Monday, October 26, 2015

Bernie's Challenge

Bernie Sanders might have started to attack Hilliary Clinton and her campaign. That was coming, no surprise there. One can also reasonably argue that, Bernie will not cross the decency line as like how Donald Trump is doing with impunity. Trump said in an interview that "he is divisive now, but will be unifier afterwards". One wonders why the seasoned media person Stephanopulos, who was conducting the interview, did not ask follow up questions - "does that mean Trump justify any means to win the election? Why does Trump think Americans, for example Hispanics after his racial outburst at the start of the campaign, would trust him after having run a contentious presidential campaign?" Trump talks about American Leaders being dumb. At times I feel like his target is wrong; it is American Media which is dumb in not asking tough questions to our politicians and our candidates.

One can also see Media's coyness in not asking Bernie - how is Bernie going to achieve his agenda when GOP has a firm lock on Congress? Even if Dems take back Senate, not at all given though, House will be with GOP and Tea Party making it impossible to enact any of Bernie's agenda. The job of American Media is 'force Bernie' to answer these questions. Because without it, what Bernie is talking and for that matter what Hillary Clinton is proposing, is all vaporware

Till Obama Election, American Public and Punditary believed in some kind of bi-partisan approach to governance and legislation in Washington. Even in George Bush era, Dems had come around with Bush whether in raising debt limit or No Child Left Behind Act or even giving massive tax cuts. But after Obama election, visceral hate of Obama and Obama's big mistake of not investing enough to establish a strong rapport with Congressional members[1]; simply upended any possibility of bipartisan governance. America essentially got pushed into a kind of parliamentary era where 'nihilism' from Opposition party is the norm.

However, the problem is American Political System is structurally way different than a parliamentary system. Meanwhile lack of legislative majority is not a problem for Republican Presidential candidates at all. They do not have to worry about how to get Congressional majorities. GOP at State level has done that job for them. Frustration of GOP voter is, "we gave you both houses of Congress and asked you to wage an all out war against Obama; you did not do that". The real task for GOP Congressional Leaders - and Presidential Candidates too - has been to explain why GOP cannot wage an 'all out war' against White House. After all, same American votes which gave GOP majorities in Congress also elected Obama to White House. Republican candidates do not want to remind this electoral mandate to their base nor want to point our political structure of 'checks and balances' as per our constitution. In other words, these Republican Candidates and their party leadership are not doing the task of explaining this reality to their voters. The easy path for Republican Presidential Candidates is to ride the resultant frustration of GOP voters and keep escalating this anger.

On Democratic side, there is no such anger; but these voters are offered the 'cool aid' in absence of reminding what is needed to enact an agenda. Unless Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton render their vision of how anyone of them is going to bring Democratic majority in Congress; all their agenda is useless. President Obama deceived us in 2012 by saying GOP fever of opposing him will subside after 2012 elections. It did not. Further, as a Dem Party leader Obama failed in driving Dem voters in 2014 midterm elections. Unless and until Democratic leaders are breaking this pattern of young and economically weaker population skipping vote, there is no meaningful political authority available for Democrats to sustain any progressive agenda; regardless of 'demography is destiny' hype.

If the argument from these Dem. Candidates is voting for them is nothing but sustaining existing progressive policies, ObamaCare for example; then it is lot less inspiring proposition. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton need to understand that they will have to be 'parliamentary leaders' here - their own election swing needs to have enough coattails so that many more Democrats are propelled to Congress. Portraying GOP members in Congress as 'barbarians at the gate ready to wreck progressive edifice'; well it is a viable political strategy and it is germane. However, at that point Hillary Clinton will have much more convincing case than Bernie Sanders; exhibit A - her endurance in 11 hours of Congressional hearing conducted by rabid Tea Party members. She can credibly claim that for all her political life she has been fighting these 'barbarians at the gate' to protect progressive policies. Bernie Sanders would not have an answer for that unless he understands the importance of becoming a parliamentary leader; ready to fight for many more democrats candidates down ballot. Sure, he will fail in that. But the thing is when you see trenchant polarized American society and politics as long as your eyes can see in the future, also absence of any new crisis forcing Americans to come together; someone has to nudge American Political system to what it takes to have a governable, working majority aligned with the White House occupant. Else this 'calendar of chaos' will continue to rule our lives resulting in collapse of American Republic under its own internal contradictions

[1] - Obama White House worked the Iran Deal brilliantly through the hostile Congress - both to get the first bill of up or down vote and then subsequent filibuster proof support. May be President Obama learned the trick only after being in the White House over six years. Fact is, precisely this skill of shepherding policy agenda through raucous place called Congress is required for any President to be successful.  

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