Fouls come home to roost
It’s déjà-vu all over again: Pat Buchanan vs Eugene McCarthy. And the powerful appeal to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with the primitive emotions of fear and anger at its base is crowding out common sense and prudence. I am going to be blunt and hope we can handle it here as it is just too important to ignore or run away from. This is a very dangerous and reckless election.
Everyone in America is apparently angry. Really, shouting, screaming, boiling, agitated. Not me, mind you. I am not at all angry, I am disgusted.
What if I told you that I knew the answer to your problems, that I have the magic bullet and if you just put me in charge, you will have, you know, that famous ‘free stuff’: free health care, tuition-free college, heck, complimentary housing and transportation and some nice walking around money. How?, you might say. We are not living in Scandinavia after all, but rather a far bigger and more diverse and unwieldy country, right now firmly in the hands of a very conservative Senate and House whose members are adamantly opposed to all those things. But then I go even further and say, I can get rid of all the crime, all the bad guys causing it, I will stop all the unfairness to you in particular, I will bring back all the high-paying jobs from those other places where they have gone over the past fifty years. We will have the old America back and it will be ruled by the ‘right’ people. Who are they, you ask? Whoever you like. Wow. Sounds like a great deal. How are you going to do this, you might ask me. I would reply, “Don’t worry. Just trust me”.
Well, it sounds pretty preposterous but that is exactly what is transpiring here right now. There are significant segments of our population, of varying ages and socioeconomic classes that are being sold these kinds of outlandish promises. The salesmen sound really convincing, very sure of themselves, very generous, even. Who wouldn’t want to believe them? It would be a dream come true. But it’s magical thinking and these men know it.
We cannot believe them, because none of this is feasible. Manufacturing jobs along the lines of fifty years ago are never coming back. For one thing, a lot of them are fully automated and computerized. Even if they did, the men and women who held them, will not get them. No one can give Americans free health care, college, housing, transportation or a secure, fully funded, comfortable retirement in the forseeable future. Those are lofty goals but they are impossible given our current massive economic structure and the obdurateness of the moneyed interests who are currently dominating our government at the state and federal levels. No one can make this country completely safe. We cannot bomb ISIS or any other terrorist organization out of existence. Spending even more on the Pentagon and our military will not change the threats we face in post-modern times. No one can promise us complete safety any more than they can promise us long life and perfect health. Or happiness.
Are these things we all want? Of course. Who would I like to see as President? A hard-working, caring, accomplished, experienced individual, who has some personal baggage even if it is largely a media fiction, who tells us that we can move forward, slowly, methodically, toward a better future, and wants to safeguard the hard-won progress of the past 40 years or someone who says, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more”? “We are not going to improve steadily, building on our successes, we are going to overthrow everything, have a revolution and miraculously all your problems will be solved. Don’t ask me for too many details, just trust me.”
Both Mr. Bully-for-me Trump and Mr. Holier-than-thou Sanders are promising their personal version of the moon to angry, confused, low-information people, who have been whipped up into a frenzy by lies and slander. Sanders in what I consider a passive-aggressive way, attacks Clinton personally through his surrogates. And the media are complicit in this fraud, because they are no longer purveyors of news but of tabloid sensationalism. The difference between these two pied pipers, of course, is Mr. Trump is pandering to selfish anger and Mr. Sanders to a more compassionate one. The causes are very different. The wrath and vulnerability being exploited are very similar.
I think I know what is happening here on the Democratic side. Bernie has never grown up. He has been angry and frustrated in his own life for fifty years, still marinating in the acid of the 60s. He has had to battle his way against all odds as a Brooklynite of no particular distinction, with the added handicap of being Jewish in a Christian-dominated culture and a maverick and iconoclast in an era when the word Socialism was viewed as being of the very devil himself. He didn’t appear to want the house with the picket fence and dog and two children as did many of his peers of the same age. He was and is a Socialist in a Capitalist society. He wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican in a two-party political system. He was and is an outsider, and he is pretty fed up with being ignored and underestimated. He finally decided that he could express this lifelong frustration and anger by starting a movement, fueled by a lot of very young and inexperienced enthusiasts, and strategically targeting the first viable woman for President of the United States. Not an easy mark on the surface, perhaps. But, floating beneath the level of consciousness is an obscure bias that informs the fight: most people thought he was a joke, a nut, an outlier. Finally, though, he found a cohort that truly has no idea of all the history of the past 50 years. Socialism is just a word to these people. Feminism — who needs it? Women’s equality is a foregone conclusion to be taken for granted (until they run into the ceiling themselves — just wait). To these kids, ‘old ladies’ that claim they had to fight for it seem tired, vestigial, dispensable. Bernie is way cool and fun!
Sanders is rubbing his eyes in astonishment. Finally, someone is paying attention to him and taking him seriously. Grumpy Uncle Bernie cannot believe his amazing luck. He has now fallen totally in love with himself and the absurd notion that he can ride his far out socialist message right into the White House. Never mind that he has no clue as to how to enact any of the radical changes he has sold his fatuous followers. He never really thought he would get the job, he just wanted to push for the things that had been bothering him over a long and undistinguished lifetime. Now, foolish people are ready to hand him the keys to the kingdom. So, he has set about rationalizing and justifying it and digging his heels in, using a band of crude internet trolls to assist him. The way it works is, Sanders gets up before an adoring crowd of young supporters, shouts and rails against “the establishment” (leaving the audience to decide to whom that refers) and gets them worked up. In turn, they go off on a wild tangent of hatred and enthusiasm, literally a lark to them. The good of the country be damned. Attacking the party of the progressives and liberals is now a sport even though the Democrats in this country have been by and large happy with their party. Mr. Sanders is setting up a straw man on whom to expend their energies in battle. It is highly irresponsible in my estimation.
Mr. Sanders says he is the one honest person amid a sea of crooks. No one notices that he has been at rallies and fundraisers funded by the very Wall Street Corporations and banks he is now condemning. He says he doesn’t take a dime from Super Packs, but fails to tell his minions that he has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for years. He just happily accepted the help of a Super Pack of white nurses who are talking down to black women and telling them how they should vote. What a hypocrite! Bernie says he fights against the moneyed interests even though he voted against the bill in 2004 that would have thwarted the practice of credit default swaps that brought down the economy in 2009. Sanders knew that Mrs. Warren could not be the nominee, so great was the loathing for her in the political and economic sectors and too few her governing accomplishments, so he decided to fight a proxy campaign for her. But Sanders is using underhanded tactics that Senator Warren would never condone.
Bernie cunningly hired a lot of young, aggressive, ruthless operatives to use whatever dirty tricks they could think of to sway the vote in their direction. They send campaigners into Nevada pretending to be union workers so they could persuade people to support their candidate; download and exploit a breach in the donor database revealing the opponent’s supporters and then falsely claim the opponent’s campaign did the same thing upon being caught red-handed; send out a mailer using a newspaper and union’s logo implying they endorsed the mailers’ campaign, when they had endorsed the opponent and, refuse to stop sending them out; turn the other way when a group of young thugs manipulates online social media to attack supporters of the opponent using vulgarity and threats. Just today, it was reported that the Sanders campaign is circulating a picture from the 1960s they claim shows Sanders at a black rally. It was pointed out that Sanders is not the figure in the picture but the Sanders campaign has not pulled the mailing. That is the kind of trick that these people are using to win. I guess because they can’t do it on his merits. When challenged on these things, his surrogates mock the challenger, ridicule, belittle, and outright snicker and make fun of them — all puerile tactics from high school. In other words, do whatever it takes to win, while holding oneself up as a model of virtue. Sanders was always against the establishment because he could not fit into the preferred mold. Now, as the establishment begins to take him seriously, watch his transformation into another cookie-cutter politician. Popularity and ego will supersede conviction.
The American people are reaping what they sowed. Starting with the Goldwater years, the country has split into two extremes that have swung far to the end zones and grabbed the microphone away from the moderate middle. Allowing the greedy to systematically transfer wealth from the working classes to the top 1 percent, they have created an insecure, bewildered country now wondering how all this happened. How their lunch was snatched. The only problem is, they don’t know at whom to direct that anger. Anyone who tells them he will fix all their problems will get their vote. And most importantly, Bernie Sanders cannot beat the Republicans in the national election. We will lose everything we fought so hard to gain. Sanders cannot win the Presidency — what do you think Karl Rove and his ilk have been doing all this time, behind the scenes? Do you think they are leaving this to chance? To the individual Republican candidates’ campaigns? Think about it! Sanders has not been vetted. The Republicans will eviscerate him, if he is the nominee and then it will be too late to choose someone else. And there will be catastrophic one-party power in Washington for years to come.
If I were President Obama, I would see the Sanders phenomenon as a direct repudiation of his 7-plus years of exceptional progressive achievements. The last visionary idealist that the youth of this country embraced was Mr. Obama, on whose bandwagon they happily jumped in 2008. Now they are running away from him and all he has done, faced with the stiffest opposition since the 1860s. If Obama couldn’t bring about these futuristic changes, they think Sanders can? What is wrong with these people!
This may not appear to be important to the world at large, but believe me, the next President of the United States is going to play a decisive part in the lives of every human being on earth. A vote for Uncle Bernie is a vote for Donald Trump or some other far right wing extremist who wishes to funnel even more wealth up to the top. Think about the things Trump has said and the crude way he has said them. Is this who we want in charge of the complex affairs of this planet?
I do not mean to imply that Hillary Clinton is a flawless candidate. She is sometimes guarded, dry, centrist to a fault on some issues (I agree with those on the left who are fed up with the Walton family getting welfare from the taxpayers, while their employees are virtual slaves and need the taxpayers’ support as well — an outrage that is repeated in many situations throughout this country. Clinton should have talked about this more robustly, all along) and perhaps unexciting. But Sanders is unthinkable as President. He is simply not prepared. She is, with all her warts.
The Iowa and New Hampshire results don’t worry me. Especially in New Hampshire, where 40% of the Democratic vote came from independents, Clinton’s loss is not all that devastating to her chances. Keep in mind as well, that, given the way New Hampshire allows any voter to register to vote for a party candidate on the day of the primary, whether they are Republicans, Democrats or Independents — with no system for checking who they are and why they are voting for the candidate, a lot of those who voted for Sanders were Republicans. They were deliberately encouraged to spike his numbers. They can then simply re-register as a different party member for the general election. To me, that is a large part of what has been going on. Clinton’s opponents have been seeding Sanders rallies and the vote itself, so do not be fooled by what happened there. Still, she has to address her own shortcomings so this torturous process doesn’t drag on.
It would serve the American electorate right if either of these two incompetent men were elected. Fifty years of being asleep has brought us to this point. And I, for one, do not forgive or absolve us, each of us here, of personal responsibility for letting this ridiculous state of affairs come to pass. I can barely tolerate the Trumpeting and chest-thumping that is upcoming and I am totally Berned out, even though I am a lifelong Progressive (and I gave myself that label over ten years ago — long before Sanders co-opted that label, since I was never a true Liberal).
I am proud of being a registered Democrat and proud of my party, with its long history of humanitarian values and accomplishments. I resent this usurper using our organization for his own personal ends. Sanders is not a Democrat or a Progressive, he is a Socialist. Let him wear the label he earned and let no one with a thinking and analytical mind be fooled by any wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or to go back to the theme of this post, Sanders reminds me of the fable about the hen who could find no one to help her make the bread but rather opportunists who stepped up greedily to eat it.
If Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are the nominees, I will sit this one out.
Images: Chez BeBe assets/around the Southland