Hey Xeno -
Xenophon wrote: ↑
Fri Jul 29, 2022 1:26 pm
I think we are very much on the same page Honor but I wanted to dig a bit deeper on this:
honorentheos wrote: ↑
Fri Jul 29, 2022 4:41 am
I wanted to raise the question as a way of examining how much we really think the person occupying the White House matters, where it matters, and to what degree.
I think who is in the chair matters quite a bit in many ways but that influence doesn't exist in a vacuum. Every administration is limited by the work and decisions of previous admins, even those of the same party. I'm hard pressed to imagine Sanders existing in the same place as Biden and having a much different result. But I can easily see Sanders (or Biden) having quite a different scenario to work with if say Cruz or Rubio won the 2016 nomination and general election.
Can't disagree. I have to imagine that a Rubio or Cruz presidency combined with full control of the House and Senate that Trump had would have made for a very different 2020. But my brain can't ignore the environment needed for that to have occurred. Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016 due to a number of circumstances. Not least of which, mechanically, is that the Republican primary system is a winner-take-all system and he had a solid 30% support in almost every state. This resulted in his knocking off primary opponents much more quickly than Sanders could in the Democrat race where he had a similar if slightly lower base level of support and national name recognition, but every candidate could potential add to their total number of state delegates. So for Cruz or Rubio to have beat Trump in 2016, the Republicans would have needed to do what the Dems did in 2020 when the challengers to Sanders saw the only way to beat him was to consolidate the moderate vote behind one candidate and Biden was leading at that point after the surprise win in South Carolina. Only much earlier in the process since Cruz was a religious right darling but less attractive to less religious conservative voters while Rubio had the opposite problem. Or, alternatively, for either Rubio or Cruz to have won in 2016, the general sentiment would have needed to be different for Trump's glaringly obvious reasons for disqualification from office to have influenced people to not vote for him. Facts are, discontent is a strong motivator in the democratic process. Does income inequality issues, GOP cultural war twisting of that economic discontent into culture war clashing, Democrat third-way policies, or the ever intensifying Green/libertarian anti-globalist rhetoric from the late 80s onward have their impacts softened somehow in our imagined scenario to be able to make that feasible? I don't know.
One of my current beliefs is the Democrats have been nominating the person each election they should have nominated the election prior. Hillary was the better candidate to handle the economic crisis over Obama in '08, Kerry in '00 would have changed history, Biden in '16 would have beaten Trump and been four years younger at an age four years matters a lot.
The office only has so many tools in that tool box and what work can be done is further limited by how much clean-up is needed. Couple that with the ever growing partisan nature of the system, razor thin victory margins, and a system purposefully designed to resist big changes and I'm not sure it is fair to expect many miracles from elected officials. Is that good or right? Hard to say, but it is probably more rigid and inflexible than I'd like. But I also think that is exactly by design, rather than a bug in the system.
Completely agree. The legislative branch was seen as the seat of power by the founders, especially Madison, where the executive was seen as necessary given the experience of attempting to make the Articles of Confederation work. Our system of government is 2.0 version of an attempt at a nation, and one that came to realize institutions were required to be able to take the place of central power held by an individual or small cabal of individuals while a mob simply can't govern. The invention of our democratic institutions was truly an innovation that paved the way for leaps forward in progress in individual liberty, technology, the small "d" democratization of access to opportunities and quality of life measures previously held by the wealthy elite. I maintain the Federalist Paper #51 is one of the most important documents in our nation's history for the wisdom it represents. As Cultellus said elsewhere, revolutions are a dime a dozen, but ones that achieve longevity are rare. Ours succeeded because the institutions of democracy were seen to be essential to checking individual self-interest. A strong executive would be counter to this realization. It says something about people that we've worked hard for over 200 years now to empower the person in the chair of the President. We want strong men at our heads, we want leaders, but what we need are strong institutions and idealistic principles. We need to believe in something that doesn't exist, precisely because the best possible futures don't exist and probably never can. Where I agree the role of the President matters most is in helping people believe in that for as long as possible. It also means we can never see any one party hold the White House for very long, which history shows is indeed the case. The President is a symbol with a pen.
So in that case, it seems Sanders may have been more effective than Biden in his rhetorical abilities. But I also think the job of President requires two things. First, being an actual executive of an administration with the ability to lead a group that then enacts executive actions. I think Biden actually is doing pretty good on that front, which happens to be the actual job description, and I don't know what from Sander's history shows he'd do better. A White House of Bernie-Bros would seem very similar to a White House of Trump sycophants, in my opinion. Second, the president needs to lead their party and be the whip of last resort in the Senate and House. That's a terribly difficult job. Trump, oddly, succeeded at it by being the whipping boy of the Fox News crowd. When he strayed, Hannity and co., would turn on him, their viewers would rumble, and Trump would get back in line and bring the rest of the GOP with him. That's a terrifying dynamic but it was effective. How would a Sanders be doing better than Biden in that role? His record in the Senate suggests he would be failing at it miserably. I suspect purple state or red state democrats would get more traction with their constituencies by being opposed to a Sanders, being able to tell folks back home they were standing up against socialist overreach and spending.
Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful reply.