Skeptic (4 + 1 Questions About Bernie Sanders & the Nation’s Endorsement)


Each in their own way (and this according to the Nation), Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump represent charismatic politics. Having tapped a strong populist core and now that he is being taken seriously as a national candidate, here are some questions about Sanders. The candidate wants to extend Medicare to everyone. He wants to make college free for everyone. He wants to break up the big banks. His foreign policy plank  is non or anti-interventionist. In principle, all of this sounds great. But one wants to ask economic and political questions about possibility and promise.

[1] Could President Sanders deliver on any of these goals? [2] Apart from presenting these ideas, has the campaign offered any actual plans as to how to accomplish any of them?  [3] Apart from a general promise to tax the rich, do we know how much they’re going to cost, where the money will come from, and what would be the impact on the American economy? [4] Apart from “mobilizing the base” after the election to pressure “Washington,” is there a persuasive political plan for governing, i.e. pushing these plans past skeptical Democrats and a hostile Republican opposition? [5] On foreign policy and international terrorism, Sanders wants the Arabs, or the Iranians and Saudis together to solve the ISIS scourge. Militarily and politically, does that make a shred of sense in the real world? Will the region stabilize without more robust American involvement, which in itself is destablizing?

Against Hilary Clinton, the worst thing that the Nation could say here in their endorsement of Sanders is that [1] “Her talk of seeking common ground with Republicans and making deals to ‘get things done’ in Washington will not bring the change that is so desperately needed.” The Nation rejects as well [2] Clinton’s more interventionist foreign policy. On foreign policy, the endorsement by the Nation is a bit hostile to Israel, about which Sanders has been silent, and absolutely quiet about Syria without a word about ISIS, Iranian regional influence, or a resurgent Russia in the Ukraine or Middle East. At home, the Nation counts on a “political revolution,” but on what practical basis?

In the most interesting admission, the Nation admits  “This understanding [that our rigged system works for the few and not for the many animates] both the Republican and Democratic primaries, though it has taken those two contests in fundamentally different directions.” The Nation would seem to have understood that Sanders and Trump have both caught the same national mood. This comparison would be reason enough to proceed with a lot more caution after eight mixed years of “hope and change” both at home and abroad.

There’s a debate tonight. With a strong challenge from the progressive left in the Democratic Party, the question is whether Clinton can stand up to Sanders and to the populist thread represented by him at a time when the national mood is sour. As for an answer to questions above, here’s something that friend DMF shared written by Robert Reich about the costs of Sander’s single payer-Medicare plan.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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4 Responses to Skeptic (4 + 1 Questions About Bernie Sanders & the Nation’s Endorsement)

  1. At least Sanders is a mensch (but that’s not enough to be a successful president).

    • zjb says:

      will add this link to my post

      • dmf says:

        economic forecasting is always a bit suspect but I think there is good cause to believe that it’s possible for Bernie and co to make the numbers add up, i don’t actually think (after the failure to enact a true public health-insurance option) that any major changes to our federal systems are likely to come about regardless of who wins we seem more divided than the EU these days, what I really don’t understand is why anyone thinks that we can grow our ways out of the binds that now tie the global economies we are part of; soaring debt (private and public), stagnant wages,global warming costs, etc, we can’t keep pumping up our phony building/housing market, can’t bring back old school manufacturing, and so on, the much hyped e-economy is what 5% of our total economy and much of it deeply dependent on business as more or less usual, so what more invented wall st. bubbles? why is Hillary’s extension of Obama’s pipedreams likely to be successful?

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