After the tragicomic farce that was last Thursday evening’s GOP debates, statesman and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted, “It’s over. Not one word about economic inequality, climate change, Citizens United or student debt. That’s why the Rs are so out of touch.” That turned out to be the most retweeted reaction to the event.
Small wonder. Over the course of the two-hour “debate” (if it can be called that), candidates referred to the economy only ten times. At the same time, there were nearly twice that number of references to “God,” faith and the Bible. Apparently, Republicans are counting on Divine Intervention to fix the nation’s woes – because they surely don’t have any ideas of their own.
Part of the Republicans’ problem is that President Obama has – as journalist Paul Krugman puts it – “failed to fail,” despite the GOP’s best efforts to sabotage him at every turn. The health care reform they derisively refer to as “Obamacare” has been tremendously successful for those states in which it has been implemented. Economic indicators are up, and reliance on petroleum imports has been sharply reduced.
This isn’t to say that the Obama Administration’s policies have been perfect. While Obamacare is far better than what we had before, it still falls short of guaranteeing health care to every citizen, regardless of ability to pay (a guarantee German citizens have enjoyed since 1871). Despite low inflation and economic growth in recent months, most average Americans have not shared in the new prosperity. Most of the economic gains continue to go to the top 1%, and current employment figures don’t include workers who are only able to find part-time jobs as well as those who have simply dropped out of the labor market. President Obama’s environmental record is at best, mixed.
And yet, whose fault is these shortcomings? Like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama came into politics full of youthful and – dare we say – progressive ideals. Those ideals soon collided with the realities of politics inside the Beltway. Like Clinton, Obama has been forced to compromise – in no small part because of intractable opposition from a GOP-controlled Congress determined to see him fail.
In the end, responsibility for most of President Obama’s shortcomings is directly or indirectly attributable to GOP opposition. However, it brings up an issue we have addressed at the Ring of Fire before – what could Bernie Sanders do to bring about real hope and change as President? By himself, very little. At least part of the fault for President Obama’s shortcomings lies not with him, but within ourselves. Too many of us expected that as President, Barack Obama would save us all – and we failed to have his back by electing a Congress that would work with him or applying pressure to the members of Congress we were stuck with.
Bernie Sanders is very forthcoming on this matter. What he said on CBS News’ Face The Nation last month is worth repeating:
The truth is Republicans never wanted to negotiate, all they wanted to do is obstruct…What I have said throughout this campaign is electing Bernie Sanders as president is not enough. We need a mass grassroots movement that looks the Republicans in the eye and says, ‘If you don’t vote to demand that your wealthy people start paying their fair share of taxes, if you don’t vote for jobs, raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security, we know what’s going on, we’re involved, we’re organized, you are outta here if you don’t do the right thing.’
Republicans are indeed out of touch with reality. The time and opportunity is ripe to give the GOP a strong dose of it. Bernie Sanders is a leader who is ready and able to administer that dose of reality – but only if we do our part. Remember: Democracy is not a spectator sport.