Then there is the question of basic technocratic know-how. How comfortable would Sanders be governing via executive fiat? His biography suggests that the answer is not very. Despite what some of his supporters would like to think, Sanders is not a throwback to FDR or even LBJ but an authentic specimen of the (now hopelessly old) New Left, which emerged out of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam protest movements and the 1960s counterculture. He shares the New Left’s basic Nixon-era skepticism of executive branch authority; indeed, his utterances over the years suggest that he takes about as expansive a view of presidential power as Ron Paul. Moreover, he is a lifelong backbencher, someone who is used to pulling stunts (like the hilariously named “Stop BEZOS” bill), and he has the typical backbencher’s allergy to the actual compromise-laden business of governing. It is not impossible or even unlikely that he will somehow overcome decades of wishful thinking about how the country ought to be run. But that doesn’t mean he will somehow spontaneously develop the ability to rule effectively from the Oval Office.
This is the most amusing tension in this campaign. The Obama-era technocrats may have lacked vision, but they understood perfectly how to accomplish the president’s goals in the face of congressional resistance. Moreover, they were successful on the occasions when they were forced to defend the president’s agenda in the Supreme Court. Some of these people might be willing to offer their services to a Sanders administration (which is one reason why I suspect that he has mostly refrained from criticizing the former president). But would they do so on his terms?