As I’ve watched this presidential election season advance, I’ve been simultaneously amused and appalled by the enduring popularity of Bernie Sanders. When he first announced, I dismissed him as a harmless crank. However, partly due to the weakness of Hillary Clinton and the lack of any depth on the presidential-level Democratic bench, he is doing quite well; pushing Hillary even further to the left and igniting enthusiasm and passion among the young, the progressive base, and the politically ignorant.
Barring an indictment for her criminal mishandling of classified emails, I expect Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic nominee. However, given Hillary’s enduring and increasing unpopularity, a Sanders candidacy is always possible. If the Republicans can nominate anybody but Donald Trump, I expect that person to have a great shot at being our next President. However, on the outside chance Bernie wins, his presidency would be another disaster, possibly eclipsing even the disastrous Obama administration, and further accelerating the decline of our country and way of life.
Constitutional Republic 101
Bernie has made some extravagant promises on the campaign trail, which all pretty much amount to one thing: “Free stuff for everybody”. How will this be funded? Ever increasing taxes on those of us who do pay taxes, new and mythical taxes on Wall Street including brokerage transactions, “speculation” and others. Under Bernie’s scheme, everybody making $50,000 or more per year will be classified as “rich” and their taxes will be raised to unconscionable levels.
Bernie likes to call himself a “Democratic Socialist” and vaguely models his economic ideas after the Scandinavian countries that offer generous welfare benefits to their citizens. Many of Bernie’s supporters and the progressive left are openly socialist and, either through ignorance of what socialism truly represents or arrogance that they think they can make it work “better”, want America to turn her back on free-market capitalism and embrace a socialist economy.
There’s just one problem with this plan, and this is why a Sanders administration would be a disaster: Under our constitutional republican system of government, Bernie would not have the power to enact his socialist utopia. There are two things in the way: the Congress – elected by the people; and the courts, appointed by the representatives of the people.
The last time Congress and the Presidency were held by one party, the disastrous Affordable Care Act was passed. Given the mood of the country and the growing unpopularity of the progressive agenda, I expect the Congress to remain firmly in Republican hands, which means that Bernie’s promises and his agenda will be dead on arrival.
“Rule” by Executive Order
Because they are politically ignorant or cynically inclined, Bernie’s supporters no doubt believe that he can enact his extreme agenda through a series of executive orders and bypass the Congress, as current President Barack Obama is known to do.
While all presidents have had the authority to issue executive orders and order executive actions, under the Constitution only the Congress has the power to make laws. The executive branch was only given the authority to enforce the laws. Executive orders can only address HOW the laws are enforced, they are not laws themselves nor do they have the force of law when taken by themselves.
Any executive order issued by a president can be reversed or nullified by a subsequent president. And even with the executive power, Bernie would not have the power or authority to raise taxes. He would not have the power or authority to order colleges to provide free college educations. He would not have the power or authority to enact a single payer healthcare system in the United States. In short, without dictatorial powers (which I’ve no doubt some of his supporters would be willing to grant him), he would be powerless to implement his agenda with a hostile Congress.
That the next president, if a Democrat, will have a hostile Congress is all but certain. Our country is divided along ideological lines as we’ve not seen since the years leading up to the Civil War. On the Left we have the progressives, life-long Democrats, socialist/communists, unions, some Christians and those who want and expect the government to take care of them like some super-Mom or Dad. On the Right, we have the conservatives, libertarians, social conservatives, evangelical Christians, and those who prefer self-reliance and independence to collectivism.
The Democratic Party, always the party of democracy and mob rule, has abandoned its classical liberal roots and embraced modern progressivism on a wholesale basis. Pretending to be for the “little guy”, they embrace policies and push an agenda that would make life more difficult for those on the lower end of the economic spectrum including higher energy costs through their climate change agenda, fewer jobs through their minimum wage and “equal pay” agendas, higher health care costs and fewer choices through their government mandated health insurance schemes.
The party of billionaires – like Michael Bloomberg, who would abolish the Second Amendment if he could; Tom Steyer, who would have us all shivering in the dark in our hovels through his green energy agenda; George Soros and others – is the party that is out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans like you and me.
While the progressive Left remains powerful and dominant in government and culture, there is a strong groundswell of people who are pushing back, demanding a return to and restoration of our constitutional republican system of government, reining in the size and scope of the federal government, and freeing people and our economy from the coercive, heavy hand of government.
The Tea Party movement is an example of this. While I disagree with the social conservative aspect of the Tea Party (being in favor of reproductive choices and same-sex marriage among other lifestyle choices), I strongly agree with them in their principled approach to the philosophy of unalienable rights and the proper function of government in our society.
It is the Tea Party and other freedom activists who caused the House to return to Republican hands in 2012 and the Senate in 2014, has taken control of more governorships and state houses in the years since Barack Obama was elected president, and who has elevated principled conservatives like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to the front of the Republican presidential race. (I’m not ignoring Trump, I’m saving him for a separate post.)
Given that fully half the country refuses to accept the progressive agenda I fully expect that the Republican Party, while certainly not perfect, will retain and even increase its control of Congress and state houses across the country.
More Partisan Rancor, More Dysfunction
If the Republican Party can nominate a successful candidate for President and recapture the White House (by no means a given), we will see a return to one-party rule and slowing of the progressive slide to oblivion. I say a “slowing” because some Republicans are enamored of progressive ideas regarding the role of government in society. However, even though the Left will no doubt redouble their attempts to impose their agenda through means fair and foul, they will not have the power of government at their disposal.
In general, I am in favor of divided government because that means that the extreme elements on both sides are unable to enact the more ideological items on their agenda. In this time, however, I think that having the Republicans take the reins of power should give us hope that the size and scope of government can be slowed or even reversed, and to roll back some of the more extreme legislation and executive diktat forced on us during the Obama years.
On the other hand, if Bernie or Hillary is elected and the Congress remains in Republican hands, we will see more of the government dysfunction and partisan rancor that we have become accustomed to. Congress will continue to be despised as an institution while its members continue to get re-elected every two and six years. The new president will continue to wage war against the American way of life in the name of “equality”. Nobody will be happy and our ideological divide will continue to widen and deepen.
The sad fact is that both leading Democratic candidates are unfit for the office they seek in different ways. Hillary Clinton is a former First Lady to a corrupt, impeached, philandering, disbarred, sex predator husband. She is to feminism what the mass shooter is to gun rights. Her Senate record is undistinguished and her tenure as Secretary of State was a disaster. Her possible criminal and obviously negligent actions regarding her private email server and handling of classified emails alone disqualifies her from living in the White House again, and probably means she should be living in a different kind of house.
Bernie is also uniquely unqualified to be president. He has never held a private sector job, owned a business, made a payroll or experienced free market success. His ideas and campaign promises are so unrealistic as to be absurd, and if he really believes in them he is delusional; if he doesn’t truly believe them he is just pandering to the gullible to gain power. In any event, while Bernie is pulling the Democratic Party further into the Leftist abyss, there is no way his presidency can succeed and would, in fact, be a disaster.
By Richard D. Turnquist
February 6, 2016