Notes, Asides & Absurdities Jan 14, 2021.

“Try Him Now” Matthew Continetti writes referring to the second Trump impeachment. It is an article that should not be missed. 

David Horowitz has noted that “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out”. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex, founding member of the Squad, has just illustrated the point nicely. In the wake of the Capitol riot she has called for a “truth and reconciliation or media literacy initiatives (sic)” to “rein in” the media. 

John Yoo writes that Donald Trump was rightfully impeached, but that he should not be convicted. Among other reasons why he writes that “Trump’s conduct does not rise to the level of criminal incitement”. But later he also goes on to say that the founders did not believe that impeachment (and presumably conviction) requires a criminal act. How’s that again? See Kevin Williamson on this. 

Guess who is about to become Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, which oversees budgeting and spending for the federal government? Why, that honor will go to none other than Bernie Sanders. Sanders has promised to “go big” in his spending plans.

Under Senate Rules the majority can use budget reconciliation to avoid the filibuster and pass bills without any Republican votes. Sanders has already promised to “go big” using this route for various spending proposals on pretty much the entire progressive wish list. 

The probable next chair of the Senate Finance Committee is Ron Wyden. Among other things, Wyden has proposed taxing unrealized capital gains. Wyden also proposes to “restore humanity” to HHS by disposing of conscience exemptions for religious organizations. Now he will be in a position to actual unleash his proposals.

Speaking of HHS, President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Xavier Becerra to run the organization as its new Cabinet Secretary. Mr. Becerra has absolutely no experience in the field, but he does have extensive experience, as California’s Attorney General, in suing the Little Sisters of the Poor for their refusal to finance employee purchases of contraceptives and abortafacients. He is also a fan of federal funding of abortion on demand. Presumably he is part of Mr. Biden’s moderate “healing agenda”. 

Welcome to progressive governance.

JFB


We Need to Talk about… Joe Biden

His name is not Donald J Trump.

That is all it takes, apparently, for a Democratic challenger to command the loyalty of the party faithful. It doesn’t matter what he thinks, assuming he is capable of it. After all his supporters refuse to think. They just know his name isn’t Donald Trump. 

But there is a problem that goes way beyond the usual foolishness that accompanies political campaigns. The problem concerns the mental acuity of the almost certain Democratic Party nominee for president, former vice president Joe Biden. It is obvious to all who are willing to see that the mental faculties of the former vice president, never strong to begin with, are in a state of rapid decline. The man can barely get through a sentence without losing his train of thought. He routinely begins to rank order proposed solutions to problems but almost never manages to get past the first on the list before wandering off. 

But his name is not Donald Trump. 

Joe Biden’s campaign, which now largely consists of boiler plate coming from a makeshift TV studio in his basement, is a pretty joyless affair. Were it not for his campaign’s center of operations at 620 8th Avenue in Manhattan, the campaign would be invisible. However, behind the scenes the campaign is working feverishly to unite the Party. The effort is instructive. 

During the primaries the voters went out of their way to signal that they were decidedly not interested in having a left-wing radical on the model of Jeremy Corbyn at the top of the ticket. And so beginning with South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday, Joe Biden trounced Bernie Sanders (I. Rolling Stone) at every step of the way. There were strategic elements to the vote as well. Joe Biden looked safe compared to wild man Bernie Sanders and he looked normal compared to the schoolmarmish Elizabeth Warren (D MA) who, it must be said, annoyed pretty much everyone she came into contact with. 

You would think that set of circumstances would lead the almost certain nominee to try to unite the party around a center-left ticket. But you would be wrong. Because few really voted for Joe Biden with any kind of enthusiasm. They just voted against all the rest; Biden was just the one left standing. And all the rest, possibly excepting Amy Klobuchar (D, MN), were (and are) radical lefties. They control a large chuck of convention delegates, and more importantly, they control the policy conversation. So Biden is moving to the left, not the center, to unite the Party around his candidacy. 

There are two parts to the Biden strategy. The first is picking a female running mate. That’s what he promised to do, and this appears to be one of those rare promises he means to keep. The issue he facers is that there is a behind the scenes pitched battle to influence his choice. According to the gossip around DC, Bernie Sanders vetoed Biden’s choice of (heaven help us) Elizabeth Warren. Apparently Sanders and Warren are no longer besties. 

Amy Klobuchar has distinguished herself by occasionally taking reality into consideration. For the Bernie Bros, that is disqualifying, so it is unlikely that Biden would tap her, no matter how sensible a choice it would be given all the rest. That leaves Stacey Abrams, professional grievance monger, whose chief qualification for high office is that she ran for governor of Georgia and lost. She lost and has to this day has refused to concede, maintaining without a shred of evidence, that the election was stolen. Of the 3.9 million votes cast, she lost by just under 55,000, a margin of 1.39%, insufficient to trigger a recount. 

The important thing about Stacey Abrams is not that she, like Hillary Clinton, is a sore loser. The important thing is that her name is not Donald Trump, which is all that matters.

Let’s leave personnel matters aside for the moment and turn to the second problem the fledgling Biden campaign has to face as it attempts to unify the Party. Biden has a policy problem. 

The machinery of the Democratic Party is dominated by its left wing, which is also where its enthusiasm lies. It is this ideological bloc that is determined to set the policy agenda. And so it is gearing up to instruct Biden on what he is supposed to believe. Since Biden’s core belief is that he should be President he will say and do pretty much whatever he thinks will unify the Party so he can win in November. 

The balancing act will be determined by calculating how far left he has to move to placate his socialist allies (and let’s not pretend that they are not socialists) without losing moderates who vote Democratic, particularly in the upper Midwest. These are the voters who are the salt of the earth when they vote for Democrats and deplorables when they don’t. 

So how far left is Biden prepared to go to fulfill his life long ambition? One clue is that his campaign has created in partnership with Bernie Sanders, a series of panels with a mandate to hammer out policy positions for the fall campaign.  The six panels formed so far will explore “possible policy initiatives” with respect to climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care and immigration. 

Biden named 5 members of each committee; Sanders named 3. Each committee has 2 co-chairs, one named by Biden and one by Sanders. Inevitably, the Sanders picks are radicals with allegiances to outside groups. (Sanders remember is not even a Democrat). For instance, the co-chair of the climate change panel is non-other than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) who has pledged her allegiance to the “Climate Justice Community” to whom she pledges to be “fully accountable”. 

Other task force members are outspoken in their views favoring an end to fracking, adopting Medicare-for-All, “free college”, welfare benefits for illegal aliens and defunding the Border Patrol.  Not surprisingly an economist on the panel, Stephanie Kelton (PhD, the New School, 2001) is an advocate of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). She claims that governments no longer have to worry about where they will get the money to pay for things, they can just print the currency. No problem. (See Kelton interviewed at the CFA Institute at this link). She gets to the heart of MMT at about 1 minute into the video.

It is, or should be, perfectly obvious that all the movement in the Biden campaign is to the left, and in all probability will continue to be. What is so bizarre about all this is that up until this point campaigns would iron out their policy positions and announce them before hand. Biden is waiting to be told what his policy positions are after having effectively won the nomination. 

But that is how things park in the People’s Republic. 

Then again, his name is not Donald Trump. 

Just like 300 million other Americans. 

JFB

Stopping Bernie

After Mike Bloomberg imploded onstage pretty much throughout the entirety of Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate in Nevada, panic set in among the Party establishment. Keep in mind that Bloomberg was the perfect candidate for the pooh-bahs that run the Party machinery. (More on that later). On paper, Bloomberg checked all the right boxes. He is a climate fanatic, an abortion rights fanatic, an experienced executive in both the private and public sectors, and he is a technocrat with a record of competence. Plus he has a lot of money that he can spend on a campaign. A real lot. 

Bloomberg was supposed to be the Party savior who would rescue it from the clutches of Bernie Sanders, the likely nominee. And Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. But he effectively owns something like 25% to 30% of the Democratic’s primary electorate and he is almost certain to waltz into the Milwaukee convention with a plurality, and maybe a large plurality of the delegates. The game plan was (and is) for Bloomberg to consolidate the “moderate lane” behind his candidacy  and snatch the nomination away from comrade Sanders, whom the party is convinced is going to lead to a McGovern like debacle once November rolls around. 

There are a couple of problems with the plan. In fact there are lots of problems with the plan. To begin with, Sanders is rapidly moving the Party very far to the left. In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 62% of Democratic-leaning adults said Sanders is “about right” ideologically. That result is not statistically distinguishable from the support given to Biden, Warren or Buttigieg. In addition, 72% of Democratic leaning voters say they believe Sanders would beat Trump. Nothing wins like winning. 

Polls in February are kind of fluid. It’s pretty hard to imagine that when the voting public actually begins to focus on the election that they will be quite so friendly to a socialist. Despite all the whining from the Sanders campaign, he has gotten relatively friendly treatment from the press. After all, he says he is a socialist, but his friends among the punditocracy take the edge off by insisting that he really isn’t a “real” socialist. 

Paul Krugman for instance says that Sanders socialism is just branding, the evidence being that Sanders hasn’t yet called for government to own all the means of production. I wonder if Krugman would characterize a candidate who carried around a dog eared copy of Mein Kampf as just working on his branding strategy. Somehow that’s pretty hard to imagine. We are not talking about dog whistles here. People who march around with swastikas do so for a reason. They are Nazi sympathizers or possibly outright Nazis. 

Let’s face it. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. At every opportunity he says he is a socialist. He advocates policies that only a socialist would advocate. Putting the qualifier “democratic” in front of the word socialist is a meaningless exercise. Communist dictatorships were always called “People’s Republics of…”. The end game is always the same. Occasionally people turn the boat around before it’s too late, as in the Nordic countries. (Memo to Bernie: they are arguably more capitalist than the U.S.)  Mostly however, the body count piles up before the citizens have a chance to recapture their freedom. That would be in places where Bernie has a lot of trouble criticizing the regime. Places like, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela not to mention the former Soviet Union where he spent his honeymoon and then waxed effusive about the subway system. 

So the question is this: Is there any realistic hope that the Democratic Party establishment can stop comrade Sanders from capturing the Democratic Party nomination? 

The answer is: No. 

There are two reasons why the Democratic Party establishment can’t stop Bernie. First the party establishment no longer exists as an important force. The same is true of the Republicans. The party establishment imploded when it faced Donald Trump during the 2016 primary season and the party has been thoroughly Trumpified since then. Sanders is doing to the Democratic Party pretty much what Trump did to the Republicans. 

A second reason why the party establishment is incapable of stopping Sanders is that the party is ideologically incapable of countering Sanders socialism. Four years ago Convention Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tripped all over herself trying to explain the difference between socialism and progressivism. She couldn’t explain the difference because there isn’t any. Face it: there is no progressive limiting principle other than “trust us”. It is all government all the time.

American progressives have been attacking foundational American values for at least half  a century, and arguably longer, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Those are the foundations upon which the basic institutions of civil society depend. They have been so weakened that it is going to take a long time to rebuild them.  If ever. It is not merely a question is who is elected to what post. What is needed is structural reform, a change in the culture and the rebuilding of fundamental institutions. Progressives are the ones who led “the long march through the institutions” that resulted in today’s dismayingly relativistic culture and its dysfunctional politics. They are hardly the ones to rebuild civil society.  

It is certainly possible that Sanders may be denied the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. That said, it is hard to see how the Party’s nearly powerless establishment would go about it. Any steps they take to block Sanders will certainly embitter Sanders partisans, whom the Party desperately needs for the general election in November. On the other hand, the nomination of Sanders would very likely lead to the re-election of Donald Trump. 

As awful as another 4 years of tweeting idiocy would be, the key question in politics remains: “Compared to what?”. A crushing defeat of socialism at the ballot box would be something to celebrate. It might also prompt the Democratic Party to seriously re-evaluate itself so it could spend its energies thinking seriously about public policy instead of having tantrums  about intersectionality. 

There is the small, but truly awful possibility that Bernie Sanders could actually win and bring in a big progressive wave along with him. Then New Zealand would be a pretty good place to move to for a couple of years. 

JFB

Bernie Sanders in Moscow

This Post Compliments of Twitter

Bernie Sanders (shirtless) in Moscow singing “This Land is Your Land”.

Click on this link to see the video.

Comrade Sanders Surges in Poll

The latest CNN poll, released today, has Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders statistically tied in the race for the Democratic nomination. (The CNN story is at this link). While not all that surprising, it seems to reflect the alienation of large swaths of the public from mainstream society—or what we used to think of as mainstream society. The leftward lurch of the Democratic Party is a reflection of this.

The growing enthusiasm for Senator Sanders is similar to the groundswell that catapulted Donald Trump into the White House. In each case the respective party establishments were appalled at how the candidate attacked elites and their policy prescriptions. Nevertheless in each case disaffected voters flocked to the outsider candidate, largely because of a sense of aggrieved populism. In each case those disaffected voters found a candidate who would speak to those grievances, real and imagined. 

Senator Bernie Sanders

There is, however, an important difference between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump’s campaign and Presidency is one that thrives on symbolic politics. It checks the cultural boxes of Trump supporters (e.g., build the wall) but, with the exception of trade, most of the policy is standard Republican fare seasoned by Trump’s personal boorishness. Which is to say that the key to understanding the Trump White House is to separate policy and personality. Not an easy thing to do. 

But Bernie Sanders is different. He is a man with a weltanschauung. And he gives every indication that he actually believes the preposterous things he says, which are an integral part of that world view. The problem is that a large swath, and perhaps a majority of Democratic primary voters, does not understand what it is that Bernie Sanders is trying to sell. That is because he occasionally–actually more than occasionally– obfuscates. Whether Sanders muddies up the waters because of ignorance or just plain tactics remains to be seen. For instance, he can pretend all he wants that his policy preferences are similar to the ones adopted by the Nordic countries, but they are not. While Bernie Sanders remains a committed socialist, the Nordic countries are among the most capitalist, market-centered ones on earth. Arguably more so than the United States in many respects, especially with respect to public finance. 

Bernie Sanders is a hard line socialist who wishes to remake society just like every other socialist.  And he has been singing the same tune (with occasional politically convenient adjustments) for at least 40 years. The problem is that a lot of people, and perhaps a plurality, have no idea how catastrophic the result would be if Sanders and his left wing allies (like the Squad) were able to seize the levers of power.  

So think of the 15 minute video below, put together by Reason magazine, as a public service message. It summarizes Sanders’ policy and political activities since the 1980s. That’s pretty much all you need to see. Anyone who would even consider voting for Sanders ought to watch this film. If, after watching this, anyone still insists on voting for Sanders, that person will have succeeded in achieving the improbable goal of making Trump supporters look like comparative geniuses. 

JFB

Bernie Sanders–Folk Artist

The Iowa primary is only 3 weeks away and there is a real possibility that Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Socialist, will win and put himself in position for a serious shot at the Democratic nomination. This is a guy who went to Moscow for his honeymoon about a year before the Berlin Wall came down. 

But believe it or not that’s not the strange part. Or strangest part. When he was Mayor of Burlington Bernie Sanders actually recorded an album of folk songs. Now, there is nothing intrinsically remarkable about a politician recording an album, provided said politician has an ounce of talent. For example, Sonny of Sonny and Cher was a major recording artist before he was elected to Congress as a Republican. 

Well, here is a sample of Bernie Sanders the recording artist. Please note. This is not made up. He actually did this. Five tracks of Bernie singing folk songs are below. A local independent Vermont newspaper has the story at this link.

JFB