Apropos of nothing, what if Trump did not run in 2016? Lots more independents would have voted in the primaries for Bernie, and so would have the Democrats who crossed over for Trump. It would have been Bernie vs. Jeb (or whatever other generic Republican) in the general, and Bernie would have won, whether it turned out to be an improvement over Obama's numbers or not.
We're probably going to hear something like this question coming from our sympathizers on the Bernie side, at some point during the first Trump term. "See how ineffectual he is -- why didn't you guys just vote for Bernie in the primaries? He's anti-Establishment, populist, not psychotic about wars, but he actually had political experience!"
The Bernie people need to take a long hard look at how massive and unrelenting the sabotage of the Trump agenda has been, before he even took office. It doesn't matter if you win an election -- that's just the beginning of the war, not the end.
The political and economic Establishment is trying to plunge America into World War III against nuclear Russia, just to get Trump out of office. Do the Bernie people really think there would be any different of a response if the White House were occupied by some other "crazy" guy with "crazy" ideas about lowering the elites and elevating the people?
Like, just because Bernie won an election, the big Wall Street banks are just going to roll over and accept the 2% tax on financial transactions to pay for social democratic programs? Just because he won an election, the drug and healthcare monopolies are going to accept dramatic losses when the government saves a fortune by going onto single-payer ("bulk discount healthcare")? Just because he won an election, the vast majority of Democrats in the Senate and House are going to be charging full steam ahead on issues that they were eviscerating Bernie for during the primaries?
Even Obama got his arm twisted into a troop surge in Afghanistan of 100,000 -- and the Pentagon is not a member of the Democrat coalition that won the election. But when a societal faction is that powerful, they are going to get at least something no matter which party is in the White House. Likewise Wall Street is going to get something from the Trump administration, even though the banks are not part of the GOP coalition that won the election.
So the social democrats should not be so assured that, if Trump had not run, it wouldn't have been Bernie making that primetime address in April about the dire need to bomb the Damascus dictator.
Just as Trump is being given some lee-way on the trade deal front -- although how much is still very much up in the air -- Bernie would be given some lee-way on negotiating drug prices or something healthcare related.
And the diehard Bernie bros and babes would be grateful that at least something was changing for the better somewhere in politics, but they would largely be struck by as much cognitive dissonance as the Trump supporters have been.
They would probably split into separate camps with their own takes on why the Bernie revolution was or was not being fulfilled -- the Panglossian cheerleaders for whom any news is awesome news, the psychologically oriented who would blame Bernie's motives (sell-out) or his knowledge (clueless), and the institutionally minded who would point to how little political capital he has, and how powerful the various factions are that he'd be taking on (Pentagon, Wall Street, etc.).
Nomiki Konst would be regularly pestering Bernie on Twitter about "Daily single-payer update: Medicare expansions yesterday -- ZERO; Medicare expansions since inauguration -- ZERO; next update tomorrow."
Of course, the issues being pursued would be different -- he'd be getting cucked more by Wall Street than by the Pentagon. And the personnel would reflect that -- his authoritarian Chief of Staff would be sent from Goldman Sachs rather than the Marines.
And it is worth wondering whether the overall mix of issues being pursued would be better or worse than the situation with Trump in office. The Pentagon seizing control of the government leads to a military bubble, whose fat-tailed consequences can go all the way up to nuclear war in magnitude. Wall Street seizing control would lead to a financial bubble, whose fat-tailed effects could cripple the economy here and around the world.
I think most Americans would prefer a financial over a military bubble, as the lesser of two evils -- that's why they're more inclined toward Democrats for President in the period where the GOP has become the warmonger party. Wars are far worse than recessions, and nuclear war would be worse than even a severe depression.
At any rate, the Bernie people should put themselves in our shoes and think more rationally about how collective power dynamics work at an institutional level, rather than focus on individual personalities like Bernie and Trump.
Supposedly they're better at thinking that way than the Right, but I've seen little self-reflection from them (at least that they'll admit) that Bernie would witness his anti-Establishment appointees getting purged from the government just like Trump has, and that Wall Street would be running things far far more than they'd thought possible in a populist presidency.
Just like the Trump movement, the Bernie movement did not build any organizations during the campaign, they would continue to be unorganized after their hero's inauguration, and they would therefore have little means of exerting influence over what the government was doing. They were looking up to Bernie almost like a savior, in the same way many Trump supporters did to their candidate. It was more of a hail-Mary pass than an earnest beginning of a long war.
So what would they have done when they wiped their eyes in disbelief on election night, and found out that the revolution had won at the ballot box? Probably what the Trump voters did -- assume that the worst was over, rest assured, breathe a deep sigh of relief, and let Bernie's appointees figure everything out and carry out their leader's agenda.
Then less than three months into the revolutionary White House, President Sanders goes on live TV to defend bailing out another Wall Street bank, after describing how "flexible" he has to be on important issues.
If they think their side of the populist awakening is immune to the counter-revolutionary assault that has been waged against the Trump movement, they are only fooling themselves.
Our enemies are fighting us collectively and are scratching each other's backs, so we need to organize and act collectively, and vote in sympathetic politicians who will freely give political capital to the populist President rather than withhold it and stymie his agenda.
And just as our enemies coordinate in a bipartisan or nonpartisan way, we too need to coordinate with the other side of the populist uprising. If they have the Uni-party, then we must have the Uni-movement.