I think the evidence is overwhelming that the Republicans, the John Boehners, Mitch McConnells and others had zero intention of negotiating with the President on any serious compromising. Their function and their goal was to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct, and to quite frankly it took the President too many years to figure that out and I think in the last couple years he has been a stronger President and a better President because he understands there is nothing to negotiate with these guys.First of all, there's one thing he got right...that the Republican plan has been to obstruct anything President Obama tried to do. But does he really think he's so much smarter than the President - assuming he knew that and Obama didn't? This is one of those ways that liberals undermine the President, by subtly insinuating that he was naive about Republican intentions.
So let's take a look at the record. During his first couple of months in office, it was imperative that Congress pass a stimulus bill. President Obama needed all Democrats on board plus at least a couple of Republicans. So he negotiated with a few to get that done. Would Sanders have counseled him to avoid doing that and get no stimulus?
In order to get passage of the other two big items while Democrats controlled Congress - Obamacare and Wall Street reform - President Obama had to negotiate with members of his own party. I'll simply leave that one there as a reminder that sometimes it is members of your own party that demand compromises.
And then in 2010, Republicans gained control of the House. One has to wonder if, at that point, Sanders thinks the President should have simply given up on passing any legislation. Because that's what he would have had to do in order to avoid negotiating.
People have made the case that, when it comes to negotiations over things like the Grand Bargain in 2011, President Obama was too willing to compromise. That is a fair critique. But for those who were actually paying attention to what both sides put on the table, it was also a way of demonstrating that Republicans were not negotiating in good faith. Some of us think that the American public needed to see that. It's too bad that our media was unwilling to make it clear.
What is it Obama has been doing over the last couple of years that Sanders thinks has made him a stronger and better President? Did he miss the fact that Obama is still negotiating with Republicans? He did so last year in order to get a budget passed (and will likely do so again this fall after Republicans get over their government shutdown mania). He also negotiated with them to get trade promotion authority and to set the structure for Congressional action on the Iran deal. To hear Sanders talk, you'd think President Obama had stopped doing that kind of thing altogether.
But rather than stop negotiating with Republicans, President Obama has added something to his portfolio of strategies...the pen and phone. Some of those things have been in the works for years - like new EPA rules and agreements with China, India and Brazil on climate change. But its also true that some of them - like executive actions on immigration - are a result of the lack of Congressional action. Does Sanders think that the President should have moved forward on that before the House demonstrated clearly that they were not going to take up comprehensive immigration reform? Or perhaps before the "Gang of Eight" in the Senate negotiated a compromise bill that passed the Senate? That would be an interesting argument for a member of Congress to make.
The whole idea of a candidate for president suggesting that our Chief Executive shouldn't negotiate with the opposition frankly sounds like something Sen. Ted Cruz would propose. And given the make-up of Congress, it would lead to the result Cruz got in 2013 - perpetual government shut-downs. If a Democratic president were to follow such a path, voters would be right to blame her/him for that. That is NOT the way to advance a progressive agenda.
When it comes to his own presidential aspirations, perhaps Sanders assumes that he'll be swept into office with a Democratic majority in the House and a super-majority in the Senate. That would allow him to only have to negotiate with Democrats (good luck with that, Bernie!) But short of that, at some point someone needs to ask him whether or not he envisions four years of government shut-downs amidst zero legislative accomplishments as he refuses to negotiate with Republicans.