Monday, March 7, 2016

Will the Auto Bailout Vote Prove To Be Bernie's Waterloo?


There aren't many moments in a debate that you can point to and say, "Wow, that was huge." Bernie Sanders had such a moment in Sunday night's debate with Hillary Clinton, and it's a moment he may end up wishing he didn't have. I'm not talking about his alleged dismissive "excuse me, I'm talking" exchange with Hillary, or his "ghetto" gaffe. [He does after all live in the whitest state in the free world, so cut him some slack.] Besides, compared to the nonsense going on in the GOP debates, Sanders has behaved like Mr. Rogers throughout this campaign.

No, the moment I'm referring to, and perhaps the defining one in the whole primary season, concerned the auto bailout that Bernie voted against. When Hillary brought it up, Bernie countered by saying he was against the Wall Street bailout that was, unfortunately, included in the bill to rescue the auto industry.

For those not familiar with what happened in early 2009, the second part of TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) was up for a vote. Attached to it was the auto bailout. Though Clinton was no longer a senator at the time, she supported the bill. Sanders, on principle, voted against it because of his opposition to using tax payer money to bail out Wall Street. The vote, though laudable, has been a bone of contention with many people who live in Michigan and Ohio, and it underscores the real problem with Sanders; a problem Clinton pounced on.
"As we all know, there are bills in Congress that have bad stuff, there are bills in Congress that have good stuff. Good stuff and bad stuff in the same bill."
What Clinton is saying is pretty much what a lot of Sanders's critics have been saying for a while. You don't get to choose which bill comes to your desk. Most bills are going to contain some kind of compromise that may rub you the wrong way, but on the whole, they are still good bills worthy of voting for or, as in the case of a president, signing into law.

Bernie Sanders simply doesn't get this basic fact and, so far as his Congressional record is concerned, never has. He's, dare I say it, the progressive equivalent of Ted Cruz. In fact, it's remarkable how very similar in nature both men are. I'm not talking about policy here or even likability. Bernie may not be beloved by his colleagues in the Senate, but at least he isn't despised by them the way Cruz is. I can just picture Mitch McConnell being asked which candidate he'd prefer to be the Republican nominee, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, and sticking a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. And, as far as policy goes, Cruz's vision of what this country would look like makes my skin crawl.

It's also quite apparent that both men appeal to the purist nature of their respective bases. I do a lot of listening to conservative talk radio shows - call it my penance for being such a precocious asshole when I was younger - and it's amazing how popular Cruz is with this crowd. He's one part Ronald Reagan, one part Warren Burger. The man who would restore Constitutional principles to America, whatever the hell that means. I don't know, it's a religion to these people.

Sanders, likewise, has been like a rock star to the progressive movement in a way not seen since the days of Bobby Kennedy. Feel the Bern is all about rekindling that great movement that LBJ murdered when he escalated the Vietnam War. His supporters are relentless in their defense of him, as anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account knows all too well. And in his defense, he's the true populist candidate in this election. Cruz couldn't even spell the word, much less know what it means.

But getting back to the pertinent issue at hand. Michael Tomasky wrote yet another revealing piece about the difference between Hillary and Bernie that strikes at the heart of how both would govern.
"There are two kinds of political people in this world. First, there are those who see injustice and who hunger chiefly to see the malefactors punished. And second, there are those who hunger mainly to see the injustice corrected. . . Sanders is a punish the malefactors type, and Clinton is a fix-the-problem type."
I would submit that these two types of people exist in the business world, as well. In fact, the most successful people in business are problem solvers; conversely, the least successful are the ones who complain about and are befuddled by them. The former searches for what works; the latter is consumed with what's wrong.

While it may seem unfair to his supporters to characterize him that simply, facts don't lie. For much of his campaign, Bernie Sanders has been all too willing to scream about the growing inequity within the country - and, to be fair, he's right about that - yet he has offered little in the way of tangible solutions, aside from breaking up the banks, taxing the one percent and raising the minimum wage.

When push comes to shove, he is light on details and unbending to a fault. He's isn't just simply a one-issue candidate, he's all cause and no effect. His "no" vote on the auto bailout was inexcusable and revealing of how he would govern as president, and that fact is slowly starting to creep into the Democratic electorate.

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