Monday, March 2, 2020

Why Sanders?

Many Democratic pundits seem flummoxed by Bernie Sander’s ascent.  It’s a source of existential apprehension.  The blue sky is falling, dissolving into a far-left madness that signals a rosy red election.  Part outraged, part querulous, the anti-Sanders faction insists that a unifying, moderate candidate is necessary, someone ‘safe’, like the Obama-associated Biden, to beat Donald Trump.

Whoa.  Hype overlord.  Sanders isn’t toting serious socialist bona fides.  NY Times columnist Paul Krugman points out that Bernie’s “democratic socialism” is basically the ideology of Norway’s social democrats.  Sanders isn’t nearly as far left as Trump leans right. 

Trump is an imminent threat.  He advances white nationalism while pushing for dictatorship.  But it would be a gross mischaracterization to even tacitly suggest, let alone normalize, a Trump vs. Sanders polarity.  

Sanders is not some horrible antipode, as if he and Trump were two endpoints of a line, one on which the only sane point is somewhere in the middle, between the two insanities.  The metaphor of a line with terminal ends is easy to adopt, especially given all the talk about a ‘middle’ or a ‘moderate’; and yet it is false framing at its deceptive finest.

If Sanders is after an “I am the State” takeover, he’s done a perfect job hiding it behind progressive, egalitarian, private-ownership-affirming policies.  Irrational fears notwithstanding, all industrial countries except the US have universal paid healthcare.  

The paranoia and hype are real.  And yet despite the fuel they supply for jet-engine takedowns, Sanders is still doing exceeding well in the delegate count and the popular vote. 


The answer is that the American people are infuriated.  Atrocious corruption has parasitized them for decades.

The best, most honest logo for a 2020 candidate would be the national wealth distribution curve.  The graph looks like a very thin boomerang, with one side much longer than the other, indicating the outrageous pinnacle of the richest sliver. 

It only takes a glance at this mutant boomerang to reveal the egregious graft, a monster of avarice that took a half century to bring into its current state of grotesquery.  Indeed, compare it to the wealth curve of 1960’s, when one blue collar income could buy a house, two cars, and a good, lifelong trajectory for an entire family.

Also obvious, to those not under their spell, are the longstanding tricks of the trade, the catchy ideas, used to advance and maintain the parasitism of the public.  These are sources of vast frustration. 

Four of these catchy ideas are as follows:  giving tax breaks to the rich is good; big government is bad; consumers should spend instead of save; and, lastly but most importantly, ‘our’ traditional society (read straight and white, with male leadership) is under attack.  

The last is the worst, enhancing the effectiveness of the rest.  It embodies many forms of oppression and xenophobia.  But let’s go through all four of these GOP tricks.

‘Giving money to the rich is good’ is just trickle down economics.  The idea is that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy will, in fair proportion, benefit everyone in society.  

After five decades of this kleptocratic chestnut, we can easily and safely say, Nope.  Yes, profits are up. Yes, productivity is up.  And yet wages are stagnant.  Not only that, essentials like education and doctors are much more costly.  #TrickleFail

 ‘Government is bad' is a Ronald Reagan mantra.  The unstated implication is that if the needy get less help, there’s more room to cut taxes for the rich.  

Depression era virtues of thrift, humility, and charity were still fairly strong in the 1980’s, as were worries about unbridled greed.  Reagan successfully fought against this ethos.  He replaced it with conspicuous consumption.  The effective slogan became 'spending is good'.  

Americans were given credit cards and told to live it up.  Welcome to MasterCard.  Bank accounts were drained.  We went from a creditor nation to a debtor nation.  The fictional Gordon Gekko proclaimed “Greed is good,” and that became the actual practice of Wall Street.  

A friend to Wall Street, Reagan de-regulated the markets, allowing Gekko-esque gambling to run rampant.  One quick result was the destruction of the savings & loans industry.  It was the biggest bank collapse since the Depression, and a colossal scandal.  Tax payers had to pay for most of it, over $100 billion, as the fat cat culprits at the top, who ramped up the banks’ debt to play the stocks, were never caught.

Corporate raiding became the thing:  Hostile takeover, gut and destroy for short-term stock profits.

However, the Republican’s most powerful mind control idea, the trickiest of all tricks is ‘the loathing of the Other’:  traditional white communities are under attack.  This is the psychological cement that turns followers into sheep.

People allow themselves to be further duped if you've convinced them you are saving their 'purity' from ethnic annihilation.  Fear and loathing tend to turn off one's faculties of higher thinking, preventing such questions as, "Why are we giving our money to the rich, again?"

Amp up ignorance with faux nostalgia.  It's simple and effective hate-monger propaganda.  The wonderful world described in the fiery speeches by the racist politician never truly existed, but hey, so what.  

The classic example comes from 'he who should not be named', and yet, in our times, he must be named:

Even without the full development of a fascist Volk. racism works for the dark side.  Nixon’s Southern Strategy.  Reagan’s welfare queen, a black woman, in her golden Cadillac.  H.W. Bush and W. Bush both dived into racist demagoguery to win elections and appease the base. 

The content of the infamous Willie Horton add used by H.W. was grossly unfair and misleading.  But that came out too late for his opponent, Michael Dukakis.  Racism helped Bush win the election in a landslide:

All these hate-filled sops thrown to a constituency-Cerberus.  Wag the dog of prejudice.  And win.  

Trump of course has now taken it in the only direction it could go:  much closer to outright white supremacy; much closer to a fascist white state. 

Fifty years of economic parasitism, prejudice, and spin.  Republicans led the sordid way, down into darkness.  But they were abetted by Democrats, whether corrupt, compromising, or apathetic.

Sanders has been a lone voice in the wilderness, speaking out on the wealth curve.  His jeremiads have been steady and forceful, in effect isolating him from both major parties.

He makes simple points, using honest math. He speaks to the lopsided boomerang.  He backs it all up with damning details, say, the per capita cost of healthcare in America compared to anywhere else.  He encapsulates powerful arguments with accessible sentences like, “All other countries have been able to do it, why can’t we?”

Fifty years of being cheated and swindled.  Many Americans, more than the mainstream media want to admit, view ‘moderate’ candidates as shifty, to say the least.  These candidates want to work within the current system.  For instance, they want to keep third-party insurance companies.  But that entails, in effect, a compromise with kleptocracy.  But what could that mean, except a way to continue the corruption?

When you look at the long history of economic parasitism and political casuistry in this country, a half century’s worth--a time frame that has seen a once-prosperous middle class brought to its knees--Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem like the one who is out of touch.