So which Left-wing publication is going to pull together a bunch of liberal intellectuals for an “Against Sanders” issue?
There’s been a ton of concern trolling from Democrats about the chaos and extremism ripping the Republican Party in half. It’s bad for the country, you know? We need two strong and functioning political parties. John Kasich is the only plausible choice to save the GOP and so on. Well, what happens if the GOP ends up nominating some run-of-the-mill Romney-esque Republican or an ambitious conservative from Texas, and the Democrats end up with a socialist? Surely liberals would be deeply troubled by their own party’s hard left turn?
As unlikely as that might seem, a year ago, Bernie Sanders was down 57-5 in Iowa polls to Hillary Clinton. As of this writing, the race is too close to call — which by any measure means that Sanders, who was outspent, can declare victory. It was pretty clear that the party’s energy and passion are centered on a Sander’s candidacy — even if he’s unable to pull it out against the establishment choice.
What are these people so mad about!? Has anyone asked?
Put it this way: Last night, 25 percent of the GOP voted for celebrity populist who gained unparalleled coverage from the media for a half a year. Half of Democrats voted for a once-obscure elderly socialist senator from Vermont who bases his campaign on conspiracy theories and juvenile zero-sum economic theories that were all the rage in the early 1900s. (And the other half went to a candidate that sounds increasingly like him.)
Like him or not, Cruz’s positions, as conservative as they are, are within the philosophical frontiers of the Reagan Right. Maybe you think them antiquated, but they are hardly “radical” — as in representing some extreme section of a political party or movement. Cruz’s ideas would be recognizable to any Republican in 1984 or 1994. But would any Clinton-era Democrat in 1996 embrace the economic positions of Sanders (or Hillary, for that matter)? How about 2008?
It’s amusing to watch people maintain that Sanders isn’t a genuine socialist because he hasn’t laid out a Five Year Plan or called for the means of production to be transferred to the state. (Last night, for example, CNN’s Van Jones continually referred to Sanders as a “progressive” — which tells us something about socialism and progressivism.) Socialists are always “democratic” when they have no choice. The fun part comes later. So Sanders might inject a measure of nationalism into his brand of socialism. He may fuse his old-fashioned redistributionism and class-warfare with some contemporary political flourishes. He may believe in incrementalism — just as Marx did. But Sanders does not believe a free market should determine how goods and services are distributed.
Moreover, his applause lines are no less scaremonger-y than Trump’s nativist crowd-pleasers. Sanders is no less of a protectionist, appealing to the same fears and anxieties of working class Americans. All the troubles in the world are laid at the feet of greedy billionaires and corporation who function in an imaginary zero-sum economic dystopia, where fairness can only be reinstituted using state force — the guiding light of all decency.
Sanders calls for government control of the energy (to stop global warming) and health-care sectors. And schooling and health care will be “free,” paid for by the fictitious capital of the disreputable speculator. “Where speculation ends — in real life — there real, positive science begins …” wrote Marx.
And I feel entirely comfortable red-baiting Sanders, because he’s a socialist.
Democrats are no longer talking about erecting safety nets to help the poor survive or break free of poverty; they’re talking about confiscatory taxation and redistributing to make life “fair” for the middle class. That might be popular — it is a radical break from traditional policy. “You guys ready for a radical idea?” Bernie asked in his victory speech. “Well, so is America.”
The key difference between the two party’s situations is that intellectual Right is in a fight to save conservatism from what they see as a distortion undermining its historical purpose. (And they may yet lose that battle.) There is no real battle or uproar among Democrats over the radicalization of the Left, probably because Sanders’ positions are an organic result of the rhetoric, obsession over inequality, and its redistributive economic policy. Right now, Democrats are fighting over electability, or how fast they want to move on certain issues.
If Sanders had the charisma or talent of Barack Obama, Hillary wouldn’t stand a chance.
Yet, everyone will probably keep obsessing over Trump. “How did journalists miss GOP radicalization?” professional handwringer Norman Ornstein tweeted last week. “No. 1 reason: stubborn insistence on false equivalence.” As Iowa proved, the equivalence is very real. Will any editorial boards ask: “How did journalists miss this Democratic radicalization?” Doubtful. Probably because socialism isn’t a particularly troublesome or radical thought to Democrats or most of the media. Iowa also proved that.
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