Monday, May 4, 2015

Bernie Sanders the Demagogue Enters the Democratic Presidential Race

Bernie Sanders, the Independent Vermont senator, declared his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. What’s notable, and disturbing, is what Sanders chose as the centerpiece of his campaign. As Paul Kane and Philip Rucker report for the Washington Post:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who supports socialist policies, lifted off his long-shot bid Thursday for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination by declaring war on the "billionaire class" that he contends runs the political system.

While Sanders is a very long shot, he is not a fringe candidate. He is well known and a darling of the Left, and could have an outsized effect on the political debate. Given this, Sanders must be considered a major candidate.

And that’s scarey.

The demonization in American culture of “the 1%” has taken on disturbing overtones reminiscent of the campaign against the Jews in Nazi Germany. As I noted in a previous blog post, Tom Perkins, a founder of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, observed:

Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
   This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
   From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.

And Home Depot founder Ken Langone said of the "populist" attacks on "the rich":

I hope it’s not working, because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.

Ayn Rand anticipated the current campaign against “the 1%”:

Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.

Equating the current anti-1% crusade with the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany may seem hyperbolic, and I and the above-mentioned billionaires have taken heat for even suggesting any parallels. After all, the 1%ers are rich and "privileged," aren't they? But that didn't stop the Bolsheviks from quickly destroying what was then the rich in Soviet Russia, the bourgeoisie. When the defenseless, peaceful productive meet a state-turned-thug, it is no match.

Every political leader with dictatorial ambitions needs a scapegoat. To Bernie Sanders, it is the “billionaire class.” Sanders has long stood for the stale old policies of the regulatory welfare state. But advocating policies, however bad, is one thing. Sanders has chosen, as the centerpiece of his campaign, to single out a particular minority group of American citizens for demonization. Sanders is no Nazi. But that he has set himself up as the leader of the campaign of hate against “the 1%” makes him a dangerous demagogue.

There’s a reason I put “the 1%” in scare quotes. It’s bad enough to assault the super-rich. But the danger in this movement is much wider than the super-rich. The campaign is an appeal to the lowest emotional elements of society—the entitlement mentalities; the inferiority complexes; the envious; resentment and outright hatred of the smart, the successful, the good. In this type of mind, “the 1%” stands for “anybody that has more than me.” Sooner or later, if not checked, the demonization of “the 1%” will turn violent, and the list of victims will extend far beyond the super-rich.

For those who bristle at my equivocation of “the 1%” with the Jews, take note: The Nazi assault on the Jews didn’t come out of nowhere. At some point, the demonization of the Jews was at the stage that the campaign against the “1%” is in America today, slowly grinding away, spreading their poison, building resentment and hatred. “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If Sanders’s candidacy gains significant traction, it will be an unhealthy sign for our culture.

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Anonymous said...

You are a lying, stealing crook.

northierthanthou said...

"Equating the current anti-1% crusade with the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany may seem hyperbolic..."

Damned right it does.

Anonymous said...

Bernie Sanders doesn't believe that the proper and only rational and moral role of the state is to protect the rights of its citizens. He believes that the use of state power to redress the flaws of the form of pseudo-capitalism practiced in the United States -- crony capitalism -- is moral, rational, and vitally important. He inveigles against unfairness, but are Bernie Sanders and Ayn Rand really worlds apart?

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

The problem is in what Sanders considers flaws and unfairness. Sanders doesn’t distinguish between crony fortunes—which are unfair—and earned (market-based) fortunes—which are eminently fair—and then seek to reduce the government powers that lead to the first. Our “pseudo-capitalism” is really a mixed economy of government controls and some capitalism. Rather than reduce the controls and thus the political favor-peddling—the actual flaws and unfairness—Sanders seeks to wipe out as much of our remaining capitalistic freedoms—the fair part of the system—as he can get away with.

Tim K said...

Bernie Sanders is a socialist. He went to Soviet Union for his honeymoon. He wants people to be equally poor. It doesn't work!!! It didn't work in all Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, Eastern Europe. Whoever going to vote for Sanders is either is a naive believer of his bs or wants to get a something he or she didn't create.
Anonymous - don't call the author of the article a liar. You are a bigger liar indeed.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

northierthanthou, I wonder if you feel the same about former NJ Governor Christie Whitman, now that she compared Donald Trump to Hitler for his Muslim immigration policy.