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Why I Won’t Vote for Sanders

I love the fact that Bernie Sanders is running for president. Unlike most Democratic politicians he is not embarrassed to be called a liberal. Heck, he’s not even embarrassed to be called a socialist (even though he technically isn’t one). Like some Republican politicians he speaks his mind and doesn’t mince words, and unlike those same politicians he doesn’t completely ignore reality.

Except in one area. Paul Krugman published an opinion piece recently, and I realized that some of the reasons why I love Bernie Sanders are the same reasons I don’t think he will make a great president.

The title is “Health Reform Realities”, and Krugman’s main point is that Sanders is ignoring political reality in this country when he says he wants to replace the ACA (Obamacare) with a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system.

It isn’t that I don’t believe that a single payer system is superior. I just don’t think it will ever happen. As Krugman points out, do we really want to re-litigate one of the biggest political successes in a half a century?

Indeed, another article points out that in Vermont, the home state of Sanders, he was unsuccessful at setting up a single-payer system just a few years ago. This, despite the fact that the governor, legislature, and even many hospitals and businesses were solidly behind the effort.

As recently as early 2014, everyone assumed that Vermont was going to get a single-payer system. I remember reading about it. But by the end of that year, they completely gave up on it.

Was it because of conservative opposition? No, it was because budget analysts figured out that it would require $2.5 billion in additional revenue, which would require raising the payroll tax by 11.5% and the income tax by 9% (essentially doubling state taxes).

Of course, many Americans would ultimately save money, because the increased taxes would be more than offset by the savings in health insurance premiums (which would drop to zero). But other people would have to pay more, which would likely cause a huge political backlash.

Part of the reason other countries have been able to set up single-payer systems is because they have kept health care prices down. Most countries do this by keeping the salaries of doctors and other health care professionals much lower than they are here. Imagine what would happen here if you suddenly slashed the income of all the doctors and nurses in the US!

Then imagine if you also slashed revenues for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment companies, etc. All hell would break loose. It was a big enough problem that Vermont simply gave up on their single-payer system.

And that’s ignoring the problems of getting a national single-payer system past a Republican congress. Good luck with that. It is hard enough to keep them from dismantling Medicare and Social Security.

What bothers me is that Sanders is being an ideologue, instead of a pragmatist. I would much prefer it if Sanders were coming up with popular ways to modify Obamacare in order to push us (slowly) toward a single payer system. For example, he could be proposing that we bring back the “public option” in the health insurance exchanges (which Republicans removed from the ACA). Nobody would be forced to choose that option, but it would be there competing with private health insurance, and if it turns out to be competitive and people like it, then it would grow. It gives people more choices and provides more competition.

Such a proposal has a much higher chance of success than ramming a single-payer system (like the one in Vermont) down everyone’s throats. And I think in the long run, it would have a significantly better chance of leading us to a single-payer system, if that is indeed a good way for us to go.

Finally, Electoral Vote has a good post on why even if Sanders is able to win the Democratic primary (which itself is highly unlikely), he has pretty much zero chance of winning the general election. His popularity now has more to do with the fact that the Republicans are not smearing him (like they did with John Kerry); instead they are actually currently helping him to try to hurt Clinton. Donald Trump is even claiming that he is responsible for Sanders rising in the polls.

I am happy to have Sanders playing the role of pushing Clinton to the more progressive end of the spectrum, but nominating him would be a big mistake for the Democrats.

I’m sure many of you disagree. Tell me why I’m wrong.



  1. Mike wrote:

    You’re wrong because HRC will do what’s needed to be elected president; Bernie will try to do what he says he says he wants to do.

    I’m tired of business as usual politics – 51/49 percent politics – I want a revolution!

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 1:44 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Electing our first woman president is “business as usual politics” (especially compared to electing another old white guy)?

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 2:09 am | Permalink
  3. Mike wrote:

    The glaring problem with the krugman article is that it is based in the giant assumption that sanders would be the first president in history to be the same as he was in the primary.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink
  4. Mike wrote:

    I am a different Mike. BTW

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink
  5. Diogenes wrote:

    IK, I would say pragmatic politics and healthcare views are two fair reasons not to vote for someone. Certainly if you want to keep Republicans out of the white house Hillary is your (wo)man. But then you have to ask yourself why, how much different is Clinton than a Rubio? Big difference from a Cruz no doubt, but generally candidates in the RNC will wax super-right in the primaries and move to the middle in the general. If you want politics as usual there will always be a potential candidate on either side that barely lies to the right or left of each other.

    I agree that, although a single payer is superior, the US has had a major victory with the implementation of ACA and should really rest on its laurels for a little while as the US public is able to see the benefits of it, then a single-payer model will be easier to adopt. However if this is the only ideological/platform issue with Bernie, I would say its not a great reason to drop him altogether as he is likely to back down on this initiative in favour of others such as wall street regulation, corporate taxes and money in politics. He dropped it in Vermont, he can drop it federally. However I wouldn’t be so quick to worry about doctor’s losing money, they are very well payed in numerous countries with free healthcare, and money tends not to be the driving reason people go into medicine. As for pharmas and med equipment companies, some version of reduced revenues and govt subsidies could be used to soften the blow but as to the earlier point, it works in plenty of countries similar to the States anyways.

    There’s plenty of reasons to vote or not to vote for the various candidates but I think Bernie deserves a valid chance at the white house, though having a first female president and keeping the republicans out of office is not a bad alternative either.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 5:41 am | Permalink
  6. ebdoug wrote:

    New York has single payer health insurance called “healthy New York” for the self employed. Client lost her job because she turned in the Union member who were stealing food from the college kitchen. Union thugs waited until her husband left for his paper route and beat her up. Nothing could be proven. She lost her job and health insurance due to the short term memory.
    besides his paper route, the husband raises beef cattle. both are self employment. He was unaware of Healthy New York. he went home, called and was on in 15 minutes. With my client’s permission, yearly the state income tax looks at his electronically filed return to determine the premiums which so far has been zero.
    I pay more taxes to NYState than I do to the Feds. I don’t mind at all.

    You commented that taxes would go up for many. In 2013, I moved up from a middle class income because of Buffett buying Heinz, unexpected income to me. So all of 2015, I paid the extra $100 in Medicare premiums even though I was back to my normal income. And it didn’t hurt a bit to help other people have health insurance.
    When I was in nursing school in the 1960s, the doctors were all talking about ways to get all on insurance.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink
  7. ThatGuy wrote:

    The ACA is certainly a massive success, but it’s so far from perfect (and under such constant unreasonable GOP attack) that it will be re-litigated regardless of whether the next administration pushes for single payer or significant modifications to the legislation, as you wisely propose.

    Sanders, in my opinion, would be better than Clinton in the latter case as well as the first. He will push for what he wants to be done, rather than what is “realistic” and bargain from there. Obama’s biggest problem for much of his first term was starting from a position of compromise only to get battered by political opponents just as hard as if he’d started from a genuine liberal position. Clinton, if her campaigning is anything to go by, will probably do the same. Triangulate until she’s effectively a 1990s Republican and then have the GOP label her a radical socialist anyway.

    With Bernie, I think we have someone with much more courage and conviction than Clinton. I don’t think he’ll win even the primary (purposefully horrid debate times and deluges of articles like Krugman’s will see to that) but he is a lost opportunity for the left to actually begin any given debate with what it actually wants rather than trying off the bat to reason with the unreasonable.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Diogenes, not having a conservative Republican president appointing a bunch of Supreme Court justices makes it an even better alternative.

    Thatguy, remember that it was Clinton herself who started her husband’s term with what the left wanted (a single-payer health insurance system). How did that work out?

    I also remember back in the 60s, when the Democrats nominated people with plenty of liberal conviction, namely Hubert Humphrey and (four years later) George McGovern. That gave us two victories of Richard Nixon.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  9. Diogenes wrote:

    IK, good point on the justices as well, if there’s one thing that is worth fighting for is to re-balance that and hopefully appoint a supreme court that could turn over citizen’s united (if they have that power).

    Like I said, pragmatic voting is a legit reason to vote I think, at least sometimes, I think you can argue with a republican congress and SC it is in this instance, but as a general rule it is harmful to plurality of ideas. Good example is Canada, Trudeau garnered a lot of extra support through a pragmatic liberal (ideology not party) populace that believed he had a better chance of ousting Harper than Mulcair.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink
  10. ThatGuy wrote:

    It didn’t work out, ironically in part because it wasn’t a single-payer system. Quite a few Democrats put forward their own plans, including true single-payer plans which effectively attacked Clinton’s plan from the left.

    Now, it was still a good idea that was unduly attacked the same ways Obamacare was. But in the 2000s Clinton started receiving loads of campaign contributions from the same people who slagged her plan to hell in the 90s.

    Now, I’d say more people are familiar with the need for insurance reform, and while any change leftward from the ACA would of course be opposed with everything the right has to offer, I don’t trust Clinton to stay the course on healthcare or anything else. She may very well be an effective administrator but I feel she won’t be the leader the left needs to counter the virulent far-right with examples of quality liberalism.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink
  11. Babe of the Boom wrote:

    What makes anyone think the nation will elect an aging white woman over an aging white man?

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    BotB, assuming you were asking a serious question, there are plenty of reasons.

    First of all, because it would be historic. The only thing historic about Sanders would be that he would be the oldest person elected to the presidency.

    Second, because (as pointed out in the post on Electoral Vote), the right would do everything in their power to destroy Sanders if he is nominated. “In 2004, they painted decorated Vietnam War veteran John Kerry as an effete patrician and traitor to the United States. Just imagine what they will do to Sanders.”

    Third, money. It always comes down to money. We desperately need to overturn the Citizens United decision.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink
  13. Ralph wrote:

    Wow, looks like this posting hit a nerve and lit up the board more than usual!

    Babe – what makes you think the nation would elect an aging, white, belligerent, ego-maniacal billionaire, for that matter? Unless I’m reading you wrong and are predicting Sanders over Clinton for the nomination. Anyway, Trump would be 70 if and when he were to take office and is only about 5 years younger than Sanders, if you check the numbers. Either way, we’re in Reagan age territory, and that goes for Clinton too, of course.

    Diogenese – I’m with you all the way in spirit but I think IK’s arguments are valid in this case. I too want a revolution, the system stinks from the top down, and think Sanders has more integrity in his little pinky than Clinton has in her whole body, but the way the system is rigged, er, set up, she looks like the odds on favorite to win the nomination and a virtual shoe-in for the general election, regardless of who she ends up running against. I’d have to hold my nose and vote for her. The SCOTUS turnover predicted in the next few years is too big a risk to hand over to the wingnut brigade. Anything can happen over the next few months, of course, but it looks like hers to lose.

    Noam Chomsky was on the money (so to speak) in a recent interview he gave and cites the climate change issue as reason enough to keep Republicans in check as much as possible.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  14. Wildwood wrote:

    Any persons who can withstand the rigors of campaigning at any age are healthy enough to be president, at least physically. Mentally is another story.

    I will vote for whatever Dem is nominated. I wanted Hillary last time and was very disappointed that she didn’t win, but right now I like Bernie. The pendulum has swung so far to the right that being centrist is a lot more conservative than it used to be. Too conservative for me at any rate. I think we need some one as liberal as Sanders to nudge that pendulum more towards the actual center of the political spectrum. But whoever wins, it has to be a Democrat.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  15. redjon wrote:

    Short version, IK: You’re not wrong.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  16. Hassan wrote:

    As very conservative person, I will vote for Bernie in general over any republican (except Rand Paul perhaps). If it is Hillary, I will vote republican.

    Bernie does not want to dismantle ACA, he is telling what he wants, whether he gets it or not, is not relevant at this point. I would take a person who says he wants to do something (an honest person), rather than a person who says this is not possible (and honesty is questionable anyways). When you negotiate from point of strength and conviction, rather than giving up half of the demands before reaching the negotiation table.

    Paul Krugman was for Universal Healthcare till he realized Hillary was not for it, and Bernie is for it.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  17. Hassan wrote:

    Also, did Hillary ever gave speeches to earn the money from Goldman Sachs, or just showed up and winked and got money and left?

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  18. ebdoug wrote:

    They are all lying except Bernie, so why would you vote for a Republican if you like honesty?

    I’m voting for Schlossberg in 2028.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  19. Jonah wrote:

    I like Sanders but the reality is that even if he wins he is likely to do much worse than Obama in getting things done. And while Obama did get some things done it was with the greatest of difficulty. So I think voters will need to be practical about what Sanders can achieve.

    My bottom line is that I do not want any of the republicans to win. Rubio or Bush seem like the least of possible evils but as I pointed out on this website months ago, the republican party is getting crazier and crazier and they will elect a lunatic as a candidate ie either Cruz or Trump.

    So to avoid a republican win the best choice is HRC. I wish there were a better choice from either party. Whats disappointing to me is that the democrats have been unable to find an intelligent and pragmatic and efficient candidate to replace obama. While HRC fits the 1st two requirements, her tendency to sheet herself in the foot (underestimating obama in 08, email server this time) seems to show a lack of focus.

    The republican candidates do not belong in this modern age of interconnected nations and a fragile planet earth.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 6:08 am | Permalink
  20. Hassan wrote:

    EBDOUG, just lesser of the evil from my perspective (they are evil, no doubt about that)

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  21. Babe of the Boom wrote:

    Iron Knee – I was dead serious about my question. You had a nice answer, but not terribly satisfying. I think the only thing “Historic” about electing Mrs. Clinton would be her lack of a penis, and perhaps how divisive the campaign would be. After that it would be 50 shades of gray for the nation (i.e. business as usual, with some very nice sounding platitudes along the way to get us all excited).

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  22. Mike wrote:

    (Yet another Mike)

    My issue with Clinton is that if the Republicans regain their sanity and select a Kasich or Bush, it’s back to business as usual – 50.5/49.5. Clinton may move left to win the nomination, but she’s unlikely to actively pursue an actual progressive agenda, and even if she did, she’s not a candidate that’s going to have huge coattails (again, assuming that the Republicans nominate someone who’s arguably sane) and will, therefore, be dealing with at a minimum a Republican House, and quite likely a Republican Senate. If you thought the Congressional Republicans hated Obama, hold on!

    Sanders gives the nation an opportunity to have an actual clear policy referendum on what we, as a nation, want do do about a huge series of issues, for the first time in a long, long time. In addition, Sanders, unlike Clinton, has the potential to generate enough excitement that he could have long coattails.

    But what really bothers me is how the Democratic establishment, in a most undemocratic way, has tried to fix the nominating process to assure a Clinton candidacy. If she’s the nominee, I will hold my nose and pull the D lever, but I am, frankly, disgusted by how the Dems have handled all of this. DWS should be ashamed of herself.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink
  23. Iron Knee wrote:

    BotB, would you say the only thing “Historic” about Obama is that he has a permanent suntan? Being a woman also gives you a different perspective and viewpoint, just like being black.

    Yet Another Mike, the Republicans have hated every recent Democratic president. I actually think Clinton would be better at dealing with a Republican Congress, because she has *lots* of experience with that. While Sanders, the self-declared socialist who *wants* to raise taxes, would get murdered by them. They wouldn’t even have to make shit up about him, like they did with HRC and Obama (when I talk to conservatives about Obama, “socialist” is one of the worst insults they throw at him).

    I’m not a huge fan of Debbie Wasserman Schultz either, but that doesn’t impact my opinion of HRC.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
  24. Michael (not a Mike) wrote:

    As a former Dean-iac, I am a big fan of VT progressives. Voting for Sanders was one of the few times I really felt proud of my vote. I’m a big Bernie fan. But I’m completely behind Hillary.

    In the grand scheme of things, the Presidency is really not as powerful as many people would like. Most (but certainly not all) of Obama’s accomplishments have been centered around implementing legislation he was able to push through with the help of a Congressional supermajority in his first two years. A President Sanders would have none of that, and his administration would accomplish nothing.

    Ultimately, the President needs to be someone who can make deals. It’s dirty business and it requires a lot of flexibility regarding ideals, but that’s politics. Clinton is a deal maker, and she will do far more to advance an imperfect progressive agenda.

    The BIG exception to my view that the Presidency isn’t that powerful is SCOTUS. Considering the pending retirements (or worse) of Scalia, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer (all of whom are over 75 and have served for more than 20 years), the next President will control the direction of the Court for the next generation. The possibility of letting any of the GOP candidates (who would most likely get a rubber stamp from Congress) appoint replacement for those four is terrifying.

    And while I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to “send a message” to Congress, they won’t hear it because they can ignore it very, very easily. If progressives really want to change the direction of this country, they need a completely different strategy. Because it really doesn’t matter who holds the Presidency if the GOP dominates almost all of the state legislatures (they control ~35), controls most of the governorships (they hold 31), holds a majority in the House and Senate (they do), and use that latter majority to block progressive nominees to the Circuit courts (they do). Frankly, the Democratic party is in really bad shape, and capturing the Presidency is nothing more than staving off complete failure.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  25. Iron Knee wrote:

    Michael, well put. We “sent a message” when we elected Obama. The GOP didn’t get that message.

    Regardless, I still think a moderate like Obama was able to achieve a lot of good, progressive things. Not just the ACA, but saving the economy, shutting down two wars, ending torture, nuclear treaties with Russia and Iran, normalizing relations with Cuba, increased rights for gays, decriminalizing marijuana, better fuel efficiency standards, more renewable energy technology, and (soon) shutting down Guantanamo.

    I have to laugh when even liberals like Jonah say things like “Obama did get some things done”. Can they name as many successes for any other recent president? It is almost as funny as conservatives who simultaneously say that Obama is weak and do-nothing, and is also a dictator who is destroying our country.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  26. Ralph wrote:

    What impresses me most about Obama is the degree to which he WAS able to achieve much of his agenda despite the unrelenting obstructions he faced in Congress, beyond the first two years when he had the Senate. Whether driven by the unrelenting accusations about his legitimacy (Birthers) or patriotism (the sneaky Muslim), not to mention the subversive racism, he kept an even keel throughout, kept the country out of further pointless and harmful foreign military adventures, and continues to wind down the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh yeah, and he gave bin Laden the Deep Dive. Along the way we also learned that, at least in some political and social circles, half-white is still not quite white enough for the White House, revealing how deeply divided along racial lines we still are as a country.

    Considering all that, along with the tanking economy and foreign entanglements he inherited, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t ranked at least in the Top 10 of all Presidents when history is written.

    HRC will most likely be the next Prez, and all things considered that’s not so bad considering the alternative, but she will face many of the same hyper-partisan divisions, of course, perhaps even more if that’s conceivable. And with our first First Dude on the side, esp this one, there’s bound to be more than a little drama. To paraphrase Bette Davis, fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 5:54 am | Permalink
  27. Jonah wrote:

    I use the word “some” since I think he had the intelligence and capability of understanding complex topics to get more done. In the end rather than having fresh minds around him he had the same old guys like Geithner and Summers around him. Even the appointment of Yellen as fed chair may not have happened if there hadn’t been an immense outcry against summers.

    Some of the reasons why I think Obama fell short are hardly liberal. He couldn’t make any headway into some of the real issues plaguing the US economy such as bringing in offshore capital, tax-inversion, and reducing income inequality. He got some items on the liberal agenda ticked off. I wouldn’t say Obama saved the economy. Sure the auto bailout helped but in the end any democratic president would have done it and I would say the FED’s lower rates and QE played a much bigger role. If anything Obama stayed out of the way for the most part but probably could have done a little more by being a little bolder. The US infrastructure still sucks after the bailout of 2009.

    The russian nuclear treaty was bound to happen based on START1. Most of every thing else that happened under him would more than likely have happened under another democratic president. Obama won both elections convincingly and had over 50% of the vote and therefore had the mandate to take the necessary creative steps to ensure a strong US economy.In the end what he’s done has been, what I consider, pretty standard achievements in my opinion. He’s been a great role model as a parent and a husband and probably stands out in that regard.

    Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  28. Iron Knee wrote:

    And his finest achievement — he accomplished all this with no scandals.

    Friday, January 29, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

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