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.
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.