A twitter friend asked me why I was not a fan of Bernie Sanders and I promised her an answer. First let me say that I am sympathetic to Sanders basic message that one of the main problems that the US faces is the rising inequality of income. He is right about that, however, I have always believed that the problem does not have any easy solutions, and Sanders explanation for the cause of the problem is simply wrong. While American bankers especially the nontraditional one like Hedge Fund Managers and their ilk have been piggish in their approach to their compensation, they are not the prime causes of the misbalance- rather technology and to a lesser extent globalization that technology enables. I have written elsewhere about this problem but suffice it to say Sanders does not seem to have a grasp of the technology factors and his solution to globalization is a new version of protectionism. When questioned on how he would get his domestic agenda approved he states that the US needs a revolution. The only problem with that approach, is the US has never since the original revolution been a revolutionary society. It has historically been evolutionary, and its very system of government was established in such a way to limit revolutionary impulses. The greatest revolutions to occur in modern American history was the Roosevelt’s New Deal and it took the Great Depression to get it implemented. Today while there is underlying economic malaise, by all indicators the US economy is doing well
However, it’s not all these areas that would bother me about a Sanders Presidency, for ultimately as “President Sanders” would quickly find out his ability to impact economic matters is limited, it’s really the role of commander and chief and chief diplomat that counts. I have alway been what was once called a “Henry Jackson” democrat. While I think that the invasion of Iraq the second time was one of the greatest mistakes in US history, and Sanders gets points for his opposition, his opposition to the first Iraq war was mistaken. Iraq could not be allowed to have capture and sovereign neighboring state that was an ally of the US. Furthermore, his view that America can achieve its goal almost solely through diplomacy is mistaken. I believe he underestimates the vital role the US plays in the world system, and whether Americans like it or not, the US is the worlds’ policeman, with the only navy and air force to capable of carrying out that role.
When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am somewhat troubled by some of his wording. As someone who believes that the occupation is a terrible thing that has gone on for two long, but see no easy solutions, on the other hand, I find some of his equivalency troubling. His website states the following position “However, while recognizing that Israel has the right to defend itself, he also strongly condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the widespread killing of civilians as completely unacceptable.” As someone who lived under two months of missile fire my answer was simple all they had to do was stop firing missiles. If Israel cannot respond with force to attacks, it can never pull out of more territory. His call for ending the blockade of Gaza without mentioning Hamas rejection of Oslo and any peace with a Jewish state is also problematic
In short I think Bernie Sander as Commander in Chief would make all but his most ardent supporters miss the days of the Obama Presidency.
Living in Israel during an American election year has always been an experience. I have had a site on Presidential elections on the web for 20 years and it needs to be continuously updated. This forces me to be more attuned to events and follow them closely in real time. Thanks to twitter I can get up in the morning in Israel and hear blow to blow accounts of the various debates.
Of course the rather unusual nature of this years primary process has generated greater interest then usual in the elections, and as a result I find myself often answering questions about the elections to Israelis that I know. Reporting for Newsweek has put me in the position of giving American a little of how does it look from over here perspective. This year however, my connections to the election process have been a little more formal. We have been working with the US Embassy on a number of projects this past year, and about two months ago we jointly came up with the idea of an App that explains to Israelis the US elections process. I think there is woeful lack of knowledge about the US and its democratic processes in Israel, and as I mentioned above the election section was the first part of our web site to go up 20 years ago so it was a natural fit. In early January it was decided to go ahead and develop an App based on our current material plus additional material that we developed, all of which we translated into Hebrew. The goal was to have it ready for March 1st Super Tuesday, a day that the Embassy was planning an event. So we began work, and happily we were able to create the App in time and it was approved by Apple the day before. The App which includes an introduction by Ambassador Shapiro is free and available in the Israeli and US App stores for the iPhone, and runs in whatever language you have your iPhone set to. An Android version should be ready in the coming days. This was also the first content App that I did the programming in, in Swift. Of course whenever I ran into trouble Eytan was always there to help.You can download the app here
On the evening of Super Tuesday I found myself presenting the App to a house full of guest in the home of the Deputy Head of the US Mission in Herziliah. It was a fun and interesting evening.
As to the results themselves- one of the ideas for the evening was a contest to have people pick who was the likely winners in each of the contests. I must say there were a enough surprises Tuesday night that there were no winners, the closest winner had only two contests wrong. It was a night of small surprises, with Rubio pulling off a surprise victory in Minnesota, or Cruz winning in Alaska. But the overall narrative seems crystal clear on the Democratic side- Hilary will win, and while still a little hazy on the Republican side the means of stopping Trump are what is most hazy. If it was anyone else, he of she clearly would be the presumptive nominee. While Carson has bowed out, it seems clear that neither Cruz Rubio or even Kaisich will . By the time they do, it will most likely be too late for the anyone to stop Trump. Of course Trump could self-destruct- and certainly something terrible could be found in “his closet”. but if I had to bet at this moment I would say it will be Clinton vs Trump. What I find most interesting as someone who reads the news constantly, and of course sometimes write it, is how little has been discussed about what factors are driving the Trump and the Sander phenomena. What is causing so many Americans to choose candidates far from the mainstream? Candidates who in any other elections year could hope at best for a third party nomination. I have written a little about this before and will write about it in more depth in the future.
The results are in from New Hampshire, the two outsiders have won. Most pundits talk about the anger at Washington the anger at the establishment, what missing is the true explanation why Trump and Sanders are doing so well. Their support reflects the growing sense of unease among most Americans. There is the growing sense that their children will not be as well off as they are. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have answers for that, and both are wrong. Sanders blames the banks and other large corporations and Trump blames the illegal immigrants. Both make excellent bogeymen but neither is the cause. The banks and the big corporations are the symptoms and the immigrants are simply the wrong target.
The real economic culprit is technology, and no one is willing to say so. How may jobs have been taken by computers in the last few years. How many people answer the phones, act as secretaries, How many jobs has Amazon replaced? How many printers are out of business thanks to E-=books? How many newspaper jobs have been lost thanks to Google taking all the advertising revenue?, How many jobs will be lost when the driverless car becomes a reality? How many more jobs will be replaced by robots? The list is long and growing, and it gets event longer the better computers become and the closer to true Artificial Intelligence becomes
For centuries there has been a balance between capital and labor, technology has upended that balance and now capital is ascendant. The growing wealth gap is a direct result of this change. The wealth created by Google, Facebook, Apple and others have helped fuel that growing gap. Many of the financial instruments that have made many in the financial sector so wealthy are possible only because of ever more powerful computers. When almost any worker can be replaced by technology the ability of workers to negotiate for better wages is very limited. Politicians talk about preparing our children for 21st-century jobs, but I would love to know what they are. How many programmers do we really need? How many Apps? The answer is many less than we need taxi drivers, truck drivers and all sorts of other drivers that will soon be replaced.
Voters understand that there is problem, but it’s hard to blame technology. In the past new technologies always brought new opportunities. The end of the wagon, heralded the era of auto manufacturing, this time, that is unlikely. In the past technology replaced our muscles, now it replaces our brains, which means it essentially replaces us. Its a hard concept to fully understand, and even a harder concept to find solutions for. Since there are no clear solutions we have politicians who have created false bogeymen. I fear that the fear in the land is very real, and without some honest discussion of the issues by someone fear will win out, and we could end up with one of these candidates as President of the United States. A truly scary thought!