26 January 2016

Even Bernie Sanders would be a better President than Trump


The Iowa Caucus is rapidly approaching, and candidates are rolling out every endorsement they can acquire.

Last week, Donald Trump was joined on stage by a barely intelligible Sarah Palin, and on Saturday Glenn Beck threw his support behind Ted Cruz.

Beck’s support for Cruz is hardly surprising—although this is apparently the first time Beck has officially endorsed a presidential candidate. What would have surprised anyone unfamiliar with Beck’s vehement (and principled) opposition to Donald Trump, was his when he spoke of his preference for Bernie Sanders over Trump.

Speaking to a crowd of Cruz supporting Iowans, Beck unleashed on the current Republican frontrunner, stating that he “should ask conservatives [of] America for forgiveness for supporting billions of dollars of bailouts, for pulling for the nationalization of our banks.” He also said that, “If Donald Trump wins, it’s going to be a snowball to hell.”

Beck contrasted Trump’s phony conservatism with the overt socialism of Bernie Sanders, pointing out that Sanders was at least an honest man, who you could sit at a table and debate with. “What we really need in America,” Beck continued, is to “…actually have a debate between a constitutionalist like Ted Cruz and a socialist like Bernie Sanders.”

Beck’s observation is undoubtedly correct, Sanders is open and honest about his socialist views. But there are other reasons why he is preferable to Trump.

Enacting Bernie Sanders agenda would be catastrophic for the United States. Far from turning American into Denmark—which already ranks better than the United States in the Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Index of Economic Freedom—Sanders’ agenda would set the stage for a period of stagnation and decline. American ingenuity would suffocate under the weight of excessive taxes and disruptive regulations.

But not even Bernie Sanders thinks he can enact the fundamental change his policies represent. This observation has become a central part of his campaign—as Sanders puts it, “no matter who is elected to be president, that person will not be able to address the enormous problems facing the working families of our country.”

This is why Sanders talks desperately about the need for a “grassroots movement.” To be effective, however, this movement would need to amount to a wholescale transformation of America’s political culture, and how its institutions operate.

Anything is possible. A more likely scenario has been presented by Hillary Clinton:

“You hear a promise to build a whole new system. But that’s not what you’ll get. You’ll get gridlock. And an endless wait for advances that will never come.”

And this is the silver lining. Congressional and senate Republicans will never allow Bernie Sanders to enact his socialist agenda, even if it is “democratic.” Even in the unlikely event of a Democratic House majority, Sanders’ reforms would be filibustered endlessly, and that’s not even including opposition from within his own party.

It would take an unprecedented Democratic landslide, resulting in the most left-wing Congress in American history, for a President Sanders to have any hope of passing his cherished reforms. Anything less would result in a level of gridlock never seen before, making Obama’s presidency seem like sunshine and rainbows in comparison.

In fact, this divided government might be the best America can hope for.

As this chart from the Mercatus Center shows, federal government spending in the U.S. increases at a substantially lower rate when at least one branch of government is held by a different party to that of the president. In the 57 years between President Eisenhower and the beginning of Obama’s term, federal spending increased by 2.55 per cent when government was divided, and 4.67 per cent when a single party was in complete control.

The same trend has continued under Obama, with the Tea Party landslide of 2010 resulting in discretionary spending falling as a percentage of GDP.

Of course, divided government is no panacea. It won’t bring the necessary economic and social reforms that the United States desperately needs. However, it may stop things getting worse, and in a choice between Trump and Sanders, that’s as close to a victory as we’re likely to get.

Contrast this to the likely result of a Trump victory.

Trump’s nativist and protectionist agenda would be every bit as disastrous for America’s economic future as Sanders’ naïve socialism. This is a candidate who has made bashing China a centerpiece of his campaign. Not only does he want to build a literal barrier to keep immigrants from entering the United States, he also wants to drastically raise tariff barriers to block access to foreign goods.

His bombastic rhetoric and complete lack of humility presents a real risk to global security, and his very presence in the White House would harm relations with many American allies.

The difference between Trump and Sanders is that Trump actually has a chance of doing what he says.

Historically, the Republican Party tends to be less ideological when a Republican holds the White House. For many, party loyalty, and fealty to the president take priority. Already there has been reports that some of the GOP establishment are prepared to work with Trump.

Maybe the Republican establishment is right, maybe Trump is someone they can work with. But that only means he will continue Washington’s corporate welfare and profligate spending.

This is why National Review took the unprecedented step to draw a line in the stand with their “Against Trump” symposium. They realize the danger Trump presents to the broad coalition of the free-market right.

Not even divided government would stop Trump, since the Democrats agree with many of his big government, protectionist positions. Even progressive comedian Bill Maher thinks Trump would be someone Democrats could deal with.

It is, of course, entirely possible that Trump’s opposition to free trade, his vitriolic anti-immigrant stances, and his idiotic foreign policy statements, are all just an act. Trump, after-all, is a showman.

But he’s certainly no free-marketeer—his flagrant abuse of eminent domain says that much—and every indication suggests that he would centralize power, and ride roughshod over America’s constitutional framework. Even a President Sanders would be better than that.

Patrick Hannaford is the Editor of Young Voices, a project that trains and promotes the work of millennial libertarians.