Bernie all bark, lacks sharp legislative bite
I often hear Bernie Sanders supporters say that the more they find out about Bernie, the more they like him. So I decided to find out more about Sanders and my verdict is: I’m not feeling the Bern. While I love that Bernie Sanders advocates for ideas such as free higher education, the fundamental problem with Sanders is that he touts himself as a leader for revolutionary change, but has no such record of revolutionary leadership. If Sanders was in any way capable of leading a political revolution, it would have happened over a decade ago.
Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years, has seniority, and is the chair of a committee. However, in all of his 25 years, he has only passed three bills into law, two of them renaming post offices, according to Congress.gov. Clinton is by no means a legendary legislator herself, but for comparison, in her eight years in the Senate, she has also managed to pass three bills, and has sponsored bills at twice the rate Sanders has.
Despite his passionate advocacy for healthcare and financial reform, Sanders’ former colleague senator Barney Frank, one of the main authors on the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, remarked: “I don’t personally remember his playing a meaningful role in moving either health care or financial regulation in the direction he favored when we were considering them,” according to Politico. According to The Washington Times, Sanders’ website brags that he is the “Amendment King,” though most of these amendments were uncontroversial spending changes, and many of his stronger amendments were eventually struck out later on in the legislative process.
Sanders is more of a lone wolf instead of the leader of a pack. He does not seem to reach out to many senators. He doesn’t know how to build bipartisan support for his policies. It is telling that despite his 20 years in the Senate, not a single colleague will come out to endorse him.
Even worse yet, Sanders has no plan of how he will accomplish his platform. Every time he is asked specifics about how his proposals will be implemented, he essentially dodges the question by stating that these systems exist in other countries. What is clear is that he most certainly cannot enact all of them. According to estimates by the nonpartisan Center for Responsible Federal Budget, Sanders’ health care plan alone has a shortfall of over $3 trillion.
His plan to finance free college tuition with a financial transaction tax is ridiculous; governments in the past have made very little revenue with taxes on financial transactions and some have even lost revenue due to the losses in capital gains taxes that the tax creates, according to the Tax Foundation. His superficial understanding of policy is most apparent in a recent Huffington Post survey on criminal justice, in which Clinton was able to write detailed accounts of issues and solutions in criminal justice, while Sanders could only speak in generalities.
It is undeniable though that Sanders currently enjoys a much more favorable public image than Clinton. Though part of this is due to his populist message, part of this is also due to the fact that he has only recently come into the public eye; he has never faced the same degree of media scrutiny as other more influential figures.
And oh, does Clinton come under media scrutiny, especially from the left. Clinton’s critics from the left seem more to want to vilify her as symbol of Democratic establishment than provide an objective evaluation of her. They say Clinton’s inconsistencies on positions indicate that she is a liar and actually center-right when in fact, FiveThirtyEight points out that Clinton’s voting record shows she is as liberal as Elizabeth Warren. Meanwhile, they conveniently ignore Sanders’ consistent support for the gun lobby, his votes to continue funding the very wars he’s spoken out against, or his efforts to kill a 2007 immigration reform bill because he thought it would take jobs away from Americans. They bring up Clinton’s association with Kissinger but ignore Sanders’ admiration for Churchill, an open bigot whose imperialist policies induced a famine in Southeast Asia that killed millions.
There are even claims of a vast Clinton media conspiracy: Whenever a journalist, politician, or economist voices support for Clinton or criticizes Sanders, there are Sanders supporters who rush in to accuse them of being shills bought by the establishment.
While its ties with controversial donors are a legitimate point of criticism for the Clinton campaign, these conspiracy claims fall apart under even an ounce of scrutiny. If the Pantsuits Illuminati did exist, one wonders why most of the news articles on Clinton are on her Wall Street speeches or her emails.
Those who claim that people who support Clinton only do so due for money ignore her significant accomplishments in public office. As First Lady she pursued a health care plan which led the way for the Affordable Care Act, lobbied for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and created the office for Violence Against Women. In the Senate, she co-wrote a successfully enacted law that better regulated pediatric drug testing, fought for funding for 9/11 aid and services for first responders, and expanded federal healthcare for national reserve members. As Secretary of State, Clinton maintained a frenetic schedule and visited more nations than any other Secretary of State. Known for her solid administration of the State Department, she pushed forward initiatives to expand American influence on human rights, most notably to empower women in the developing world.
Given her contentious public image, however, what is more impressive is how those who have personally worked with Clinton seem to come away with positive impressions of her. When Clinton began her tenure as a senator for New York, she was booed by the relatively conservative New York City police and firefighters once as she introduced a Paul McCartney concert. Yet six years later in her re-election bid, she nonetheless won the endorsement of the NYC Fire Officers Association, according to the
New York Times.
According to The Atlantic, many of Clinton’s colleagues in the Senate initially viewed her as nothing more than a celebrity politician, but came away impressed with her commitment to keeping her head down and working with colleagues on low-profile but important issues. Although she faced off with President Obama in a bitter primary, she was steadfastly loyal to him as Secretary of State and became one of his closest advisers.
Clinton is one of the leading figures in politics not because of some vast conspiracy, but because she has a willingness to reach out and work with people, a demonstrated sense of industriousness, and a deep appreciation and understanding of policy.
When Obama was elected into office in 2008, one of the major setbacks that plagued his first term was his lack of political experience. He had simply promised too much without any realistic expectations of how it should be implemented and had to spend most of his first term figuring out what to do. In his second term he has been much more capable in using both the hard and soft powers of the presidency and had much stronger relations within the government, which led to numerous achievements such as more stringent environmental policies, an executive order on immigration reform, and the nuclear deal with Iran.
For Democrats, 2016 is critical. The next president will preside over an era where three of the Supreme Court Justices are nearing the age of 80 and will face an obstructive Republican Congress. They can’t afford for another president to waste four years learning the ropes of the presidency, especially an ideologue as sorely lacking in policy depth and leadership as Bernie Sanders.
It is easy to voice indignant anger, but it is difficult to actually channel this anger into action. In the end, the results speak for themselves: for all Sanders’ impassioned speeches on progressive causes, Hillary Clinton has actually accomplished more of Bernie Sanders’ platform than Sanders himself.