Strangely, there is a way President Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) could get a Republican United States Senate to pass his radical agenda.
Sanders could make a modern-day Corrupt Bargain with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) or his successor. To explain, the original Corrupt Bargain was an 1824 deal between candidate John Quincy Adams (Massachusetts) and U.S. Speaker of the House Henry Clay.
Essentially, Clay manipulated the U.S House of Representatives to make Adams president. In exchange, Adams appointed Clay U.S. Secretary of State. Bizarrely, in 1824 the U.S. Secretary of State was more prestigious than the Speaker of the House.
How Sanders could Get Medicare for All with a Modern Day Corrupt Bargain
In a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain, President Sanders could promise to nominate the candidates McConnell wants to the U.S. Supreme Court or Federal Courts.
In exchange, McConnell could promise to have Senate Republicans support some of Sanders’ radical proposals. For example, the Senate Republicans could support Medicare for All, the Green Deal, Free College, a Basic Income, or a $15 minimum wage in exchange for the appointment of a Conservative Supreme Court Justice.
Sanders could force McConnell to support his agenda by promising to appoint federal judges approved by the Federalist Society. McConnell could have to agree because many conservatives care more about the courts than economic issues. For example, many conservative Christians will support any candidate who nominates pro-life individuals to the courts.
I do not know if McConnell could agree to a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain, but McConnell is ruthless and self-serving. A corrupt bargain will put McConnell in a difficult position because many conservative big money donors do not care about the courts. Conversely, many cultural conservatives only care about the courts.
How Likely is a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain?
Whether Bernie can make a modern day Corrupt Bargain is hard to determine. Yet there are indications Sanders could make a Corrupt Bargain.
First, Sanders is a true believer who has dedicated his life to making Social Democracy a reality. Therefore, I think Bernie will make a corrupt bargain if he thinks it could create Social Democracy.
Second, Sanders is a veteran political insider with decades of experience in Washington. In fact, Sanders has been in Congress for nearly 30 years. Vermont voters first elected Sanders to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990.
Third, Sanders’ main concerns are economic and not cultural or legal issues. Notably, Sanders’ TV ads talk about creating jobs. Medicare for All, and income inequality, not gay rights or getting Trump. Fourth, Sanders wants to achieve something big as President to top off a long political career and decades in the political wilderness.
Fifth, Bernie is a good person who cares about the 45,000 Americans killed by lack of health insurance each year. To explain, the Harvard School of Medicine estimates 45,000 Americans die from treatable conditions health insurance could have prevented by funding medical care, Patheos claims. If Bernie thinks appointing a few conservative judges will prevent those deaths, I think he will appoint those judges.
Thus, a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain will not be so corrupt. Progressives need to ask themselves: what is more important the lives of 45,000 ordinary Americans, or overturning Citizens United? In my mind, saving the lives of 45,000 ordinary Americans is more important than Citizens United.
How Sanders could Split Republicans with a Corrupt Bargain
A 21st Century Corrupt Bargain could split conservatives and the Republican Party.
To elaborate, President Sanders could tell elements of the Conservative Coalition he plans to appoint the judges they want in return for their support of his agenda. For instance, Bernie could call The Federalist Society, pro-life groups, or the National Rifle Association (NRA) and tell them his plan.
Moreover, President Sanders could make life miserable for conservatives by going on Fox News and saying, “there’s a list of conservative judges vetted by the Federalist Society and the NRA laying on my desk. I will send that list to the Republican Senate, if you guys pass Medicare for All. If there’s no Medicare for All, I will throw that list away.”
Importantly, Sanders will need to make it clear he will not appoint a single judge or U.S. Supreme Court Justice until after he has signed Medicare for All. Thus, Sanders can portray any conservative who attacks Medicare for All as promoting abortion or attacking Second Amendment Rights.
Moreover, Republican Senators will have to choose between Koch money and the things their voters believe in. That could make life uncomfortable for incumbents, if Republican primary challengers say; “I’ll vote for the Bernie agenda to get our judges on the courts.”
How Sanders could Attract Conservative Christian Votes
I don’t know if conservatives will trust Bernie, but some modern Cultural Conservatives only care about the courts.
For example, American Conservative editor Rod Dreher calls President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) a jackass. However, Dreher supports the Donald because he thinks the President protects Christian rights.
Therefore, I think Dreher will support President Sanders, if Sanders takes actions to protect Christian rights. Hence, Sanders could attract conservative Christian support by nominating conservative judges.
Finally, surrendering the courts to the conservatives could be a smart strategy. To explain, conservatives could get something and not feel threatened by Bernie’s radical agenda. Importantly, some conservatives will have a strong incentive to back Bernie and his agenda, or at least stay quiet during a Sanders administration.
Unfortunately, many of today’s Democratic activists do not know what strategy is or how it works. Instead of strategy, many centrist Democrats would rather keep demonizing everybody who disagrees with them and lose.
Will Bernie Make a Corrupt Bargain?
Sanders, on the other hand, is a smart man who has read widely.
In particular, I think Sanders has studied modern philosophers, communications theorists, and strategists such as Noam Chomsky. Additionally, I think Sanders knows history.
Thus I think Sanders can make a Corrupt Bargain. Oddly, this could be one reason centrists such as Pete Buttigieg (D-Indiana) are so afraid of Bernie. To explain, those people fear Sanders could implement the programs they cannot deliver by making deals with people they hate.
Interestingly, U.S. Representative and Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told Joe Rogan she thinks some Democrats are afraid of agreeing with conservatives. In particular, centrists did not want Gabbard on Fox News because she could find common ground with Conservatives.
Another reason why Centrists and liberals hate Sanders is that he treats conservatives with respect and goes on their media. Notably, failed Presidential candidates such as U.S. Senator Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Pete Buttigieg refused to go on Fox News.
How will Voters React to a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain
Sanders understands the system, and he knows Mitch McConnell well. Additionally, I think Sanders wants to complete his political career by achieving something big; such as Medicare for All, as president.
If the price for that big achievement is sacrificing a few judiciary positions; and pissing off Emily’s List and a few MSNBC talking heads, I think Bernie will make a Corrupt Bargain. Remember, Emily’s List and MSNBC already hate Sanders so the sacrifice will be small.
Therefore, I think a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain is probable in today’s political environment. Given those circumstances, the questions we need to ask: is how will voters react to a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain?
I suspect voters could accept a 21st Corrupt Bargain if it creates a popular program such as Medicare for All; or Universal Basic Income, or increases Social Security payments. However, the fallout from such a deal could disrupt politics for generations.
The 1824 Corrupt Bargain, for instance, blew up the political system and led to the Jacksonian Revolution of 1828 and popular democracy in America. Only time will tell if we see a 21st Century Corrupt Bargain that creates a new political order in America.