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Can We Tell Who Will Be Good At Presidenting Ex Ante?

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David Roberts has a good point about the one of the two most important question of the Democratic primary race:

Which brings us back to Clinton and Sanders. If they are both serious candidates for president, then they should be treated like job candidates, evaluated on the qualities that are likely to affect their performance.

How liberal they are willing to talk during a primary is not one of those qualities. Their opinions on single-payer health care are not hugely relevant, nor are their stances on breaking up big banks, carbon taxes, serious gun control, or reparations for slavery.

How they talk about these aspirational issues can tell us something about their priorities, of course. But in practice, they are going to be hemmed in to the point that circumstances, more than priorities, will dictate opportunities.

Success, then, will come from seizing those opportunities when they arise, and making the most of them. It will come from understanding and manipulating the levers of the bureaucracy, from being ruthless about taking incremental wins wherever they can be found, from taking the long view and not overreacting to the hysterical, endless fluctuations in elite DC opinion.


These are dark arts. It’s difficult to predict who might master them.

Clinton seems more likely to forfeit opportunities through an overabundance of caution. Sanders seems more likely to forfeit them through cluelessness about how to run a giant administrative bureaucracy.

Clinton seems more likely to appoint establishment-friendly figures to run her government and cautious centrists to the bench. Sanders seems more likely to get mired in endless, energy-sapping confirmation battles.

Clinton seems more likely to surround herself with a bubble of insiders. Sanders seems more likely to rely on a “political revolution” that is unlikely to endure once he takes office.

And to make matters more obscure for voters, neither is willing to talk about these things directly. Admitting that your presidency will mostly be a rearguard battle, a unilateral executive grind, is not attractive politics. It doesn’t make for fun campaign rallies.

But these qualities matter far more, in concrete terms, than the boldness of the candidates’ plans or the inspirational quality of their rhetoric.

With Republican control of the House all but assured for the next six years, what matters most should a Democrat take the White House is who will be most effective at the things, like executive branch appointments and orders, that are largely within the president’s control. The problem for Democratic primary voters is that the boldfaced sentence is true and if anything understated.

During both presidential primaries, questions about “qualifications” tend to come up. This was, for example, the core of Clinton’s case against Obama in 2008: Clinton had more relevant experience and would therefore make a more effective president. I doubt that this is true, although it is of course unknowable (and won’t be answered if Clinton becomes president in 2016 because she’d be coming to office in much less favorable circumstances.)

Here’s the thing, though: is there any reason to think that cv comparisons really tell us anything about who will be an effective president? James Buchanan had among the most impressive ex ante resumes of American presidents, and Abraham Lincoln’s was among the thinnest. Jimmy Carter was not obviously less qualified than Barack Obama, and indeed I think traditional standards would favor a one-term governor over a one-term U.S. Senate backbencher. FDR had a little more relevant experience than Carter or Obama but if you were voting on resumes you’d definitely go with Hoover. Maybe you’d like more experience in executive or federal office all things being equal, but there are so many false negatives and false positives that I’m not sure such analysis really has much value.

Whether Clinton or Sanders would be a more effective leader of the executive branch is a very important question. The problem is that I don’t think it can be meaningfully answered.

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  • Rob in CT

    Agreed. Also, on experience, it’s not like Sanders is actually an outsider to the political process. Hillary’s executive experience was not as a governor, but as a cabinet official. So it’s not clear to me that she’s got a stronger resume for an executive position. She does, I think, have stronger policy wonk chops, and I like that about her.

    By the way…

    http://www.politico.com/story/2016/01/off-message-podcast-transcript-obama-218167

    A lot of good stuff in there about Hillary/Bernie/comparisons to ’08, plus some self criticism that matches up with a lot of people’s frustrations w/him.

    • priceyeah

      Scott’s statement above about Hillary having more experience is wrong (Scott seems to be dissenting on the meaning of Hillary’s experience, not the fact of it).

      Hillary Clinton’s entire electoral experience in 2008 consisted of 2 Senate races for the state of New York — that’s it. She had never run for office before that, her tenure as First Lady of Arkansas and then First Lady are almost entirely not relevant to the question of a candidate’s experience as an elected official. The essence of the democratic system is that the candidate appears before the electorate with her or her record and lives or dies on that record — it is this that creates the necessary accountability.

      Clinton obviously observed a great deal pre-2008 and had been around politics her entire adult life but “counting” her time as First Lady as “experience” is IMO one of the things that got her into trouble in 2008, because she was trying to pass off First Lady time as actual executive experience, which it isn’t unless you’re talking about running her own staff, which isn’t what people are actually referencing.

      Obama had been running on his own name since 1995 — his full-time job was taking issues to his electorate and so on, and these political muscles would help him a great deal in 2008. To be clear, Clinton should be a fine candidate in 2016 and I have no problem with her now, but this business of how incredibly experienced she was in 2008 relies on a deep misunderstanding of what politics is and is supposed to be, a distinction that Clinton herself never seemed quite clear on. You run on your own record, and you don’t get credit for elections other people win, even if you’re married to them.

      • Murc

        I see what you’re saying here, and you kinda have a point… but under this logic, doesn’t her (and others) experience as official in the executive branch also “not count?” Nobody elected her Secretary of State, after all.

        And if that doesn’t count it means she actually isn’t any mooe experienced now than in 2008, which kinda makes your thesis fall apart.

        • priceyeah

          The president is permitted to dismiss his or her Sec’y of State, or any cabinet official, for reasons pertaining to politics and policy or both. Cabinet officials resign all the time, it is understood that a president will have multiple officials occupying most cabinet offices. Being First Lady isn’t like that. Clinton would have been harshly criticized if he had treated his First Lady like that. That’s because it’s not really a part of regular politics.

          Look, you’ve got me here a little bit. Occupying a major cabinet position clearly counts as experience, it was the main experience George H.W. Bush had racked up before becoming VP. There is some equivalency there, between First Lady and Secretary of Labor or something. So let’s say being a cabinet official is boda fide political/policy “experience” and being First Lady is worth, what, a third of that? Hillary isn’t your ordinary First Lady and she deserves credit just for that, of course, she’s an impressive person. But it’s still not really “experience” — she fucked up the health care thing in 1994 and was permitted not to do very much after that, which isn’t like a regular administration job.

          In 2008 we were confronted with the “vaaastly experienced” Hillary and “completely inexperienced” Obama, but when you consider that Obama had been in the political trenches as a candidate for 10-12 years and Hillary had never (until 2000) had to face the electorate with her record, that yawning gap seemed WAY overdetermined, and, as I said, I think it ended up like a little bit of a soft lie that helped explain her inability to win in 2008, it was kind of the elephant in the room, that maybe she wasn’t all that experienced. Right now that’s not true, she’s pretty experienced even if you give partial credit for all the years as First Lady.

      • This is strange.

        You conflate winning elections with executive (esp. White House) experience.

        You denigrate White House experience. Hilary was a fairly active member of Bill’s campaigns and administration (health care anyone?). She did politics and policy. I don’t see that that’s not real experience. It’s possible for a presidential spouse to get little real experience or to not profit from that experience, but so too for a governor (or president…see Bush II, either term).

        • socraticsilence

          Right, but they try to have it both ways and cite the accomplishments of the Clinton Administration while insulating her from its failings.

          • Well, of course they would :)

            I don’t think the accomplishments matter so much now. It’s a different world. The relevant bits is that she has a huge, deep well of experience of being in the White House and being at the top of the Democratic party. That has some benefits and some potential weaknesses. It doesn’t erase her weaknesses.

            For example, I think Obama was the better choice, in speculative retrospect. Her experience edge was there then too (slightly smaller). But Obama had a team and an enormous talent selection and leadership gift. Plus a temperament for the ages. I’ve not seen that in her.

            I’ve not seen anything Obama level from Sanders. He’s got a good track record as a legislator, but his wider influence (e.g., amonst policy wonks, administration officials, etc.) and connections seems (to my casual eye) to be weak. (Perhaps I’m wrong there!)

            Maybe he’ll rise up. Maybe he’ll fold. With HRC, I’m pretty sure she won’t fold, but she might make some bad talent picks.

            • [Sanders’] wider influence (e.g., amongst policy wonks, administration officials, etc.) and connections seems (to my casual eye) to be weak. (Perhaps I’m wrong there!)

              According to Guttman at The Forward, Sanders (still) has no foreign policy advisers:

              In comparison with Clinton, who has a vast array of advisers and consultants, her major Democratic rival,Sanders, has no foreign policy operation to speak of.

              Sanders, who runs a much smaller campaign than Clinton, rarely discusses foreign policy issues in his stump speeches.

              The campaign’s top adviser, Tad Devine, is in charge of policy issues in general, including those relating to foreign policy and the Middle East. But Jewish and pro-Israel groups said they have had little contact with him or the campaign. Sanders’ Senate office, which deals with his daily duties as a senator, also lacks a full time foreign policy adviser. These affairs are usually directed to the desk of his legislative director.

              • Rob in CT

                One of the things I find a little frustrating is that we have a choice between Hillary, who takes FP really seriously and has lots of experience but is hawkish with a particularly bad blot on her record and Bernie, who is somewhat less hawkish but it’s hard to tell really how much because he doesn’t take FP as seriously as domestic policy (despite FP being an area where POTUS can do the most on his or her own).

                • Yeah, it’s not great. I’m not too worried about actual execution (esp if Kerry stays on), but people thinking that a Sanders presidency will be all dovish miss that once the advisors and situation get in, Bernie will change. Almost certainly. And he’ll become more Clintony.

                • Bijan:

                  ‘Nuff said (wonder how this went unnoticed among the True Brolievers?):

                  Bernie Sanders has said that as president, he would be willing to use drones in counter-terrorism operations.

                  In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press scheduled for broadcast on Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked the independent senator from Vermont if drones or special forces would play a role in his counter-terror plans.

                  “All of that and more,” Sanders said.

                  Asked to clarify, he added: “Look, a drone is a weapon. When it works badly, it is terrible and it is counterproductive. When you blow up a facility or a building which kills women and children, you know what? … It’s terrible.”

                  The Obama administration’s use of drones to target terrorist suspects has proved controversial, particularly with the political left. Sanders, a self-professed democratic socialist, has proven popular in such circles in the 2016 campaign so far.

                  Todd asked Sanders: “But you’re comfortable with the idea of using drones if you think you’ve isolated an important terrorist?”

                  Sanders replied: “Yes”.

                • And that right there is why Sanders is electable, as JfL notes elsewhere: this isn’t a Kucinich purity/vanity run; he’s serious as a heart attack about this run. And I think he knows that the more his, shall we say, establishment-leaning positions on foreign policy are touted early on, the harder it is to rally a progressive youth base during primary season.

                  Perhaps the Sanders thinking is to roll out the FP during the general, when they are trying to pivot to the centre, and thus can potentially avoid having to make as many concessions to the econ portfolio that they might otherwise be pushed towards (theoretically – this is all spitballin’.)

      • socraticsilence

        Honestly, I’m okay with Hillary citing her experience as first lady, my problem is how its done selectively– essentially giving her retroactive credit for the accomplishments of the Clinton Administration as an “equal partner” with her husband but also excusing her from most of the Administration’s failings because “she wasn’t in charge and didn’t have input on that”.

      • TopsyJane

        I have no problem with her now, but this business of how incredibly experienced she was in 2008 relies on a deep misunderstanding of what politics is and is supposed to be, a distinction that Clinton herself never seemed quite clear on.

        HRC is kind of a slow student when it comes to understanding the nature of politics. Good thing she has people on the internets to explain these things to her.

        She was plenty experienced in 2008 and she’s plenty experienced now. Enough already.

        • socraticsilence

          Um…honestly, I don’t think anyone would put her political skills on the Obama/Clinton (Bill)/Reagan level.

        • MDrew

          She was plenty experienced in 2008

          No, not really. She was experienced enough (like Obama).

      • Richard Gadsden

        It’s not so much being FLOTUS and FLOAR, but what she did with them; after all, no-one is contemplating Laura Bush for any elected office. Even so, it’s comparable to being a senior policy staffer in the White House, which isn’t exactly that high-level experience.

        On the other hand, eight years in the Senate and four as Secretary of State is serious experience. Six times a Secretary of State has gone on to the Presidency, which is one more than Vice Presidents to do so without the death of a President.

  • Jordan

    In the event that Sanders wins the nomination, surely he picks a DC democratic insider type for chief of staff and an experienced non-white-male for vice president, right?

    But, ya, I agree that this is tough to tell beforehand.

    • NonyNony

      surely he picks a DC democratic insider type for chief of staff

      If so, many of his supporters will be upset at him selling them out.

      Not a good reason for him not to do it of course – if he actually has to be the President and not an aspirational candidate many of his supporters will be screaming “sell out” before March anyway.

      • Murc

        If so, many of his supporters will be upset at him selling them out.

        And with good cause.

        When Barack Obama was elected President, he did the “responsible” thing and picked a DC democratic insider type for Chief of Staff: Rahm Emmanuel.

        That choice very nearly destroyed the ACA.

        This is not to say a DC insider type would automatically be bad at the job, but it would at the very least be grounds for suspicion.

        • Jordan

          Oh for sure. But I’m sure there are DC insiders with a better progressive resume than Rahm that he could pick (i.e., it doesn’t *have* to be someone like that). Right?

          • Jordan

            Actually, I’m dumb. What was Rahm’s resume like before he got picked? Probably pretty good, right? Well fuck.

            • Murc

              It wasn’t. Rahm had a longstanding reputation of hippie-punching. He did have a reputation for getting stuff done, but that “stuff” was in the context of the Clinton White House, which never saw a welfare program it didn’t want to slash or an ex-con it didn’t want to stigmatize.

              • The key bit, I would say, is the DCCC chairmanship. He and Dean clashed over strategy but Rahm got a ton of credit for turning the House in 2006. His interpersonal relationships esp. with Obama were strong.

                Saying that that choice nearly destroy the ACA is a bit much. It was true he was ready to throw in the towel and Polesi esp. had the grit. But I think that could have been anyone at that juncture. I don’t recall him being otherwise detrimental.

                • joe from Lowell

                  And let’s not pretend that his involvement with the ACA began the day Scott Brown won the election. I really don’t see how you can brush past the White House Chief of Staff, one hired partially for his ability to run a tight ship and partially for his relationships in Congress, when discussing Obama’s extremely successful initial legislative push.

                • Yes.

                  Wrong calls are wrong calls and everyone makes some. It’s hard to look at the first two years of Obama’s presidency and say that Rahm was a bad choice. There may have been better for all I know, but there needs to be a bigger case made. Even the DCCC run. I’m with Dean and 50 state strategy, but you have to deal with a lot of data and guesswork to strongly favour one strategy over the other.

                  Contrast with his mayorship…that seems much less good.

              • Jordan

                Ah ok, thanks, for one view of it.

        • djw

          That choice very nearly destroyed the ACA.

          Assumes facts very much not in evidence. I still remain astonished at how easily and casually so many people assume Emmanuel was managing Obama, rather than the other way around.

          • Murc

            I still remain astonished at how easily and casually so many people assume Emmanuel was managing Obama, rather than the other way around.

            It’s a good thing I’m both not doing this and in no way implied it, then.

            I think it’s fair to say that a President’s chief legislation liaison and a guy who is specifically supposed to be a fixer deciding to push hard for quitting at a critical juncture to be something that nearly torpedoes legislation. And even if it didn’t, it’s still okay to hold that decision on Rahm’s part, especially as a piece with Rahm’s other political and ideological positions over the years, against both him, and against the guy who looked at those decisions and his record and decided to place him that close to the seat of power.

            I stand by my phrasing.

            • joe from Lowell

              I think it’s fair to say that a President’s chief legislation liaison and a guy who is specifically supposed to be a fixer deciding to push hard for quitting at a critical juncture to be something that nearly torpedoes legislation.

              By arguing for the idea in internal strategy deliberations, then keeping his mouth shut and being a good soldier when the call goes against him?

              And why are we pretending that that one internal strategy meeting was the only influence he had on the effort to pass the ACA and the rest of Obama’s first-two-years agenda?

              • djw

                By arguing for the idea in internal strategy deliberations, then keeping his mouth shut and being a good soldier when the call goes against him?

                Yeah, this. He gave Obama bad advice, which Obama properly ignored. Unless there’s evidence I’m unaware of that he didn’t follow his marching orders, “very nearly destroyed” is a huge exaggeration. The implication that his bad advice could have easily caused Obama to abandon his legacy-making accomplishment with the finish line strains plausibility.

        • Sly

          That choice very nearly destroyed the ACA.

          No it didn’t. Emmanuel expressed reservations about prioritizing the ACA, but once the President said “We’re doing this,” he did his job. And the job of the Chief of Staff is to serve at the pleasure of the President.

          Rahm as an effective administrator/representative, accountable only to an electorate, is a questionable proposition at best, but his effectiveness as an apparatchik isn’t.

          • joe from Lowell

            This.

            I remember the red noses and big, floppy shoes at the White House in early 1993. There were no clown shoes in 2009.

        • MDrew

          There are DC insiders and DC insiders. I don’t think supporters were upset with Obama merely for choosing a DC insider. They were upset that Emmanuel sucked. Or in any case, they were vindicated only when, and by, he turned out to suck. There is no inherent problem with staffing an administration with insiders – I think almost all Obama supporters knew that that was coming, and supported it in theory, or at least didn’t object in theory.

          Incidentally Rahm Emmanuel is not merely an insider and a terrible insider at that. He is exactly the kind of insider we will get when Hillary Clinton is elected president (which will not, obviously, make her presidency significantly different from other Democratic presidents we might have had, have had before her, and will have after her). Well, okay, not exactly the same. The problem with Rahm was that he sucked at everything so much. Hillary’s people won;t suck quite that much, but they’ll be substantially like him in most important ways. They’ll just suck a little less.

      • joe from Lowell

        If so, many of his supporters will be upset at him selling them out.

        Maybe. On the other hand, his campaign is being run by DC insider Tad Devine, and that hasn’t generated any sort of backlash.

        • Joe_JP

          being run by DC insider Tad Devine, and that hasn’t generated any sort of backlash.

          well, whenever people hear the name, they hear “tad divine,” so figure he’s great

          … Or at least just a little bit great.

          • rewenzo

            well, whenever people hear the name, they hear “tad divine,” so figure he’s great

            Or at least just a little bit great.

      • djw

        If so, many of his supporters will be upset at him selling them out.

        There is no conceivable future universe in which a) Sanders is elected president and b) this prediction does not come to fruition.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          y’know, I think Sanders is going to do really well here, and I think maybe well enough that he’s going all the way. And to a large degree it’s going to be downhill all the way too

        • Malaclypse

          That’s not true at all.

          Sanders could pull a William Henry Harrison.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            dammit Mal, don’t *say* things like that

          • I think if he didn’t get gunned down by a bankster or contract MERSA while nationalising a hospital, people would feel let down.

            • Malaclypse

              Now that I think of it, even then, he would have sold us out through his choice of VP, since that person Won’t. Even. Try. to usher in true socialism.

              • There’s a chance that it would to that the VP stabbed his corpse in the back.

          • joe from Lowell

            Say what you will about Vermont; those people know how to dress for the weather.

            • Malaclypse

              I have not seen anyone wearing shorts outside for days.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          I guess I feel that for Sanders to be elected president, he’d need to expand his electorate far beyond the crowd that constantly accuses their elected officials of selling out. There just aren’t that many of those folks out there.

          • cpinva

            “There just aren’t that many of those folks out there.”

            and they all seem to post on this site. strange.

            • Malaclypse

              Man, how quickly people forget about FDL.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks

                I certainly haven’t forgot about FDL. No doubt Bernie’s support will include its share of Jane Hamshers, who would find betrayal in everything Sanders does were he to get elected. But loud as FDL was, they did not represent a significant percentage of Obama’s support in 2008. They convinced virtually nobody on the left to actively oppose the ACA. They were unable to gin up a primary challenge in 2012. And their taking their toys and going home didn’t scuttle Obama’s reelection bid (not even close, in fact). And a lot of the folks who took their line were not disappointed former Obama supporters, but rather people who are always convinced that bothsidesdoit and didn’t support Obama in the first place. (And no, cpinva, the frequency of the appearance of an opinion on this website is not necessarily a good measure of its distribution in the general population, either.)

                Firebaggers might in fact dominate a failed Sanders candidacy. But for Sanders to get elected he’d need the support of much larger groups on the left who don’t think like this at all and who’d dwarf the FDL crowd.

                • MDrew

                  They also, to my recollection, didn’t support Obama until they had essentially no choice left in the general.

      • Jordan

        Ehh, I doubt it. Picking Biden didn’t diminish enthusiasm for Obama, and neither did picking Rahm. I mean, possibly some purity lefty bloggers, but no one cares about them.

  • BGinCHI

    The other major issue here is that the most important thing is that a Democrat wins the election.

    If acting like the choice between HRC and BS is the only thing that matters creates an opening for the GOP candidate (not saying this post does this, but that is happening around social media), then this is hard to stomach.

    Both of these candidates are so far superior to the GOP alternative that whatever happens is a victory. I’m not persuaded by Sanders’ partisans that a vote for HRC is like a vote for the GOP.

    • Rob in CT

      A very small number of Sandernistas are making that argument, which is annoying and bullshit but I figure the best approach is to remember the PUMAs. Remember them? Yeah.

    • joe from Lowell

      I’m not persuaded by Sanders’ partisans that a vote for HRC is like a vote for the GOP.

      I can’t tell if this is meant to refer to the “Hillary is a closet Republican” argument, or to an electability argument.

      • liberalrob

        Probably the former. But as stated upthread, the numbers of people saying this are irrelevant. At least, I’ve never heard of them.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      what I’m getting out of real life is that people expect more/better from Sanders, not so much that “Clinton = Republican” thing. That mostly exists on the internet

      • socraticsilence

        This, I’ve been shuttling back and forth from NH to IA and Hillary’s main problem seems to be that people view her as a ruthless pragmatist– its probably one of the reasons she’s started to wrap herself in the Obama mantle more and more. Her other issue is trust which as much as most of the stuff is bullshit seems to be the cumulative impact of years of psuedo-scandals and some actual dodges and exaggerations on her part.

        Both of these combine to really hamper her outreach efforts to younger voters despite using a significantly more sophisticated organizing approach than the throwback to the 90s campaign in 2008.

        It wont cost her the primary unless Sanders can somehow breakthrough with minority voters, but it could kill Democratic hopes in the fall if youth turnout dips back down to pre-Obama levels.

    • random

      Things that are far superior to the GOP alternative include a mechanical device that randomly signs or does not sign papers placed in front of it.

      • joe from Lowell

        Off-shoring the job to a Belgian management-consulting firm.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Leopold II Consultancy and Genocide Expertise Inc

  • CrunchyFrog

    This is an excellent question, and I agree both that it is the question we should ask before we cast a vote and that very few people will do so.

    When looking at executives I try to evaluate how they will do leading people in their organization and how well they will do interfacing and negotiating with people outside the organization. When Obama came into office I thought he’d be very strong on the latter, but on the former I thought it would depend greatly on who his first line delegates were since he had little executive experience. Unfortunately, Obama’s negotiating skills were put up against a Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario with the GOP’s intractable NO stance, so that strength didn’t help very much, and his first delegatee was Rahm Emmanuel which constrained the degree to which he could transform the administration in those early years. As expected, Obama’s gotten better with experience, but those early years can be hard.

    And this was true even for a seasoned executive from a small state. Bill Clinton stumbled on a lot of fronts in his first two years before learning to be more effective in the role.

    In terms of executive experience Hillary Clinton clearly wins over the rest of the field, Democrat or Republican, due to her participation in the Bill Clinton White House, Governor’s House, and as Secretary of State for 4 years. If we ignore the extremely marginal candidates, 2nd place for experience would be between Christie, Kasaich, and Bush. I considered Fiorna briefly for this, but in addition to just how disastrous her reign of error was at HP, there are significant additional challenges in government that she’s never faced.

    Experience does not mean you’ll do well, but it improves the chances. In this on this front Hillary is better positioned in terms of dealing with a hostile Congress and maybe in terms of managing a bureaucracy, although I think her best bet there is to delegate in the extreme as there appears to have been a good deal of chaos in terms of how she ran both State and her 2008 campaign. At least she shouldn’t need (in effect) 2 years of up-front on-the-job training like 4 of the previous 5 Democratic presidents – Sanders probably would. There is a lot the President can accomplish just through administrative powers, as Obama seems to have discovered in his second term.

    • CP

      Unfortunately, Obama’s negotiating skills were put up against a Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario with the GOP’s intractable NO stance, so that strength didn’t help very much, and his first delegatee was Rahm Emmanuel which constrained the degree to which he could transform the administration in those early years. As expected, Obama’s gotten better with experience, but those early years can be hard.

      And this was true even for a seasoned executive from a small state. Bill Clinton stumbled on a lot of fronts in his first two years before learning to be more effective in the role.

      In both cases, I think the shortage of Washington DC insiders ready and willing to help them achieve their agenda was a big deal. DC, as the saying goes, is wired for Republicans. Look at George W. Bush – basically all of Official Washington threw the doors open for him, and he didn’t have much to do other than be the smiling public face of an operation run by people who’d spent a lifetime in national politics and interacting with the relevant elites. There’s no equivalent political machine for Democrats. It’s an uphill fight from day 1.

      • I think this was much more true for Clinton if it was at all true for Obama. 12 years out of office with the last president being Carter then a pretty long jump again left the Dems without a good field to draw from (though we owned congress). Plus, there really was a bit of a knife fight going on around the DLC. Plus Clinton came up pretty fast with few Washington connections.

        Obama came up fast but he was in DC for a bit before hand. He had really strong congressional allies (eg Pelosi and Reid). Raham was an insider choice and understandable in a lot of ways.

        His second choices were often quite good in the end as well.

        (His economic team was good. I dislike Summers but he was mostly on the right side and Rohmwr was the best pick ever.)

        What I don’t understand is why he wasn’t more aggressive on appointments. Maybe it was just that the relentless obstructionism while all the other crazy was going on was too much.

        • CrunchyFrog

          I dislike Summers but he was mostly on the right side

          He was on the wrong side on the most important question of all, which was the stimulus. Since it was known to be too small at the outset (or the right size but too laden with tax cuts that had much less per-dollar stimulus value) either try to get a bigger one or communicate that you know it is too small. Instead the chose the option of taking what they could get and pretending it was enough.

          • He was on the wrong side on the most important question of all, which was the stimulus.

            No, he was on the right side.

            Since it was known to be too small at the outset

            This is a bit strong. It certainly wasn’t known how too small it was.

            either try to get a bigger one

            I think it was reasonable to say that that was a non starter. Even what they asked for was watered down with tax cuts.

            communicate that you know it is too small

            Eh. They didn’t really know that they’d not have another bite at the apple.

            Instead the chose the option of taking what they could get and pretending it was enough.

            I think praising your own program is important. Unless it was going to get them more, I don’t see that denigrating it was a good move.

            I don’t say he was the absolute best, but there were a ton of people comparably situated who were and still are much worse. Summers did rather well. And I hate the dude.

            • CrunchyFrog

              Yes, agree there were worse choices. But Krugman, among others, was pointing out in February 2009 that it was too small, and there was some evidence that some in the administration knew it, but chose not to report that upward (can’t remember if Summers was in on that). One of the justifications by Summers for the stimulus was that “if we don’t do this by September unemployment will be X”. Well, they passed the stimulus and it had a positive effect but it was too little so in September unemployment was worse than X (I can’t remember the exact figure). That would have been the last point at which additional action could have been taken in time to improve the economy before the 2010 midterms. Nothing was done or tried. A mistake, seen so at the time by observers who should have been trusted.

              • Yes, agree there were worse choices.

                Almost all the comparable choices were worse.

                But Krugman, among others, was pointing out in February 2009 that it was too small, and there was some evidence that some in the administration knew it, but chose not to report that upward (can’t remember if Summers was in on that).

                Oh yeah. No doubt. See

                http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2012/02/summers-romer-and-the-stimulus-package.html

                And esp:

                http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/10/12/inside-the-crisis

                Summers probably over worried about the deficit a bit, but I also think the political issues were there. Perhaps he made the wrong call in not presenting the numbers, but It also seems likely that >1 trillion would never have happened at that time in that White House (shovel readiness was a big concern). People act that bringing those other numbers in would have magically made the administration go for them. I’m a bit skeptical about that. I personally would have presented those numbers, most of the time, I think, but I could see saying, “If we present these we’ll lose Rahm and a bunch of others and thus any hope of getting the middle number in there”.

                Romer was the analytical hero, without a doubt. But Summers was quite good overall.

              • addicted44

                If people in power actually listened to Krugman the world would be a MUCH better place.

                Unfortunately when Krugman says stuff (which is almost always proved correct a few years later) it’s immediately marked down as extreme lefty. All for his original sin of using his NYTimes editorial spot to campaign against the Iraq war instead of providing genteel economic analysis about the benefits of dismantling the welfare state.

              • MDrew

                If I recall it was actually Romer who was the one who personally issued the fateful “Without this ARRA, UE at time X will be Y%.”

                She may have been forced to walk the plank against her wishes & better judgement, though, I don’t know about that. But I’m pretty sure it was voiced by her mouth.

                • There were a lot of factors including that the initial estimates and projections were too low (which I don’t think was inherently anyone’s fault). So the stimulus effects estimates were pretty accurate but undermined by the fact that the situation was worse than people knew.

                • MDrew

                  No question.

                  Whose-ever error it was, the error related to underestimating the depth of the problem, not to misjudging the size of the instrument’s likely effect.

      • CrunchyFrog

        Good point – and I think Josh Marshall is the one who coined the term “wired for Republicans”. But that hasn’t always been the case, and yet both Kennedy and Carter stumbled out the door of their Presidencies.

  • Joe_JP

    “is there any reason to think that cv comparisons really tell us anything about who will be an effective president”

    probably … it does say less than many would think & depends on the context the person has to serve. George Bush Jr., e.g., might have been a lot more benign without 9/11. JB was a safe doughface pick; not someone you wanted on the eve of the Civil War. etc.

  • Becker

    I don’t expect appreciable differences between the kind of judges Clinton would nominate and the kind that Obama has already given us. Late-middle-aged moderates whose backgrounds are in corporate litigation or who served as prosecutors. A few academics. Virtually no one who’s been a public defender.

    • Jordan

      Here’s a public defender.

      Here’s another.

      That is just what the top three results for google gives in the last four months or so.

      • efc

        Yeah, I’m an “Obama is too centrist and negotiates with the GOP too much” person all the way :). But he has nominated some great judges that have legitimately transformed some federal districts. Out here in the NDGA we now have judges like Amy Totenberg, who was a solo in Atlanta for years doing plaintiff side work in employment law if I remember correctly. Another new judge is Leigh Martin May who was a litigator at one of GA’s best plaintiff side civil lit firms.

        Some of his appointments in the district have been ex-corporate people, but they are a million, billion times better than the Reagan, Bush I and Bush II appointees who have never ever seen a legitimate title vii discrimination claim.

        • Jordan

          See, sometimes posting easy google results gets actually informed and good comments! :)

          But ya, I don’t really know anything about this, but my impression has been that after a slow start Obama has actually been pretty good about the judge appointing thing.

          • efc

            I think the main complaint is he was not, until it was almost too late, very aggressive about appointing and confirming new judges. Of course, the change in the filibuster rules was the crucial factor as this post article points out.
            https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/in-the-loop/wp/2014/12/17/did-nuclear-option-boost-obamas-judicial-appointments/

            An issue with judicial appointments is the senators from the state where the circuit or district is located can, as I understand it, effectively veto nominations by withholding what is called a “blue slip”. An Obama nomination for a federal judgeship (Dax Lopez) was blocked recently because David Perdue wouldn’t give a blue slip.
            http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2016/01/20/david-perdue-wont-back-dax-lopezs-judicial-nomination/

            I just mention this because it hampers Obama’s ability to provide super duper liberal judges. The senators for the state in the federal circuit or district of the nomination have a lot of control over the nominees even if they aren’t from the same party as the president.

  • joe from Lowell

    This concern about efficacy in office is what has prevented me from voting for ideological insurgent candidates in the past. Sanders is the exception, because his record in Congress demonstrates a degree of practicality, cunning, and opportunism that is unusual among figures that occupy Sanders’ political/ideological space.

    What did the single-payer advocate who hates private health insurance do when the initial Senate version of the ACA was causing people – such as Howard Dean – to jump off the bus left and right? Did he bury it? Did he put on a full-court press to amend it into a doomed single-payer bill?

    No, he got an amendment that secured $billions for community health clinics in low-income area and became a backer of the bill.

    We may not be able to tell with any certainly who would be effective in office, but sometimes it’s easy to tell who would certainly not be. Neither of the candidates this time fails to clear the bar.

    • Neither of the candidates this time fails to clear the bar.

      This.

      I’m pretty astonished at how closely they are matched (from what I can tell) on all fronts. Electability, likely policy, effectiveness.

      They aren’t exactly equal everywhere, so, depending on your prefs, you could clearly prefer one. But you shouldn’t be hugely unhappy with either.

      Not a bad place to be!

    • Jordan

      Right, all this.

    • Scott Lemieux

      We may not be able to tell with any certainly who would be effective in office, but sometimes it’s easy to tell who would certainly not be. Neither of the candidates this time fails to clear the bar.

      This is a good way of putting it.

      • Gregor Sansa

        And of course all Rs fail to clear it, even compared to W.

    • MDrew

      Democrats are happy with their (2) choices, one of whom they regard as a near-surefire general election winner, but the other guy they would be okay with too!

      Cozy! Nice!

  • NonyNony

    Clinton seems more likely to appoint establishment-friendly figures to run her government and cautious centrists to the bench. Sanders seems more likely to get mired in endless, energy-sapping confirmation battles.

    If the Dems don’t take control of the Senate, then I predict whichever Dem gets elected will be mired in endless, energy-sapping confirmation battles. No matter what type of people they nominate and no matter what position we’re talking about.

    (Obama can’t even get a Secretary of the Army confirmed under this Senate. I doubt either Clinton or Sanders would either. The Senate is the most important thing to turn this cycle – a Dem President stuck with this Senate for the next 4 years will be a disaster for the country. A Republican president with this Senate would be even worse.)

    • joe from Lowell

      Yeah, I was noticing that argument. Do we really think the Republicans’ confirmation-blocking over the past several years has been motivated by ideologically-extreme or unqualified nominees by Obama?

    • Becker

      I’m curious of the likelihood of a full Republican blockade of Democratic nominees. Would a Republican Senate dare say “No one gets confirmed. At all. For anything. Ever”?

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        I’d expect the cabinet confirmations to be a grinding process and after that not much at all. the “O” in “GOP” has stood for “obstructionist” for quite a while now

        • Philip

          I think things have changes for the worse, though. The last 6 years have shown that the Republicans simply are not interested in preserving norms or permitting the basic functions of government. I’m not sure what would stop them from just blocking a Democrat from ever having a judicial appointment confirmed ever again.

        • CrunchyFrog

          I’d wondered what the O was for. Now I know. I’ve known the G for a long time.

          Gullible Obstructionist Party. Fits.

      • Joe_JP

        No, that is the caricature version … the Senate would block a few key nominees and various other minor ones that concern certain forces in their party & as a result move the Overton Window on the rest and force concessions to push thru various perfectly mundane in some other environment nominations.

        • NonyNony

          I actually think that jim above is closer – the cabinet positions will be grudgingly filled, but slower than previous presidencies. Though certain positions may be locked up entirely using Senate procedural rules – I could see some Senator deciding that a hold needed to be placed on allowing any Secretary of Education or Secretary of Energy for example.

          But after that I suspect it would fairly quickly degenerate into “almost nobody gets confirmed for almost anything”. If the GOP doesn’t lose ground in the Senate this time around they’re just going to keep doing what they’ve been doing only harder.

          Flipping the Senate is crucial, and I’m worried that Democrats in general and hardcore progressives in particular seem to be so focused on the Presidential election that they’re missing the other important bit.

          • Phil Perspective

            Flipping the Senate is crucial, and I’m worried that Democrats in general and hardcore progressives in particular seem to be so focused on the Presidential election that they’re missing the other important bit.

            You’re wrong. Why do you think people want DWS fired? And who do you think are the people calling for said firing? DWS’s crimes aren’t limited to the debate mess.

            • Rob in CT

              I certainly hope Democrats in general* have learned that lesson by now. It’s a persistent problem with the Dem coalition. I’d love to see it change, but I’ll believe it when it does.

              * in numbers that matter. “Hardcore progressives” are a much smaller # of people, so even if they: 1) needed to learn the lesson in the first place (not sure they did); and 2) learned it, it might not make that much difference.

              • humanoid.panda

                Actually, in every competitive senate race, with possible exception of Pennsylvania, the Dems have a good candidate running. Not sure what else can be done at the moment..

      • Rob in CT

        Well, they’ve made similar declarations in the past (#1 job to make him a 1-term President, the ACA would be “his Waterloo” and so on), so it’s possible.

        • Becker

          I’m honestly curious if they’ll apply their DC Circuit tactics to any other appeals court. Prevent a conservative court from becoming balanced or prevent a balanced court from tipping liberal. I can certainly foresee complete refusal to allow a replacement for Kennedy or Scalia.

      • Ahuitzotl

        Sure, why not? whats the downside from their point of view?

    • Philip

      Yeah, either Clinton or Sanders could nominate Abraham, Elijah, and Moses and the Republicans would still block them.

      • ajay

        Clinton or Sanders could nominate Abraham, Elijah, and Moses and the Republicans would still block them

        “Tell the Committee, sir, exactly what your intention was when you took your son up that mountain.”

        • Rob in CT

          I couldn’t help but notice, President Sanders, that you have yet to nominate a Christian…

          ;)

      • CrunchyFrog

        Or Jesus. What a confirmation hearing. “Mr. Christ, I can’t help but feel that your naive statements about loving your fellow humans indicate that you really don’t appreciate the threat that ISIS presents.” “Mr. Christ, I find your statements regarding finance and the captains of our industry alarming. I suppose you also are against eliminating death taxes?”

        • joe from Lowell

          Mr. Moses, I’d like to sort of dive deep into this business about coveting. Are you a Stalinist?

          • Malaclypse

            Mr. Elijah, I can’t help but notice that people have been leaving their doors open for you, but you never show up. Can you give me any reason that you expect your attendance and work ethic will improve?

            • joe from Lowell

              Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I’d like to thank our distinguished guest.

              Mr. Abraham, what can you tell me about handmaids?

    • Peterr

      This.

      Whoever the nominee is, they need to spend serious time strategically stumping for Dems running for open or GOP senate seats.

  • Murc

    Sanders seems more likely to get mired in endless, energy-sapping confirmation battles.

    I’m not sure why this is framed as a negative.

    Let’s say the House remains Republican, as it is likely to do so, but the Senate is marginally Democratic. At that point, what else do you have to spend your energy on but confirmation battles?

    Serious question. Sanders would of course have to run the rest of the government (foreign policy, that whole “faithfully execute laws” thing, etc.) but those are mostly competency tests rather than political tests. (By which I mean “Hey! Let’s write some new regulations! There’ll be some legal battles, but we already have the power to do this, so all we have to do is get it right.”) Since the House is a write-off anyway, why not get into lots of knock-down drag-out fights as you seek to staff the judiciary with a ton of fire-eating liberal radicals in their late thirties? That seems like a very worthwhile fight to get into!

  • wickwack

    This was a great read, but what about foreign policy? Doesn’t the modern Congress basically allow the President great leeway about starting / ending wars? In that area there may be small difference, but Clinton’s vote for the Iraq invasion is a very real strike against her.

    • Lev

      This, as I see it, is the major problem with Clinton. Sanders is basically a dove who doesn’t talk much about the subject. Clinton is not merely someone with hawkish instincts, but someone whose hawkishness is ideological and unmovable. She has, it should be admitted, apologized for her Iraq War vote. But she favored destroying another government solely because it was headed by a bad guy who was no threat to us in Libya, and favors doing it again in Syria. This stuff wastes our resources and weakens our security, but Clinton appears to have a genuine attachment to doing this sort of thing. Sanders doesn’t. And since presidents have essentially full control of foreign policy, I will not be voting for her for the Dem nomination.

      • ajay

        she favored destroying another government solely because it was headed by a bad guy who was no threat to us in Libya

        You’re positive that was her only reason? It had nothing at all to do with the events of the preceding few months?

        • Lev

          Well, the original stated reason was to protect the people of Benghazi from a bloodbath, though that very rapidly changed into a regime change objective.

          • ajay

            Well, the original stated reason was to protect the people of Benghazi from a bloodbath

            But you reckon she was lying about that, though?

            • Lev

              Not precisely, though it wasn’t the full truth, as the rapid pivot to a regime-change campaign showed. Sort of like how she supports a no-fly zone over Syria without acknowledging the indisputable fact that this could lead to war with Russia.

              • Murc

                Does she favor a NATO-imposed or UN-imposed no-fly-zone?

                The former is… kind of nuts in the context of Russia operating heavily in the country. The latter is meaningless political theater, because Russia will simply lolnope it in the Security Council.

                • joe from Lowell

                  The latter: a negotiated no-fly zone that the Russians agree to.

                  In other news, Bernie Sanders is unqualified to be President because he advocates for a health care policy that is unlikely to pass Congress.

              • ajay

                Sort of like how she supports a no-fly zone over Syria without acknowledging the indisputable fact that this could lead to war with Russia.

                Wait, are you saying you believe that Hillary Clinton is secretly in favour of war with Russia?

      • joe from Lowell

        Sanders is basically a dove who doesn’t talk much about the subject.

        No, not really. Not unless you count as a dove a supporter of the Bosnian and Kosovo operations, and a supporter of the wars against ISIL and al Qaeda.

        Sanders is a center-left figure on foreign policy who doesn’t talk much about the subject.

        • FlipYrWhig

          Also, as I recall, a backer of Israel’s frequent uses of force against the Palestinians. But that doesn’t exactly differentiate him from the usual Democratic line.

          • joe from Lowell

            Not even really a big backer, and probably less so than the median Democrat, but well closer to the party line than to the dissenters.

        • Yeah, people are reading a heck of a lot into Sanders out of conviction that HRC is a foreign policy monster. She’s definitely more center than him on FP, but they are both well within the standard range of democrats. He gets props for Iraq.

          • joe from Lowell

            Yeah, people are reading a heck of a lot into Sanders out of conviction that HRC is a foreign policy monster.

            There’s that.

            There also seems to be something going on – something being done both by supporters of detractors – wherein they read Sanders as a stand-in for the generic left-winger, based on their experience with similar figures in the past. Hence, he gets cast as more of a dove than he actually is, less of an effective sausage-making realist as a legislator, etc.

            • FlipYrWhig

              Agreed. And I feel like he’s doing it deliberately, as Obama did before him: by not saying much he claims all territory of those who grumble about Iraq ’03, Libya ’11, Kosovo ’98, or all of the above, without having to explain what he’d do differently.

      • random

        someone whose hawkishness is ideological and unmovable.

        This again? No, you have to have a really broad definition of ‘hawk’ to include Hillary in it.

      • Spiny

        But she favored destroying another government solely because it was headed by a bad guy who was no threat to us in Libya, and favors doing it again in Syria.

        Others have already piled onto you for this, but I’ll add that a “dovish” foreign policy which views Gaddaffi and Assad with this kind of indifference – bordering on benighted Cold War triangulation – is a “dovish” foreign policy I want no part of. It’s incurious, obfuscatory, and immoral, and no amount of well-meaning anti-war motivation excuses it.

        • joe from Lowell

          Yeah, the Libyan Civil War had already been going on for a month when the U.N. Protective Mission began.

          Lev isn’t arguing for no war. He’s arguing for Gadhaffi winning that war – apparently, out a conviction that a brutal suppression by an aged nationalist military dictator of a popular rebellion in the Arab World in the second decade of the 21st century is likely to result in the replication of the peaceful status quo ante, as opposed to an ongoing jihadist insurgency backed as a proxy war by extremists in the Gulf.

          • Spiny

            Right. Libyans asked for intervention to counter the effects of an extreme technological imbalance between Gaddaffi-aligned forces and the non-Gaddaffi-aligned. People who style themselves anti-war can argue that we should not have provided that intervention, but they should have the honesty to acknowledge the existing war and the potential consequences of refusing assistance. That they will not is telling.

  • slothrop

    We know one thing, she would spend a lot of time agreeing with Republicans whom next to murder.

    And she can’t be trusted – all of what she says now reeks of political expediency. She spent a lot of time as first lady in embarrassingly enthusiastic support for mandatory minimums,Welfare “reform.” (Sanders should really exploit how concretely toxic HRC has been to the black community (emphasized by Coates’s recent article, though Coates I think unfairly attacks Sanders).)

    And Sanders has racked up millions of dollars pep-talking investment bankers.

    It’s always pure triangulation with the Clintons. For Bernie, it’s raising the political consciousness of the electorate, it’s not about doing what is merely politically available.

    • FlipYrWhig

      You tell ’em! I hate her when she disagrees with me and I hate her WORSE when she agrees with me!

      • slothrop

        I meant to say “Sanders has not” racked up millions of dollars speaking to Investment bankers.

        • FlipYrWhig

          I didn’t even notice that. But you really have rigged it so that when she agrees with Republicans (allegedly) you dislike that, but when she agrees with you it’s “political expediency” and you dislike that even worse. Hillary gets this worse than anybody I’ve ever seen in politics. It’s literally impossible for her to please you.

          • slothrop

            What she has to say now about defending the interests of workers betrays what she spent the 90s doing in defense of her husband’s policies harming workers. She defended NAFTA. Even before, she was on board for attacking teacher’s unions in Arkansas – she sat on Walmart’s board of directors, and so on. Why would workers trust her on TPP, for example, when her career demonstrates, when she actually occupied some position of power to influence public policy, she screwed labor?

            • Malaclypse

              She defended NAFTA.

              So did Krugman.

              • slothrop

                I don’t see the correspondence between the two – one is a public intellectual/academician, and the other one has a considerable amount of influence shaping public policy. Well, Krugman is a disciple of Bhagwati. On the other hand, Krugman-the-academic has written about the concentration of knowledge diffusion to the detriment of development. To be honest, I don’t know how he reconciles these contradictions. Has he?

    • petesh

      For Bernie, it’s raising the political consciousness of the electorate, it’s not about doing what is merely politically available

      Mr Coates would beg to disagree. Moi aussi.

    • joe from Lowell

      For Bernie, it’s raising the political consciousness of the electorate, it’s not about doing what is merely politically available.

      Again, you see what I’m talking about?

      This statement about Sanders not doing what is merely politically available is quite false. Yes, he takes bold stances and works to raise political consciousness, but he’s also second to none – literally, demonstrably, second to none – at practical legislative politics.

      • slothrop

        I don’t think I disagree with anything you said above. He is a skillful politician who does good things in Congress, when he can. I think his support of Kosovo and Libya is deplorable(I think less so for the Nato intervention in the Balkans – Sanders was probably influenced by perceived consequences of inaction in Rwanda, although I don’t know).

        I suppose I should’ve use the word “instrumental,” as opposed to “practical.” I just think HRC has favored instrumental rationality in pursuit of power, over ethics. Don’t you think she is dishonest?

  • Hercules Mulligan

    I have a tangentially-related question on the subject of evaluating Sanders or Clinton…

    Does anyone think that either of them would win re-election? I mean, maybe, MAYBE Trump this year leads to someone even crazier in 2020. But 4 terms of one-party rule sounds extremely unlikely.

    Also, I think it would be fair to consider age in 2020. At that point, Clinton would be almost as old as Sanders is now, and Sanders would be 78. That’s…extreme. It would be valid for voters to consider it.

    I agree with what has been said before on this site that it is extremely irresponsible for any presidential candidate to promise they won’t seek a second term, but honestly, it might be necessary in this case (especially with Sanders)…guess we’ll see.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Does anyone think that either of them would win re-election? I mean, maybe, MAYBE Trump this year leads to someone even crazier in 2020. But 4 terms of one-party rule sounds extremely unlikely.

      But the GOP driving a top fuel dragster straight towards “Freaking out the normals” territory this hard, for this long, has also been extremely unlikely. How long can this go on?

      • tsam

        How long do fundamentally broken people continue self destructive behavior? Depends?

        For Republicans, it’s going to take a while to undo all this damage. They have the people who were rightly marginalized (though somewhat influential) running the show now.

        That’s a tough question to answer–but as for me, I’m looking at frustration among those base voters multiplying exponentially (and turning into violence in some cases) and thinking that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The “mainstream” of the party is still showing sympathy to people like Dylan Roof with tweets like the ones Joe Walsh sent out the other day.

    • ajay

      4 terms of one-party rule sounds extremely unlikely.

      Small sample size is always the problem with these analyses. But even so, it has happened many times before: 1801-1829, 1869-1885, 1897-1913, 1933-1953. Which I think implies it’s even more likely than you would expect by simple chance (ie if each election were a coin-toss).
      And it happens often enough in other democracies as well. The Conservatives won four elections in a row in the UK from 1979-1992.

      • Moondog

        Not to mention, we’re not really talking about one-party rule in 2017 but rather a (sharply) divided government.

    • Gregor Sansa

      There is a not-insignificant chance that Sanders’s health, mental or physical, will deteriorate. But the chance that it will deteriorate enough to be a factor, BUT not enough so that he can’t run, AND he selfishly refuses to acknowledge it? Even if those latter two things are independently 50/50 each (and I think they’re “better” than that in both cases, that is, the direction which makes a “sick candidate Sanders” less likely), I think that dividing the already-small problem by 4 is enough to make it insignificant.

    • alex284

      “But 4 terms of one-party rule sounds extremely unlikely.”

      Dems got a majority of the votes for president in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2012. 2016 is looking good for the dems, and 2004 had a popular war-time president as the gop nominee.

      So, no, I don’t think it’s “extremely unlikely.” As long as the GOP is fine with fielding horrible candidates and the economy stays OK, I could see either getting reelected.

      • Richard Gadsden

        Plurality in 1992, 1996 and 2000. 2008 was the first majority since 1976.

    • djw

      Does anyone think that either of them would win re-election? I mean, maybe, MAYBE Trump this year leads to someone even crazier in 2020. But 4 terms of one-party rule sounds extremely unlikely

      Like Ajay I’m inclined to think we tend to overrate the predictive significance of previous patterns of presidential turnover. The 2020 election will be determined largely by the circumstances we find ourselves–primarily economic–in 2019 and 2020. It’s very difficult for me to imagine the demographic trends that favor Democrats not continuing apace over that time frame, and I don’t expect the Republicans will successfully develop and execute a strategy to broaden their appeal by then either.

      • Hercules Mulligan

        Thanks, all. I’m not convinced, but I think what I was really looking for was some reassurance, so fingers crossed.

  • AMK

    The “treat the election like a job interview” trope is almost as dumb as “run government like a small business.” If we’re going to look at “resumes”, Obama’s was the weakest since…..Hoover? Taft? Obama had never “managed” anything bigger than his Senate office, but it doesn’t matter because the President doesn’t really “manage” anything. Presidents set the agenda in accordance with their worldview/big picture, trying to bring the country along. This requires three things (1) an accurate worldview (2) ability to prioritize, and (3) messaging talent.

    So considering Clinton and Sanders, my personal view is that Clinton is better on #1, both are competent on #2, but Sanders absolutely runs away with #3. He’s the most relentlessly on-message candidate who’s run in a long time…..even when he talks about other issues, it all feeds effortlessly back into his elevator pitch on how the billionaire class is robbing us blind. What is Hillary Clinton’s elevator pitch? She’s Hillary Clinton, whatever that means to you after her being in the spotlight for 25 years. That’s more electable than Bernie’s socialism, but in pure messsging terms it sucks.

    • Breadbaker

      You used some rather strange examples. Hoover had run massive projects that, in the context of government of 1929, were large compared to what the US government had to deal with. And had been Secretary of Commerce under two presidents. Taft had significant administrative experience, particularly in the Philippines. They were, in terms of running actual things, some of the more experienced persons elected in the 20th Century. Of course, Bush 41 was another.

      As the OP noted, Buchanan had a very strong resume; he just wasn’t a leader when pressed. Lincoln is still one of the least experienced persons ever elected president (I suppose Harding gives him a run for his money) and he turned out all right.

      • AMK

        Good points. I knew Hoover was in the Commerce Department but had no idea about Taft in the Phillipines.

      • EliHawk

        Wilson is, at least in terms of government office, the least experienced POTUS of the 20th/21st Century. Two years as Gov. of NJ, during one of which he was running for President. Next afterward would probably be Carter: (Four years in the GA State Senate, 4 years as Gov) or W: (6 yrs as Gov. of TX, running for President for the last two.)

    • alex284

      “Treat the election like a job interview” seems like a great standard, if you’re not operating under the mistaken impression that jobs always go to the most experienced person.

      Pick whoever you like better. Employers do it all the time.

  • Gregor Sansa

    As I’ve argued multiple times here, there is another important part of the job that you’re not accounting for here: serving as a figurehead for the party, especially during the 2018 and 2020 elections. I think that it’s almost undeniable that Bernie will be better at that. I think that the other differences will, as the OP argues, be unpredictable and probably relatively minor compared to the ability to swing a (n exponential distribution centered at a) half dozen House seats and 1-2 senate seats and a 10% extra chance on the 2020 presidency.

    • Breadbaker

      Why exactly is that undeniable? How does one serve as a figurehead for a party to which one has never belonged?

      • Gregor Sansa

        Undeniable, because of the donations he’s getting, while President Clinton would be the most establishment president since George Bush, and as a “more like Obama” campaigner would get essentially zero honeymoon.

        • Malaclypse

          I just want to point out that your argument is that the first female President would not be seen as an important Democratic figure.

          • Yeah, this is critical.

            Bernie gets some cool factor from being Jewish, but breaking the male stranglehold will be a bigger deal.

            From a party building perspective, it’s hard to say. I don’t think Obama transformed his groundbreaking campaigns into anything huge during the regular order or during midterms. Those are tough nuts to crack and a president is pretty damn busy.

        • Breadbaker

          You think a Socialist president gets a honeymoon? Have you not been alive for the past seven years?

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            if the Socialist thing isn’t enough of an issue to keep him from being elected (which I don’t think it is, in general, but it might be a drag in certain places, depending) it won’t have an effect on the honeymoon. there just ain’t going to be one, whoever the non-republican is

          • Rob in CT

            No Democrat gets a honeymoon. Self-described socialist or no.

            • Gregor Sansa

              No Democrat gets a honeymoon with Republicans. Most presidents get a honeymoon with voters. I think Clinton would get less of one than most because of how she’s explicitly running on Obama’s legacy.

              Malaclypse, above, points out that I’m ignoring the gender angle here. And that’s true. I would compare it to the case with Obama, another demographic groundbreaker. Obviously, electing a Black president (who’s got plenty of good qualities aside from race) felt great to those of us who voted for him, and the depth of that feeling was part of the honeymoon. But breadth counts too, and a lot of the breadth/margin for Obama’s victory and honeymoon came from how terrible Bush was. So by analogy: electing Clinton would feel awesome too, and that would mean some honeymoon. But policy-wise, she’s basically “four more years”, and even though Trump or Cruz may manage to be as hated as Bush was, they’ll also be forgotten a lot quicker. I don’t think that a lot of people who don’t already automatically support the Democrat (at least in this day and age of crazy Republicans) would feel much of the joy of electing a woman, at least, not for more than a week or two.

              • Malaclypse

                But policy-wise, she’s basically “four more years”

                If I can get “four more years” of the most effective liberal administration since LBJ, I’ll be really fucking thrilled, actually.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Me too. I’d be even more thrilled by Sanders, but I’m with you on that. I’m not talking about me, but about the middle quintile of voters.

                • joe from Lowell

                  The thing is, progressive politics are supposed to progress.

                  In the mid-1960s, songs like Satisfaction and Paint it Black were groundbreaking. They weren’t just excellent expressions of the mainstream rock and roll – they helped advance it.

                  In the 1980s, those were still two excellent songs, fun to listen to, but rock moved on.

                • joe from Lowell

                  My point being, even I don’t want the next President to merely play defense and go over the same ground as Obama. Our Presidents should be about advancing beyond the last one.

              • MDrew

                I don’t think Hillary Clinton is, or was, going to get much (more) of a honeymoon among the middle quintile (than an average Democrat – and I expect less) – because she’s Hillary Friggen Clinton. People will be ready to take her down.

                You can’t spend an election cycle identifying that the media and voters to an extent operate on Clinton Rules (and also apply sexist double-binds to Hillary) and then turn around and say you expect much of a honeymoon for Hillary Clinton, except among her core supporters.

        • FlipYrWhig

          President Clinton would be the most establishment president since George Bush

          What does “establishment” even mean anymore? Because you’ll remember that one of the huge issues with the Clinton era was that the big players in DC thought he was an interloper. That’s the whole “he trashed the place and it wasn’t his place” thing from Broder and Quinn.

          • Gregor Sansa

            She, personally, has been a Washington insider since 1993. Sure, some people weren’t happy about her crashing the club, but there’s no denying she’s a part of it.

            Bush (jr, but sr too) had the old family and school ties. But he was coming in from Texas. You have to go back to Bush Sr. to find a Washington insider; and I think the example helps demonstrate my point, because he was basically a third-termer who got very little honeymoon (personal anecdote: I was helping make a hypercard stack about fundamental particles, and we used an obvious Bush look-alike line art to illustrate the concept of WIMPs, and as I remember it, everyone got the joke.).

            • Gregor Sansa

              I miss MACHOs as a dark matter candidate. Axions are awesome, and axion cascade caustics affecting galaxy structure is way cool, but the MACHO/WIMP dichotomy was fun.

        • random

          Bernie Sanders == male.

          Every US President going back over 200 years == male.

          Hillary Clinton == female.

          Half the population is female. If we’re talking pure symbolism then electing the first woman President is unbeatable.

          • Gregor Sansa

            I respond to that below.

            I’m not talking about pure symbolism, but about the concrete effect on down-ticket races in 2018 and 2020. I realize that from a purely symbolic point of view this kind of argument is… not attractive. I still think it’s true.

            • random

              I’m not talking about pure symbolism, but about the concrete effect on down-ticket races in 2018 and 2020.

              Sure, but there is absolutely no rational reason to think that he has some unique ability to produce said effect.

              • Gregor Sansa

                I think there are rational reasons to think that she doesn’t.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Sure there are. If she was a male candidate, there would be nothing exciting about her candidacy at all.

                  But she’s not. There are a lot of women who have very little in common with Hillary Clinton on policy and ideology who would crawl over broken glass to vote for the first woman President.

                  I don’t foresee an enthusiasm problem with Clinton as the nominee, this time, because of her hook as the glass-ceiling-breaker.

                • random

                  There is no rational reason to think that she doesn’t, either.

                • random

                  If she was a male candidate, there would be nothing exciting about her candidacy at all.

                  But there is nothing at all exciting about Sanders candidacy. He’s a liberal white guy from an extremely liberal state in New England running for the Democratic Party nomination. This is not news and is almost a cliche.

                • joe from Lowell

                  There is nothing at all exciting about Sanders candidacy either.

                  Uh-huh.

                  And to think, I just accused you of putting blog-thread neener-neener above a serious effort at campaign analysis.

                  I leave it as an exercise for the reader to evaluate the level of attention our varying descriptions of the state of the race deserve.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  The fact that a greater percentage of Americans have donated to Sanders than to any primary candidate in history would seem to be evidence that he isn’t as conventional as you think.

                • joe from Lowell

                  But Gregor, he’s white.

                  But Gregor, he’s male.

                  Doesn’t that demonstrate beyond any possible doubt that his candidacy can’t excite people?

                • RabbitIslandHermit

                  There hasn’t been a viable New Deal liberal candidate running for President since well before my time.

                • joe from Lowell

                  No fair looking at policy and ideology, Rabbit.

                • Hogan

                  He’s a liberal white guy from an extremely liberal state in New England running for the Democratic Party nomination. This is not news and is almost a cliche.

                  I know, right? How many dozens of them have there been lately?

            • Moondog

              I’m not currently hopeful that Bernie supporters would show up to vote in 2018. Especially given how disappointing he is inevitably going to be.
              (Or am I wrong in thinking the Dems mid-term problem is worse with young voters?)

              • Gregor Sansa

                Obama is disappointing because he “didn’t, even, try.” I know that’s not actually true but it’s totally understandable that people would think that. I think Bernie’s natural style is such as not to make that mistake.

                • random

                  Moondog is correct. Sanders does not actually have any special advantage in measurable enthusiasm and the identity of the Democratic President isn’t going to affect the mid-term turnout profile.

                • Moondog

                  “They” say that Obama sort of abandoned OFA & that grassroots momentum prior to the 2010 elections and if so I suppose neither candidate would make that exact mistake again.

              • Just a Rube

                The Democrats are going to take a shellacking in 2018 no matter who is elected. The Senate map is absolutely horrible (featuring incumbent Democrats in such liberal strongholds as North Dakota, Indiana, West Virginia and Missouri, while the Republicans basically have to defend Nevada and that’s it).

                Which makes it even more critical that whoever is nominated is able to hit the ground running in 2017, because come 2019 the situation is going to be much worse.

          • joe from Lowell

            Hillary Clinton = Christian.

            Every US President going back blah blah blah.

            • random

              This type of clueless dismissal is not unrelated to why your guy is losing the primary.

              • joe from Lowell

                Yes, it is. My guy is currently behind in the primary for exactly the same reasons he was 70 points further behind a few months ago – because he’s running against someone who began the race as the most strongly-positioned primary candidate in the history of American politics.

                It’s amazing to me how many people have allowed their bitterness over internet comments to completely bulldoze both their political knowledge and their critical thinking skills. Random knew why Hillary Clinton had a gigantic lead six months ago, but has now convinced herself that, no, the real reason that Clinton is clinging to a lead is caused by – in a stunning coincidence – the behavior of internet commenters who just happen to also be her own pet peeve. What are the chances?!?

                On the other hand, your inability to come up with a substantive response to any challenge (like that of Hogan), and go immediately to blog-thread neener-neener that relies on boring inside-baseball for its meaning, is very directly related to what happened to that 70 point lead.

                • random

                  Sounds like I touched a nerve.

                • joe from Lowell

                  …said every troll who ever got his head handed to him.

                  I guess you don’t want to talk about whether those terrible Bernie Bro comments are the driving force in the election anymore?

                • Hogan

                  Sounds like I touched a nerve.

                  Dear God, I can’t believe you went there.

                • joe from Lowell

                  You can’t?

                  Hogan, random went here.

                  There is very little going on beyond anger at people who say things he doesn’t want to hear.

        • Hogan

          President Clinton would be the most establishment president since George Bush

          She would also be the fourth president since George Bush. Not exactly historic.

          • random

            Not even 4th, 2nd.

            George W. Bush’s administration was as Washington insidery as it gets, with members of former Republican Presidential administrations like Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld in his senior leadership positions and an army of Washington think tank figures elsewhere.

            Anyone considering former VP and President of the United State George Bush’s son to be an outsider to Washington has fallen for his campaign spin.

            • Hogan

              I thought we were talking about candidates, not administrations.

              • random

                The son of the guy who had just been President and VP for 12 consecutive years just 7 years prior to that was also extremely Washington insidery. He even pushed his connections to Washington insiders as a reassurance that he’d be able to govern effectively and ended up with Cheney as his VP because his campaign had Cheney picking the VP for them.

                It’s impossible to fairly characterize any of the Bush’s as ‘Washington outsiders’, they just aren’t.

                • Hogan

                  Never lived in Washington, never worked in Washington, never worked for the federal government, but he’s a “Washington insider.” Truly this is a marvelous age we’re living in.

                • joe from Lowell

                  If we’re talking about candidates’ capacity to run as, and be perceived, as outsiders, there seems little doubt that President Shrub Junior managed to pull off the trick.

                • random

                  Never lived in Washington, never worked in Washington,

                  No, Bush moved to Washington in 1988. Specifically to work on his dad’s presidential campaign. He also was one of the top figures on his dad’s re-election campaign. It is impossible to be more Washington insider than this; he literally could just call the President if he needed to.

                  never worked for the federal government,

                  Only because he lost his early Congressional bids. His private sector career was mostly due to his political connections.

                • burritoboy

                  The Bushes have been notable insiders since the turn of the twentieth century. Samuel P. Bush, George HW Bush’s grandfather, was a major presence in the GOP, was a very big pal with the Rockefellers and Harrimans and Tafts, was tight with Mark Hanna, played a big role in Hanna’s elect McKinley efforts, and so on. He didn’t hold any elected offices, but he was a big, big figure in GOP circles in the first 3 decades of the century.

                  We don’t have to mention Prescott Bush, do we?

    • random

      If the two candidates are functionally equivalent then the symbolic weight clearly favors the first and only woman President since the founding of the nation.

      No white male regardless of his ideology is going to be a more effective figurehead for the Democratic Party’s coalition in 2016 than any minority or woman candidate.

      • Gregor Sansa

        You’re absolutely right about that… in 2016. But voters are fickle; even two years in, Obama was no longer “historic first Black president” but “the guy who’s responsible for all this (good or bad)” just like any other president.

        If we don’t choose Hillary, then the historic election of the first woman to be POTUS will still be in the future. It will almost certainly still be a Democrat. That could end up giving a boost in a year we need it more. I realize that saying it like that is disgustingly cynical, but I also think it’s true.

        • Connecticut Yankee

          If the Democratic Party is going to continue having a primary electorate that would prefer an unqualified male candidate running on a half-baked platform to a stellar female candidate endorsed by every goddamn elected official in the party like it did in 2008 and, it is increasingly clear, still does in 2016, then no, the first woman President is not going to be a Democrat.

          • MDrew

            prefer an unqualified male candidate running on a half-baked platform to a stellar female candidate endorsed by every goddamn elected official in the party like it did in 2008

            !

      • joe from Lowell

        If the two candidates are functionally equivalent then the symbolic weight clearly favors the first and only woman President since the founding of the nation.

        Not the first non-Christian?

        I know we don’t hear about that as much, because only one candidate is actually running on the demographic argument, but why, exactly, is the one barrier more significant than the other?

        • Hogan

          Because of how many women there are?

          • joe from Lowell

            Women are about 51% of the population.

            Non-Christians are about 40% and growing.

            If we were merely talking about, say, the first Lutheran, that would be meaningfully different.

            • Gregor Sansa

              “and growing” viewed looking backwards means “and shrinking”.

              • joe from Lowell

                And?

                • Gregor Sansa

                  And I’m replying to you, which means that, for now, I have the last word. So I win.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I’ll have to take your word for it, because I still have no idea what the reverse-time thing means.

                • random

                  And we never had to have a big protracted political battle to secure an amendment giving non-Christians the right to vote.

                  Seriously, stop being obtuse here.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Nor did we have to pass an amendment preventing the establishment of an official state gender.

                  Seriously, you being in a bad mood doesn’t make both the historic and current Christian supremacism in this country vanish in a puff of indignation.

                • Breadbaker

                  If you’re implying all non-Christians in this country will somehow rally around a Jew, I have a few thousand years of human history to familiarize you with. Ain’t gonna happen.

            • Hogan

              Women are about 51% of the population.

              And always have been.

              • Gregor Sansa

                ah HA! I beat you to the punch! Hoist by your own petard! Take that, Hogan!

                ETA: and people reading the thread will actually see me beating you before they see that you beat me, even though you won first.

              • joe from Lowell

                And?

                • Hogan

                  They’ve been at the front of the queue since 1789. I don’t think “eh, take a number” is the right response with Hillary Clinton on the ballot.

                • joe from Lowell

                  …but it’s the right response to non-Christians.

                • Hogan

                  How long have non-Christians been at 40% compared to how long women have been at/over 50%? If we’re talking about whose turn it is, what’s your answer?

                • joe from Lowell

                  American Indians.

                  Somebody from the working class.

                • Hogan

                  Oh, I thought we were talking about really existing candidates.

                • joe from Lowell

                  No, apparently, we’re not talking about anything existing, and instead, are going back decades or centuries in order to arrive at the answers we want.

                  When I brought up actual existing situations, you changed the subject quite quickly, remember?

                • Hogan

                  I know we don’t hear about that as much, because only one candidate is actually running on the demographic argument, but why, exactly, is the one barrier more significant than the other?

                  Perhaps you can understand my confusion.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Nope. I really can’t. You’re going to have to put together some sort of argument here.

                • Hogan

                  “Despite being half the population, women have never held the office of the presidency” is an actual existing situation. The fact that it’s been an actual existing situation for a long time doesn’t change that.

                • random

                  If Bernie Sanders were here he’d also advise you to stop talking now. We’re not even past 100 years of women being allowed to vote in this country.

                  Yes having a woman President is a very BFD.

                • Hogan

                  Nope. I really can’t. You’re going to have to put together some sort of argument here.

                  Maybe you could reframe the question. I thought it had to do with Clinton and Sanders, but now I’m not sure.

                • joe from Lowell

                  “Despite being half the population, women have never held the office of the presidency” is an actual existing situation. The fact that it’s been an actual existing situation for a long time doesn’t change that.

                  Yes, exactly. So you can understand my confusion at your insistence on the centrality of this point that doesn’t change anything.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Yes having a woman President is a very BFD.

                  Shockingly, you’ve managed to stumble into an error.

                  Nobody is questioning whether having a woman President is a big deal. For some reason, however, you keep insisting that breaking the monopoly on Christian Presidents is not.

                  Oh, and your concern about me talking, and what Bernie Sanders would say, is every bit as important to me as it was 50 points ago. I want you to know that I mean that deep within my heart.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I really can’t. You’re going to have to put together some sort of argument here.

                  I’m perfectly fine standing pat, thanks. Both the breaking of the gender barrier and the breaking of the religious barrier are important, historic developments; that seems, if not inarguable, than at least a presumption that needs to be rebutted.

                  I don’t see that it has been, and I don’t see why it’s on anyone other than those challenging that presumption to make any case at all.

                • random

                  The history of systemic government persecution of white male non-Christians in the United States is a really, really thin book and I think the only chapter in it is “Mormons”. Please, stop being an ass.

                • joe from Lowell

                  The history of systemic government persecution of white male non-Christians in the United States is a really, really thin book and I think the only chapter in it is “Mormons”.

                  Holy fucking shit.

                  Again, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to evaluable the weight one should give to this person’s political and historical analysis.

                • Hogan

                  I’m perfectly fine standing pat, thanks. Both the breaking of the gender barrier and the breaking of the religious barrier are important, historic developments; that seems, if not inarguable, than at least a presumption that needs to be rebutted.

                  Yes, they are.

                  For the rest of it, well, I didn’t get William Blake the first couple of times I tried. Maybe I’ll come back to this when I’m older and smarter.

                • random

                  Both the breaking of the gender barrier and the breaking of the religious barrier

                  There has never, ever been a religious barrier to the Presidency. This is spelled out in the Constitution in clear language and we’ve also had non-Christian Presidents. That most of our Presidents are Christian is a function of the population mostly being Christian, it was never artificially enforced.

                  Women weren’t allowed to participate in the process at all until fairly recently. They weren’t even allowed to vote at all at this point last century.

                  Just…stop…you sound like a caricature of a Berniebro and I’m trying to get away from that stereotype.

                • Hogan

                  There has never, ever been a religious barrier to the Presidency.

                  Al Smith is on line two. He sounds pissed.

                • joe from Lowell

                  There has never, ever been a religious barrier to the Presidency. This is spelled out in the Constitution in clear language and we’ve also had non-Christian Presidents.

                  I’m sticking with “Holy Fucking Shit.” Either this person is an idiot, or thinks that all of the readers are. It’s “spelled out in the Constitution” that there can be no formal legal religious test for office, so therefore there has never been a religious barrier to the Presidency.

                  Do you think this commenter actually believes this argument, or not? I mean, this is someone who purports to be a left feminist, who writes that.

                  Someone will have to remind me about these “non-Christian” Presidents. I assume we’re talking about Deists – culturally-Christian figures who all pronounced their Christianity in public. How this is meant to demonstrate the lack of a religious barrier to the Presidency is unclear.

                  If I were to type a comment that there is no formal, legal ban on women holding office and offer that as an argument that there is no barrier at all, I’d feel like an idiot. This is a combination of knowing what a terrible argument that is, and having the capacity for shame.

                • joe from Lowell

                  Just…stop…you sound like a caricature of a Berniebro and I’m trying to get away from that stereotype.

                  Just keep going, because the more you strike your little superior pose while so obviously not warranting it, the happier you make me.

                • Malaclypse

                  The history of systemic government persecution of white male non-Christians in the United States is a really, really thin book and I think the only chapter in it is “Mormons”.

                  Both Quakers and Catholics have been declared non-Christian during our history.

                • Now if only we can expel those heretical Unitarians.

                • joe from Lowell

                  As long as it’s done informally, without any black-letter constitutional language, I don’t see how anyone can complain.

                • Malaclypse

                  Now if only we can expel those heretical Unitarians.

                  Terrorists, the lot of them.

                • Hogan

                  It is, of course, also true that the Constitution has never contained a bar to women being president.

          • joe from Lowell

            I didn’t ask why one demographic argument was more politically-useful than the other.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Because historically speaking the POTUS under-representation of women is worse than that of non-Christians? Especially if you count the early Deist presidents on a sliding scale…

          Grr, beaten by Hogan.

          • joe from Lowell

            It’s probably also worth noting that we don’t have one party that openly runs on the argument that the United States was founded as, and should remain, a male nation.

            • Hogan

              Only in Texas. So far.

          • So, Sanders is Jewish, which I do think is cool. A point of diversity in the presidency and the more we have of those the better.

            Qua electoral appeal, I think it’s going to be weaker and less cohesive than HRC’s appeal qua woman for several reasons:

            1) My impression is that “First woman president” has been a talking and thinking point for quite some time and fits in with other efforts (eg CEOs, Emily’s list).

            2) Non Christians don’t quite form a cohesive group to appeal to. I mean, I don’t think it’s an easy sell to say Muslims that “Hey, at least he’s not a Chrisitan! That’s something, right? One step closer?”

            3) There could be some backlash antisemitism or antiIsraeli sentiment. More than the sexit response to HRC? Dunno. But it might manifest as more of 2.

            4) To many Americans, JFK was a non Christian president. ;)

            5) There’s a sense that HRC/women have come very close and *just* missed it, which may make it more salient.

            • joe from Lowell

              Bijan is talking about political appeal, and he’s almost certainly right. The biggest reason Hillary talks about being a woman more than Bernie talks about being a Jew is because of the difference in the level of political utility.

              Random and, I think, Hogan aren’t talking about political appeal, but about actual merit.

              • If we’re talking symbolism, I think HRC would mean more to more and have more knock on effects, mostly for the homogeneity reason. Will most Muslims read a Jewish president as lifting the bar on a Muslim being president?

                So, it’s not so much that breaking the Christian stranglehold isn’t important but more that I think Sanders in particular won’t read very strongly as such. Maybe if he comes out atheist?

                A Muslim president being sworn in on a Koran would be disruptive.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I’m not sure disruptive is the play on this one. It’s not a civil-rights-for-Jews, Muslims, and Atheists cause. It works differently than it would for African-Americans, Muslims, or women.

                  It would be quieter, aimed more at normality than disruption. I’m thinking back to the Christianist politics of the Bush era, and looking at Sanders election as something that can neuter that, take it off the table, make it unseemly in American politics.

                  Or at least flush the bastards into the open. But I don’t think it would go that way.

    • djw

      serving as a figurehead for the party, especially during the 2018 and 2020 elections. I think that it’s almost undeniable that Bernie will be better at that.

      I remain completely gobsmacked by your confidence. You’ve got a narrative I consider entirely plausible, but it’s one of many similarly plausible narratives, some of which squarely run in the other direction.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        it’s called “faith”- and if you don’t have it you’re actively working to make things worse in the world

        the last three contested presidential primaries on this side have convinced me that the desire for a big daddy/superhero to come in and save the day is not limited to right wing conservatives- in spite of how much we tell ourselves that it is

    • Spiny

      …serving as a figurehead for the party, especially during the 2018 and 2020 elections. I think that it’s almost undeniable that Bernie will be better at that.

      I think that’s plenty deniable. Even Obama’s coattails weren’t much in 2010, and last I heard Sanders hadn’t done any fundraising for down-ballot Democrats even in this cycle. I expect that would change if he became the nominee, but it doesn’t indicate a lot of party-building focus. As for 2020, why would he be undeniably a better incumbent? Obama’s coalition held together in 2012, but only with much groundwork on turnout to compensate for lower enthusiasm.

  • wengler

    I still don’t quite understand the argument that Hillary is the most qualified person in history to be President. It strikes me like McCain calling himself a ‘foreign policy expert’. Yeah, you know things about foreign countries that perhaps others do not, but if your basic outlook is wrong it doesn’t matter.

    If Bernie wins, his appointment slate will not be the same as Clinton’s. There are no dark arts at all in play. It is basic politics at play.

    • joe from Lowell

      the most qualified person in history to be President

      Before anyone starts accusing wengler of creating a straw man, look at this. And this.

  • Owlbear1

    Bernie’s entire career has been little more than pounding on a podium shouting about what he doesn’t like with a constant implication he is a Morally Superior Human simply because he is shouting.

    • joe from Lowell

      You see what I’m talking about?

      This is clearly a person who has made no effort whatsoever to familiarize himself with Sanders’ record in office.

      • Gwen

        Agreed.

        Sanders has actually gotten things done.

        Yes, clearly, he’s also done his share of grandstanding.

        But he’s also been doing a lot of boring, mundane governing work, like trying to unfutz the mess down at the V.A.

        Moreover, he doesn’t go around lying about stuff like “taking fire in Bosnia”.

        • Murc

          Yes, clearly, he’s also done his share of grandstanding.

          Grandstanding is also part of the job, to a certain extent. Frankly I think the Democrats could stand to do it more. We shouldn’t turn into the unending bacchanalic blood orgy that is the Republican approach to politics, but there’s something to be said for showmanship.

    • muddy

      I’m sorry you don’t know more about Vermont. If you did, you would not say that.

      I just want the Democrat to win, I have likes and dislikes of both candidates. One of my major issues against having Bernie as president is that I would lose my excellent senator.

  • Gwen

    So long as the GOP controls Congress, it’s basically a suicide mission.

    The Teabugger base is going to demand MASSIVE RESISTANCE no matter which one gets elected.

    • Moondog

      I am reminded of the Onion headline from 2008, something like “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.”

  • AMK

    For me, it just comes down to Sanders being a much riskier bet in the general election. Strength in the general as a known quantity is Clinton’s greatest asset (sorry, but national “electability” polls on Bernie at this stage are meaningless; the GOP have been too busy with their own race to even begin attacking him).

    It’s not like if Dems take a gamble and lose, we’ve got 4 years of Bush 41 with a Dem Congress. We fuck up and we’re looking at unified control under the modern GOP with half of SCOTUS switching over. People would say it’s lazy to call that fascism. But absolute rule by 545 Ted Cruzes is not “democracy” as any sane person understands it.

  • Sue.K.Mabels

    I’d vote the hell out of a Sanders/Clinton ticket where Sanders’ policy goals were supported by Hillary’s extensive governance experience and political network.

    Unfortunately I think if it happens, it’d be the reverse order on the ticket for various cosmetic reasons, including electability.

    • Matt McIrvin

      I don’t see this happening in either order, because you’d want somebody younger than either of them on the ticket as the VP candidate.

      • EliHawk

        Yeah, there’s no way in hell this happens. Clinton moves on from the primary and picks someone younger/progressive (possibly Latino), and then there’s no way, in a world where she loses a second time, that she would then take Second Banana.

  • addicted44

    I think it’s important to look at what the candidates say about how they would govern. IF you look at what Obama said during his primary campaigns, he presided in the ways he said he would during his campaign (although Obama had a way of having people read what they wanted to in him, including the right which wanted to see him as the anti-christ).

    Hillary’s plans are fairly simple. Continue doing what Obama is doing. Strengthen his wins, and use executive action to incrementally improve areas that are lacking. And making sure she makes good executive nominations.

    Sanders’ claim is to (a) replace healthcare with single payer (b) wall street reform (c) electoral reform. However, it’s hard to see how there is any path to achieving any of those goals in reality, and Sanders doesn’t explain any mechanism to show how he would do so. The only one he provided some ideas was electoral reform, where he will nominate a supreme court justice whose first action would be to overturn Citizens United (except for the fact that this isn’t how the Supreme court works).

    So based on what they actually say about how they govern, it doesn’t seem Sanders has a plan for Presidenting, while Hillary’s is to follow the successful direction laid by Obama.

    • Mike in DC

      I suspect the actual plan involves pumping up turnout enough to flip both houses of Congress(you need a few seats in the Senate and 20 seats in the House), then pushing through whatever he can. If the Democratic senate abolishes the filibuster, AND Sanders can push moderate and conservative Dems to back his major policy initiatives, then we enter wish fulfillment territory for progressives and liberals. Obviously, all of this is highly implausible(at present), but that is the blueprint for “revolutionary change”.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Short version: Hope is not a plan.

        Longer version: Would moderate and conservative Dems back Bernie Sanders’s major policy initiatives without exacting some sort of price? Because moderate and conservative Dems exacted hefty prices from Obama, and moderate and conservative Dems exacted even heftier prices from Bill Clinton, who would himself in time be remembered as a moderate-to-conservative Dem.

  • Lee Rudolph

    My goodness, nearly 250 posts already.

    • Ronan

      I know. And the election’s 9 months aways

      • Hogan

        Not the ones we’re talking about.

  • ajp

    I think Hillary really drew the short straw here. I’d much rather take office in January 2009 following the 06 and 08 elections than in January 2017. But that being said, I think her skill set is better suited for taking office in 2017.

    • burritoboy

      ……You don’t remember January 2009 very well. The world economy was roughly a hairs width from collapse. Quite a few people would literally die from the stress of taking on the Presidential office in January 2009.

  • Rob in CT

    OT/apropos of nuthin’, I saw a strange combo of bumper stickers this morning.

    On the left, “Global Warming? How about Global Prayer?” On the right, a Bernie 2016 sticker.

    I take this to mean that the person is not actually a climate change denier, but I have to admit I don’t know what that first sticker even means then. If it’s not a deflection from the problem, what? If we all pray we’ll get action on reducing carbon emissions? Or Invisible Sky Daddy will save us from ourselves?

    • Malaclypse

      I remember, long ago, seeing “Question Authority” next to “Silber for Governor.”

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