and what its priorities are, the branch is still constrained by the laws and budgets created by Congress. Any attempts to expand or exceed that authority are likely to be tied up in court actions, much the way that FDR was in the New Deal era.

I’m not saying that Hillary is a better choice (quite frankly, someone who dishonest and skeezy in any position of power is terrifying), but she at least leaves open the possibility of channeling her husband’s ability to work with the opposition party to get things done. Would Bernie Sanders have any such luck? In our more sharply partisan environment and his general unwillingness to depart from principle, I seriously doubt it.


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