A Socialist In The White House?

In his profile of Bernie Sanders, Mark Jacobson asks the senator from Vermont what his administration might look like:

“This is how it is going to be,” Bernie says, as if he were still in his $200 car, back in the Liberty Union days [in the 1970s]. “Suppose you want to raise the minimum wage to a fair level and know that change is not going to come from inside Washington. Not in this climate. So, as president, I’d invite millions of low-income workers to come to the capitol. Like a bonus march. I’d do the same thing about making college affordable. Put out the call, invite a million students. Make sure they’re all registered to vote. Then when these congressmen come by the White House and they’re beholden to the Koch brothers, the super-PACs, or the oil companies, I will say, ‘Do what you want, but first do one thing for me: Look out the window.’

“Look out the window,” Bernie repeats, liking the sound of it, the call to arms, just the sort of phrase that might get the attention of a downtrodden, detached electorate and prompt them to raise a fist in the air. “Look out the window. Because all those people are out there. They’re demanding their fair share and they’re not leaving until they get it.”

Back in October, Andrew Prokop also considered how a hypothetical Sanders presidential campaign might affect 2016:

Essentially, Sanders is calling for the Democratic Party to wage a rhetorical war on the billionaire class, to better mobilize the general public against them, and break their power. He believes the power of the rich is the defining issue of our politics, and wants to elevate it accordingly.

The specifics of how this mobilization happens, and what the public does once it’s mobilized (beyond voting out Republicans), are less clear. Sanders’ generic suggestion tends to be for a march on Washington. “You wanna lower the cost of college? Then you’re gonna have to show up in Washington with a few million of your friends!” he told an audience member in Waterloo. …

But Hillary Clinton is extremely unlikely to take up the banner of class warfare in her presidential campaign. According to a report by Amy Chozick of the New York Times, she is currently exploring, through discussions with donors and friends in business, how her campaign can address inequality “without alienating businesses or castigating the wealthy.” Beyond Clinton’s desire to raise campaign cash, there’s a long-held belief among many Democratic political consultants that messaging critical of the rich simply isn’t effective in US politics. Instead, they argue, much of the American public actually rather admires successful businessmen, and aspires to be like them. And lack of trust in government is a real and consistent force in American politics and public opinion.