One of my friends was telling me the other day that she would never vote for Bernie Sanders, for she simply hated the guy. (This friend is a liberal and a Democrat.) She said that she wouldn’t vote for anyone if it came down to Sanders vs. Trump in November. In response to my saying that that could be equivalent to a vote for Trump, she responded that she lived in a Democratic state anyway, so it didn’t matter.
So I sent her this article by Paul Krugman, which claims that, so long as the Senate becomes Democratic—and that’s a big if—it really doesn’t matter which of the Democratic candidates wins. (I would go further: if the Senate remains Republican, then it surely doesn’t matter which Democrat wins.)
Krugman uses as an example the fact that the lying scum Trump was elected on a platform that was itself a lie (no tax cuts on the rich, he promised, etc.), but he hasn’t significantly shifted the Republican party platform. (I would argue with that, but this is Krugman speaking.) And so Krugman says this:
So I’d like to offer an opinion that will probably anger everyone: In terms of actual policy, it probably doesn’t matter much who the Democrats nominate — as long as he or she wins, and Democrats take the Senate too.
If you’re a centrist worried about the gigantic spending increases Sanders has proposed, calm down, because they won’t happen. If you’re a progressive worried that Biden might govern like a Republican, you should also calm down, because he wouldn’t.
In practice, any Democrat would probably preside over a significant increase in taxes on the wealthy and a significant but not huge expansion of the social safety net. Given a Democratic victory, a much-enhanced version of Obamacare would almost certainly be enacted; Medicare for All, not so much. Given a Democratic victory, Social Security and Medicare would be protected and expanded; Paul Ryan-type cuts wouldn’t be on the table.
Take the “progressive” Sanders who so worries my friend:
Sanders has a hugely ambitious agenda; Medicare for All is just part of it. Paying for that agenda would be difficult — no, Modern Monetary Theory wouldn’t actually do away with the fiscal constraint. So turning Sanders’s vision into reality would require large tax increases, not just on the wealthy, but on the middle class; without those tax increases it would be highly inflationary.
But not to worry: it won’t happen. Even if he made it to the White House, Sanders would have to deal with a Congress (and a public) considerably less radical than he is, and would be obliged to settle for a more modest progressive agenda.
It’s true that Sanders enthusiasts believe that they can rally a hidden majority of Americans around an aggressively populist agenda, and in so doing also push Congress into going along. But we had a test in the midterm elections: Progressives ran a number of candidates in Trump districts, and if even one of them had won they would have claimed vindication for their faith in transformative populism. But none did; the sweeping Democratic victory came entirely from moderates running conventional campaigns.
h/t: Brian Leiter