When you hear Bernie railing against Wall Street or Trump promising to revive America’s coal industry, you have to ask yourself what they could do if they actually became President.
Bernie could possibly get Congress to impose a fee or tax on financial transactions, I suppose. And Trump could revoke some environmental protection regulations imposed by Obama’s executive orders.
But Bernie would never be so naive as to try and erase the financial patterns supporting the world’s economy. And Trump has no power to stem the growing trend away from the use of coal. Natural gas is simply better – cheaper, cleaner and less damaging to the environment.
A President’s ability to make radical changes is severely limited. It’s Congress – with both the House and Senate consenting – that passes laws. The President proposes but Congress disposes.
The most drastic action a President can take is to veto legislation. And the veto can be overridden by a two-thirds Senate vote.
So I wouldn’t count on any radical change in domestic policies as long as Congress remains inexorably divided.
And, while it looks as if the Democrats might take back the Senate, even the most biased observer wouldn’t bet on them winning the House in November. State legislatures have just about gerrymandered away that possibility.
What’s likely to happen – regardless of who becomes President – is a continuation of the dreary gridlock that has frustrated voters for so long. Change will have to come incrementally in the prevailing political climate, if it comes at all.
There’s so much that candidates promise, so little they can actually deliver.
The odds against Bernie getting a healthcare system like Canada’s are a thousand to one, for example. Or free college tuition for all. Or any of those other desirable reforms he keeps yelling about.
Hillary has a far greater chance of coaxing Congress to make modest reforms. She has the connections and the political know-how.
Still, either Bernie or Hillary would be relatively benign as President. They would earnestly try to protect the little guy against the financial bullies in those corporate boardrooms. And they would usually have the best interests of everyday Americans at heart.
What’s even more important is that neither would mindlessly plunge America into a nuclear war or willfully disrupt the global patterns of trade (despite Bernie’s rants against NAFTA, etc.) And neither envisages America as a heavily armed thug threatening and bullying the rest of the world.
Trump in the White House would be a ticking time bomb. As commander in chief, this impulsive egomaniac would have access to the Doomsday button, and that should keep Americans – and the rest of the world – awake at night.
Also, his “America First” foreign policy would set this country against the rest of the globe, triggering trade wars and even armed conflicts. The cost of living would soar in America, and jobs would disappear as exporters feel the backlash from Trump’s protectionism.
Of course, Trump’s racist rhetoric will also have repercussions at home and abroad.
He cannot do all the things he says he would do, but he could do enough to set America back a generation or more.
And, although both Hillary and Bernie would be constrained in making the reforms they promise, any thinking human being must recognize how much saner than Trump either of them would be in the White House.