Saturday, February 1, 2020

# 32 / Comment On A Column

On Sunday, January 26, 2020, neoconservative columnist Bret Stephens took direct issue with the sentiment that literally anyone else in the race would be a better choice for president than Donald J. Trump. It will come as no surprise to those who have read some of my past blog posts that this is exactly my own view. I am a Bernie Sanders supporter, but if he doesn't get the Democratic Party nomination (and I really hope he does), I can still be happy if the country elects "anyone but Trump." 

Stephens' column was entitled, "Anyone but Trump? Not So Fast." After first pointing out what a horrible president Donald J. Trump actually is, Stephens opined that we should not "exchange one reckless president for another."

And which "reckless" presidential prospects did Stephens have specifically in mind? No surprise there. Bad as he professes to think Trump is, Stephens thinks that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would probably be worse. At least, that's the way I read his column. Stephens thinks that both Sanders and Warren are "reckless" (just as Trump is). If either Sanders or Warren is nominated, says Stephens, he's going to opt for "none of the above," and not vote for anyone. At least, that is what he is going to do if you believe what he says in his column.

I have an observation. I think there are a lot of people who are worried (as Stephens professes to be) that the programs supported by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren might be "reckless." There are a lot of people who don't think Donald Trump should be reelected, but who would be very nervous to vote for someone like Sanders or Warren. There is a very real danger in my mind that if the Democrats do nominate one of the "radical" candidates, a number of voters who don't like Trump will do exactly what Stephens says, and vote for Trump anyway, on the basis that it's probably better to stick with "the devil you know." 

This is what Stephens is arguing, and what he claims is likely. This is the argument, of course, that is intended to discourage votes for Sanders or Warren, and to advance the idea that former Vice President Joe Biden, or former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, or Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar are more "electable." 

Here's my comment. The analysis just outlined supposes the truth of what Trump claims is the power of a president, and implicitly adopts the idea that the president has every possible power and can do whatever the president wants. This analysis suggests that the only real vote we have is which president will "reign" over us. If you think that way, it's easy to see why you might be nervous about Sanders or Warren. They are proposing something radical and new. Maybe that's "reckless." Maybe we should stick with that "devil we know." 

NO! That is not the right analysis. The reason to vote for "anyone but Trump" is precisely because Donald J. Trump does actually believe that he is and should be, as president, the sole authority on governmental policy. Our current president is actually trying to convert our democratic system of government into a system in which the only thing that counts is what the president wants. This fact is why "anyone but Trump" is the right choice. No other candidate is trying to create an imperial presidency. Trump is, and the Republican Party is backing his play. That is exactly what we have seen in the impeachment proceedings just now coming to a conclusion.

Our system is NOT a system in which the president gets to decide, unilaterally, what policies will prevail. If you want to try some radical new approaches, like direct efforts to reduce income inequality by taxing the ultra rich and the corporations they control, and to fund and implement a Green New Deal, and "Medicare for All," then you should vote for the presidential candidates who are campaigning for those policy programs. If you like the policy objectives, you want to elect a president who will work for them! You don't have to worry that this is "reckless," because actually implementing such "radical" programs will require political agreements that ensure that a majority of the nation is convinced and is supportive. 

I think radical new approaches are needed. That's why I support Bernie Sanders. I know, if he is elected, that he won't be able to impose such new programs by fiat, but I do have confidence he will actually do what he says, and work for them. 

I am not worried about a "reckless" Sanders or Warren. I AM worried about a "reckless" Trump. Trump believes that what HE says is the way it is supposed to be. NO other candidate takes that view of government. That's why I'd like to repeat myself:

And here's a postscript: If you think that the programs being advocated by Sanders or Elizabeth Warren are the kind of programs we need, then vote for the candidate whom you think will best advocate for the policies and programs you want. That is how democracy is supposed to work! People with the opposite view will get their say, too. You don't have to worry about that. Nothing "reckless" will be done - unless we reelect Donlad Trump, who will continue to advance the idea that  he, as the president, is the only one who gets to decide what happens.

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