If you’re a Democrat and you’re not on board with socialism, are you going to vote for Bernie Sanders’ proposals if he becomes president? “Damn right” you are, he says.
That’s one of the takeaways from the Vermont senator’s conversation with CNBC’s John Harwood this week in which he told Harwood that more moderate politicians on his ideological side of the aisle — inasmuch as they still exist — will vote for his plans once he’s in office.
Speaking to Harwood in a Des Moines, Iowa, coffee shop, Sanders touched on a wide variety of subjects, including the perfidy of big oil executives and why he hopes to become a 21st century’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (He seems a bit more Henry Wallace-ish to me, but whatever.)
None of this was particularly newsworthy stuff — until, that is, Harwood got to the kind of congressional support that Sanders could expect.
“Is Joe Manchin going to vote for your program? Is Jon Tester going to vote for your program?” Harwood asked.
Manchin and Tester, senators from West Virginia and Montana respectively, are two moderate Democrats from very red states who’d likely get significant pushback from voters if they decided to come out for, say, the Green New Deal. Did Sanders think he could persuade them to vote his way?
“Yeah. Damn right they will,” Sanders said.
He added that while the two of them were friends of his (“Hey, some of my best friends are moderates”), he wasn’t averse to turning up the heat.
“We’re going to go to West Virginia, which is maybe the poorest state — well, one of the poorest states,” Sanders said.
“Look, what happens right now, your average politician sits around and he or she thinks, they say, ‘Let’s see, if I do this I’m going to have the big money interest putting 30-second ads against me. So I better not do it,'” he continued.
“But now they’re going to have to think, ‘If I don’t support an agenda that works for working people, I’m going to have President Sanders come into my state and rallying working class people.'”
So, just so we’re clear on this: Donald Trump visiting a state to disparage dissenters within his own party isn’t OK to the mainstream media, but this is? And as for liberals who’ve remarked on this part of the interview since it aired — it mostly went under the radar for most everyone in the media — they seemed all right with this tack.
Writing at The Outline (warning: some slight language, reader discretion is advised), Paul Blest encouraged bullying Democrats to get them to fall into line behind a hypothetical President Sanders, especially “Joe Manchin, one of the most godawful people in the Senate with a D next to his name.”
“Even as he’s been allowed to essentially do whatever the hell he wants for the past ten years, however, Manchin has repeatedly spit in the face of the people who’ve coddled him, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Obama,” Blest wrote.
“No national Democrat has ever been able to wrangle Manchin into being a consistent vote for their agenda. No one’s ever really even tried; conventional wisdom in D.C. seems to hold that Manchin’s ideology or temperament is what’s keeping him in office, rather than the strength of his political machine, which helped elect billionaire coal boss Jim Justice as a Democratic governor the same year that the state went for Trump by 42 points. (Justice has since switched back to the GOP.)
“Will Sanders’s strategy work on Manchin? I would bet against it. But Sanders’s embrace of the bully pulpit to browbeat bad Democrats into voting for his agenda would be right on target,” Blest continued.
“Considering the makeup of Congress, and as it promises to remain that way if the people running Democrats’ campaign infrastructure get their way, a healthy dose of the proverbial big stick is the only way a Sanders agenda has even an iota of a chance of passing.”
Surprisingly, this wasn’t the most embarrassing moment of the interview for Sanders; he actually managed to step in it a bit more deeply than this when he suggested he was done trying to explain how he’d pay for “Medicare for all” and, you know, just trust him on this. (And who wouldn’t put their confidence in a socialist on a program estimated to cost between $32 trillion and $52 trillion, depending on who’s plan it is? I’d feel secure.)
However, this is the invariable problem Democrats will face. To the extent they could get a workable majority in both houses of Congress, that majority will rely on winning seats in states and districts where the party’s lurch to the left won’t be tolerated.
Instead of finding some way to work with these people, Sanders believes he can go to their constituents and rally them to vote for his plans … or else. And then they’ll get voted out next time around by their constituents, so they lose either way. The apparent lack of self-awareness, of any indication Sanders knows how unpopular his ideas are in some areas of the country, is remarkable.
So, that’s quite the plan, Bernie. Maybe you should have followed your own lead on “Medicare for all” and just left Harwood — and America — in the dark.
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